1. Be polite, positive and proactive.

    Don’t be too greedy with your proposals. Ideally your aim should be to improve the amenity and value of your own property and the community. Big isn’t necessarily better.

  2. Show your neighbours drawings before submitting them to council.

    Architectural drawings tend to be more simple, more ambiguous (and less threatening) at this stage. This is a good chance to listen to your neighbours concerns and hopefully allay them before any misunderstandings or resentments take root.

  3. Put up a fence at the beginning of the job (and don’t take it down until the work is 100 per cent complete)

    Of all the things that’s guaranteed to needle your neighbours most during the renovation process is the messiness of it all. The dust and the debris of the building process is the single biggest element that will stretch friendships in your street.
    The other reason for building a fence is that seeing the messiness – even if it doesn’t have a direct impact on your neighbours property, it can have a negative psychological impact. What they don’t see won’t concern them *

  4. Dilapidation reports are your best insurance.

    If you live in close proximity to others, a dilapidation report ensures you have a “before” record of the state of neighbouring premises (inside and out). If you don’t have a report, you may find your building works being blamed for every old crack that already existed in an adjoining building.

  5. Work things out between yourselves.

    Once things are reported to council, you can guarantee that other consultants will be called in to mediate and confer and things can get costly (and nasty).

* Early in my career I designed a terrace house renovation and made the mistake of taking down the fence that was screening the building works too early. Once the fence came down the neighbours had a full view of the services that were going in on the roof – fireplace flue, rangehood exhaust, airconditioning. After living next door to a long, drawn out project the neighbours were cranky. And now, given an unobstructed view to all this stuff that was being installed right near their boundary, they took pictures and sent them straight to council. This led to a a certifier being called in and a complaint had to be assessed by health and safety auditors. Ultimately it was confirmed that the services were allowable but not before everyone had wasted a lot of time and money. The lesson? If the fence had stayed up and the relationship with the neighbour had been more positive it probably wouldn’t have happened.

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