Being the president of my community of owners I have been bombarded with complaints from neighbours regarding the supposed antisocial behaviour of some other neighbours. As usual I have referred them to our magnificent administrator (solicitor and estate administrator) who normally comes up with a compromise solution. So, how have we solved the conflicts with neighbours in times of Covid-19?.
Applauds to our heroes.
If you are living here in Spain, you will be aware that the all neighbourhoods are united at eight o’clock in the afternoon to applaud from their balconies to our sanitary staff, our heroes and that could suggest an idyllic relationship between the inhabitants of a residential building during confinement. But it’s not always like this. There are children who make noise upstairs, the one from the next door practices with his guitar twice a day and others put the music on full blast or shout that can be heard throughout the patio. Living with neighbours is always difficult, but in times of coronavirus it can be a nightmare specially for the president of the community! To avoid conflicts, it is convenient to comply with the specific rules of coexistence for confinement, as well as having more empathy and a come out with compromise solutions. And in case of having a serious problem, bring it to the attention of the president of the community of owners if cannot be resolved in any other way.
Noises in the communal spaces: what to do?
Children, the dog, the TV, a high volume of calls and videoconferences … If your neighbours do not stop making noise, what can you do? Noises have always been one of the main reasons for complaint in a Spanish neighbourhood community, but confinement has made it worse. This situation of confinement has caused neighbourhood coexistence in some time sections that we were not used to, and this situation generates friction.
In this context, two-way empathy is essential in the neighbourhood sphere. On the one hand, we must have a little flexibility, but also respect the hours of rest for the sake of the elderly and the rest of the people who live in the building or urbanization. In my administrator`s opinion, dialogue is a priority before proceeding to make calls of attention. Because this type of measures, far from solving, clouds the environment for a future dialogue between neighbours and makes conflict resolution impossible on many occasions.
Use of external spaces.
In many buildings there are patios or external spaces for the private use of some owners, which are owned by the community but its use and enjoyment corresponds to the neighbour who lives say on the ground floor and has access to that space.
If you have one of these patios, you should know that, although the Horizontal Property Law and the Civil Code allow its exclusive use, you cannot use it so that your children play there and let off steam, since they are allowed to be used as long as they respect the other residents, do not cause noise or nuisance. It is important to keep in mind that not everything goes because we are locked up at home; you have to entertain yourself, but not at the cost of rest for others.
Unwanted notes to those neighbours exposed to the coronavirus.
Not everything is applause for the people who risk the most in the fight against the virus. In some cases, health personnel, supermarket workers or police officers have suffered animosity from some neighbours who, knowing their profession, urged them to reside elsewhere until the end of the pandemic. What can you do if you receive an unwanted note from the neighbours? To whom to turn?
• You can turn to the president of the community so that he can send an informative circular about it warning the neighbours to stop this type of action.
• If the notes contain any type of insults, slander or threats, you can report the facts to the Police. The National Police has already announced that it will investigate harassment of professionals exposed to the coronavirus as hate crimes.
• You can also put the case in the hands of a lawyers, as the cashier of a supermarket in Cartagena (Murcia) has already done. Their defenders weigh requesting a calligraphic test to the neighbours and to denounce for crimes of insult.
How to behave in common areas.
In addition to practicing empathy, you must follow specific behaviour guidelines for this exceptional moment. The rules to be followed by the communities of owners, affect different spaces and areas:
• Cleaning. Building hygiene is essential to contain the pandemic. It should be done with disinfectant gels, bleach or other non-abrasive materials and give special importance to places where the coronavirus could be found, such as the door entry buttons, the door and the knobs, the switches, mailboxes, elevator buttons and stair`s railings.
• Social distance. Neighbours who coincide in the hall or in any other common area must keep at least one meter better still, two meters between them. They must also do so if they have to speak to the concierge to carry out any procedure.
• Lift. Closed spaces should be avoided as much as possible, so it is best to use the stairs. If you have no choice but to use the lift, you must use it individually so as not to come into contact with other neighbours. And to press the button, you must wear gloves or have your finger protected.
• Storage room and garage. It is not allowed to go down to the storage rooms or the garages, except for work reasons or for an emergency. If you must access, you must do it keeping the safety distances and never use it as a space to stretch your legs or exercise, as has happened in a large parking lot. Remember that you can be fined.
• Community tennis court or garden. As in the previous case, common areas or spaces, garden areas, children’s areas, outdoor recreation areas, rooms and, in general, any other shared space that is not necessary for the habitability and safety of the building should be closed. Access is only allowed to personnel in charge of maintenance and cleaning.
• Common roof. In communities where the roof is used to hang laundry, you can go upstairs to do so, but always trying not to coincide with another neighbour, either when hanging or picking up the laundry that are already dry. If they coincide, you always have to keep your distance.