Are you in dispute with your neighbours? As Unia does not specialise in neighbour harassment we will usually refer you services that are better placed to help you resolve your dispute with your neighbours. We hope this information gets you on the right road to resolving the matter between you and your neighbours.
- Contact your local victim support service
- Contact a mediation service
- Contact your local police service
- Lodge a formal complaint with the police
- Seek advice from a solicitor
- If you are a social tenant you should contact your housing association's social services department
- How can you prove that you are being harassed?
Which services are available to you?
You can always contact the victim support service, even if you haven't reported the matter to the police.
The victim support service can:
- offer psychological help;
- give practical tips and information.
Find your local victim support service here: in Flanders or in Wallonia and Brussels.
You can use a mediation service to resolve a dispute with your neighbours. In other words, you do not have to take action through the courts.
A mediator is someone who is there to help you resolve a dispute. A mediator is neutral, impartial and independent. The mediator speaks to the parties involved and helps them reach agreement through talks.
Where can you find a mediator?
- it is worth approaching your local authority, as many local authorities offer a free neighbour mediation service.
- the list of accredited mediators is available from the Federal Mediation Commission's website.
The local police are responsible for the area in which you live. They often patrol the area and know exactly what is happening in your neighbourhood. They see to it that the local residents are able to coexist in peace. It is also their job to prevent disputes.
You can contact your local police if you are being harassed by your neighbours. And you can do this without lodging a formal complaint. The local police can raise the matter with your neighbours and try to the resolve the problem in this way.
You will find the name and contact details of your local police officer on the police website for the area in which you live or can request them from your local police station.
You can lodge a formal complaint with the police in relation to 'stalking'. This is also known as harassment.
Stalking is a crime. If your neighbours are convicted of ‘stalking’ (= harassment) they will receive a criminal sentence.
The sentences are harsher if the harassment is motivated by hatred, contempt or hostility due to your race, nationality, origins, religion, sexual orientation, disability, etc. In such cases offenders may receive double the sentence.
How do you lodge a complaint?
- you visit the police station, where you give a statement.
- you send a letter to the office of the public prosecutor.
Along with your complaint you sign an ‘injured party statement’. You will then be kept informed of how the procedure is progressing.
Once the complaint has been made the police open an investigation to check for evidence of ‘stalking’ or harassment. The police may take statements from the neighbours with whom you are in dispute, or other neighbours and witnesses, and investigate any documents you have provided, etc.
Keep as much evidence as you can of your harassment.
You are free to lodge a complaint every time your neighbours harass you. This can be helpful in a case of repeated harassment.
A solicitor can advise you and provide specific legal information.
As a rule you have to pay for your solicitor's services.
See if you qualify for free legal aid, in which case the solicitor will collect his fee from state and not from you.
For more information visit the legal aid bureau, the Flemish Bar Association Website or avocats.be.
The housing association's social services department can help you resolve any problems you may have with your neighbours.
The social service department can:
- listen to your story and offer advice;
- contact your neighbours and attempt to resolve the dispute in this way.
The social services department cannot make a decision in relation to the dispute. Nor can the social services department compel your neighbours to reach a solution with you or participate in a resolution process.
It is best to gather as much objective evidence as you can in proof of your neighbours' harassment.
A few useful tips:
1. Make a note of all incidents (the rows, words and gestures used, things done, etc.)
- Give as much detail as possible (date, time, place, what exactly happened, who witnessed it, the attitude of the other person, etc.)
- Be as objective as possible.
- Do not minimise your own behaviour or reactions.
2. Gather as much evidence of the harassment as you can: witnesses, sound recordings and video clips, email, Facebook and other text messages, photographs of damage, etc.
3. If you believe your neighbours are harassing you because of your 'race', nationality, origins, religion, sexual orientation, disability, etc., pay particular attention to the following elements:
- note down the exact words that were spoken by your neighbours;
- gather useful information about your neighbours, such as their remarks on social media, the things said about them by other neighbours, etc.