5 Most Common Neighbour Disputes Demystified
Do you have noisy neighbours? Or maybe there is a tree on your neighbour’s land which has its branches hanging over your land and damaging your property? Or there is some boundary dispute between you and your neighbour that remains unresolved i.e. neighbour disputes?
Although you might really want to get along with your neighbours and resolve any issues with them informally over a cup of tea and some sweets, sometimes this might not be possible and you will need to take formal action to resolve any problems.
What are the most common neighbour disputes?
- Noisy neighbours
- Anti-social behaviour of a neighbour
- Planning disputes
- Boundary disputes
- Disputes about trees
- Shared driveways
What action can you take to resolve your dispute with your neighbour?
Are your neighbours playing loud music quite often late at night? Or maybe they just have a noisy pet?
If you have already tried approaching your neighbour directly and asking them politely to stop the noise and they have not done so, then the next step you can consider is reaching out to a mediation service to help you resolve that matter. A mediator is an independent person who can help you and your neighbour reach an agreement on favourable terms for both of you. You may need to pay a fee if you choose to go for a mediation service. However, some councils and housing associations provide free mediation services to their tenants, so it is worth checking with your council if you are a tenant before booking any mediation service online.
If you are renting your property, you can also contact your landlord or your neighbour’s landlord if you have their landlord’s details and complain about the problem.
In addition, you can contact your local council. Generally, your local council will be able to deal with loud noise at night and it will probably need to investigate further if the noise is a nuisance or damaging your health. By law, any noise that is considered a nuisance will be significant or unreasonable noise that stops you from enjoying your property.
If the council considers your neighbour’s noise to be a nuisance, it will issue a notice to your neighbour telling them what they should do to stop or restrict the noise.
If you are not satisfied with how for example your local council deals with your problem, then you can seek legal advice and potentially take your landlord to court and ask for compensation for the disturbance your neighbour has caused you.
Anti-social behaviour of a neighbour
If your neighbour behaves in a way that is threatening or intimidating towards you this can be considered anti-social behaviour. Any behaviour that includes verbal abuse or intimidation, vandalism or property damage, inconsiderate behaviour or dumping rubbish.
If your neighbour is doing any of those things, you can challenge your neighbour’s anti-social behaviour in a number of ways. You can contact your local police and inform them of your neighbour’s anti-social behaviour. The police have the power to issue a fine to anybody who engages in anti-social behaviour or they can apply for an injunction to stop the anti-social behaviour. In an extreme case, they could be prosecuted.
You can also complain to your local council which can issue a notice to your neighbour if they consider your neighbour’s anti-social behaviour a nuisance or it can apply for an injunction stopping the anti-social behaviour of your neighbour too.
If you are renting your property, you can contact your landlord who might be able to assist your further with resolving this issue.
Has your neighbour built something that affects you or your property? Is your neighbour planning to have an extension build on their house or create a new driveway? Usually, any extensive building work that your neighbour wants to carry out on their property and land will need the local authority consent, so your neighbour will need to make an application for and be granted planning permission before conducting any building works.
Once your neighbour has applied for planning permission, you will receive a notice of that from the local authority planning department. If you are not happy with your neighbour’s building plans such as feeling that it’s going to encroach too much on your privacy or block your light, you should register your objection with the planning department. Things like objections to noise and disruption alone are unlikely to be considered.
Just because you register your objection does not mean that your neighbour’s building proposal will be refused by the local authority. The council will need to weight up your rights and the applicants.
However, planning permission may not be necessary if the building works meet certain conditions such as being a small proportion of the original size of the property, such as putting a conservatory on the back. If this happens to you, and you think your neighbour does need permission, you can make a complaint to the local authority.
If you have a dispute with your neighbour for example over where the exact boundary is between your two properties, then you will first need to check the property title deeds. If you cannot locate the property title deeds or the boundary is not easily defined on the property title deeds, then you will have to look for the advice of an expert in boundary disputes. In those circumstances, we would suggest that you and your neighbour agree to the appointment of a joint expert, where you both give the expert all the information you have, and you agree to split the cost between you, and to abide by whatever decision he reaches over the boundary.
If your dispute with your neighbour is over a fence that you share and you are not sure whether you or your neighbour has the responsibility to fix it if it gets damaged, then you should check with your conveyancing solicitor who you used when you bought the property. This is a question that should have been asked during the conveyancing process, so they may have the answer for you. If no information is contained in the conveyancing file, or it was so long ago that the file is no longer available, you can rely on course of dealing. Whoever has been responsible for maintaining the boundary up until now may have acquired the obligation to keep doing it. If your neighbour is the person responsible for the maintenance of a fence, they can do as they wish with that fence as long as the fence is safe. By contrast, if the fence your neighbour is responsible for causes damage to your property, then they will need to sort it out or be prepared to pay for the damage to your property.
Disputes about trees
It may be that your neighbour’s trees are causing some sort of damage to your land and property such as for example the trees’ roots grow under your property or cause an obstacle, the trees block out light, or a tree hangs over your property and this bothers you. If so, then you can speak to your local council to get involved and deal with it if your neighbour does not take any action about this and the tree(s) causes a dangerous situation.
If the council does not resolve the matters to your satisfaction, then you can take your neighbour to court. Remember that you do not have any legal right to cut your neighbour’s trees down or cut the tree branches and you could be fined for cutting down the trees (or even just lopping off the branches) as it could amount to criminal damage. Court proceedings can be quite expensive so you should always try to resolve any disputes with your neighbour as amicably as possible. If amicable agreement cannot be reached, then it is recommended to seek professional advice from a legal expert who can tell you what your options are.
Though it is sometimes necessary to bring court action, it is always recommended you mediate to resolve any neighbour disputes over litigate.
Disclaimer – our articles are designed to give you guidance and information. There is no substitute for proper direct advice, particularly as everyone’s circumstances are different. If anything in this article may affect you, please contact us for advice that is specific to your circumstances.