Neighbour Disputes 2 – this time it’s personal!
Following on from the success of our first article on neighbour disputes, where we covered such hot topics as noisy neighbours, anti-social behaviour, planning and boundary disputes and disputes about trees, here is our second instalment on the things that could drive you mad about the people you live close to (but aren’t necessarily related to!) and how to deal with them.
Knowing what problems you may face in the future, may also help you when deciding on buying a property or what assurances you need about that property. Knowing what problems, if any, the vendor has experienced may prove invaluable in the future
It is always a great idea to try to approach your neighbour first and talk about the problem and propose how it can be resolved. Keeping things civil can be difficult but remember an informal chat can achieve a lot and save you money and valuable time in the long run, for example, taking your neighbour to court over a boundary dispute can be very expensive and time-consuming.
Trees and Hedges
If an overhanging tree or high hedge is causing you problems with access to light for example by blocking light to a window or glass house on your property, then you might be able to acquire a right to light under Planning law. The Rights of Light Act 1959 states that if a property has been receiving daylight for the last 20 years, you might be entitled to continue to receive that light.
It is always a good idea to speak to your local planning department if your neighbour’s tree or hedge blocks the light to your house. Remember that the Local Authority does have some powers to restrict for example the height of the hedge that blocks the light to your property.
Disputes regarding parking
Quite often than not disputes between neighbours arise over parked cars.
It is an unwritten rule that people will generally tend to park outside their own home but remember that no one has an automatic right to do so. This means that other road users may also have the right to park outside your home.
A common issue when you share a driveway with your neighbour is due to lack of space or because one person’s vehicle is taking up more space, you should check the property deeds to find out where exactly the boundaries lie.
If your neighbour tends to park directly in front of your driveway, this might potentially lead to an argument between you and your neighbour. If an argument does arise between you and your neighbour, the law will not help you in this regard. So you will need to probably try resolving the argument with your neighbour informally and after all it is common courtesy not to park directly in front of the driveway of another person’s property because it might cause obstruction to other pedestrians or road users.
If your informal discussions with your neighbour did not achieve a solution to the parking problem, then you can involve a third independent party through the process of mediation and try to sort it out.
It is the responsibility of the pet owner not only to look after and care for their pets in the correct and proper manner but they also owe a duty of care to their neighbours in terms of making sure that their pets do not interfere with the neighbour’s ability to enjoy living in their property.
Some of the most common pet problems can range from persistent dog barking and aggressive dogs to cats straying into neighbour’s garden and digging it up or fouling it, or people who have birds such as pigeons whose droppings can become both a nuisance and a health hazard.
You can take a legal action against your neighbour if their pet(s) have become a nuisance and prevent you from enjoying your property. Such legal action would normally come under anti-social behaviour and both noise and smell nuisance laws. In cases of persistent or serious offences being committed, hefty fines and pet removal can be imposed as a result.
Before taking a legal action against your neighbour, you should contact the Environmental Health Department first which will usually deal with those types of problems if you have not been able to resolve them directly with your neighbour.
If you think that your neighbour has neglected their pet and fallen below the standards of care expected from a reasonable pet owner, then you can contact the RSPCA. They will usually inspect the property involved, contact the pet owner and examine the pet in question. In addition, they may pursue an animal cruelty charge and may decide whether another residence is more suitable for the pet.
Issues that may be a statutory nuisance include:
- Noise from premises or from vehicles, equipment or machinery in the street
- Smoke from premises
- Smells from industry, trade or business premises (for example, sewage treatment works, factories or restaurants)
- Artificial light from premises
- Insect infestations form industrial trade or business premises
- Accumulation or deposits on premises (for example, piles of rotting rubbish)
For the issue to count as a statutory nuisance it must do one of the following:
- Unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises
- Injure health or be likely to injure health
An Abatement notice can be served by the local authority if they are satisfied that a statutory nuisance exits, has occurred or is likely to occur.
Councils must serve an abatement notice on people responsible for statutory nuisances, or on a premises owner or occupier if this is not possible. This may require whoever’s responsible to stop the activity or limit it to certain times to avoid causing a nuisance and can include specific actions to reduce the problem.
For noise nuisances from premises, the notice can be delayed for up to 7 days while the council tries to get the person responsible to stop or restrict the noise.
The abatement notice must be served on the premises owner or occupier if either of the following apply:
- the person responsible cannot be found
- the nuisance has not yet happened but is likely to happen in the future
If the local kids are playing in the street and you find the noise too much, there is little you can do really apart from asking them to be quieter.
However, if the local kids do some damage to your property, then you can have a word with their parents and ask if they will pay the cost of repairs to your property. Legally, they will not be liable for the damage caused to your property unless they have been ‘negligent’ but usually good sense will prevail and they will agree to fix or pay for the damage their children have inflicted on your property.
In addition, if the kids keep on trespassing in your garden and for example taking things, you can again try speaking to their parents or warn the kids that you will call the police if they do not stop with that behaviour.
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.