Everybody needs good neighbours
A survey conducted by the Legal Services Commission in 2006 showed neighbour disputes were the second most common civil justice problem reported by respondents.
Citizens Advice says the most common causes for complaint are issues like:
- shared access to property
- overhanging trees
When dealing with a noisy neighbour you should first try and talk to them and ask them to reduce the noise. If you do not want to face them then write them a letter instead. They may not know that they are being noisy and quiet down after a polite request.
But if the problem persists then it may be worth keeping a record of the nuisance so that you have evidence if you decide to take further action. If the noisy neighbour is a tenant then contact their landlord and let them know of the problem.
If the nuisance continues then contact your local authority's Environmental Health Officer (EHO) to investigate the noisy neighbour. They are able to measure the noise, and if they decide that it is indeed creating a nuisance they can tell the neighbour to stop and seize their noise-making equipment.
If the EHO fails to resolve the matter then the local authority can serve a notice on the noisy neighbour which, if ignored, can lead to prosecution and an ASBO.
If a dispute arises between you and your neighbour over the boundaries between your properties then it must be established who owns the disputed land.
Evidence will usually be found in title or lease documents but this information is not always correct, as boundaries may have changed by a previous agreement.
To resolve boundary disputes it is recommended that you contact the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. They can put you in touch with a chartered surveyor who will give you 30 minutes of free advice.
If your neighbour's tree overhangs into your property it is the neighbour's responsibility to trim the tree. If they don't trim it then you have the right to trim it yourself back to the boundary line (as long as it isn't subject to a tree preservation order).
If the overhanging tree is creating a danger or causing damage to your property you can ask your local council to check the tree and take any necessary action.
If damage or injury is caused then the owner of the tree will be liable for any compensation action taken.
Step-by-step guide on how to deal with a neighbour dispute
Approach the neighbour
Before you take your complaint to the authorities it is best to first confront the neighbour yourself. If possible, get other effected neighbours to back you up. The nuisance neighbour may back down if they see their behaviour is having an effect on lots of people.
If you don't want to face the neighbour then write them a letter.
If this initial approach fails, then there may be local mediators who can help. To search for a mediator in your area, visit the Directory of UK Mediation on the ADRNow website.
Call the police
If you think a criminal offence is being committed such as a breach of the peace, assault or racial or sexual harassment then contact the police immediately.
Contact the environmental health department
In cases where neighbours may be breaching public health or pollution laws, the local authority environmental health department can be approached.
An environmental health officer will usually contact the neighbour and attempt to resolve the matter informally. If this fails, a notice may be served on the neighbour, requiring the abatement of the nuisance. This means they are required to stop, or deal with, the nuisance.
Contact the planning department
The local planning department has the power to investigate if there has been a breach of planning control. The authority can issue an enforcement notice if the neighbour has carried out building work without permission or is using the land for an unauthorised purpose.
Consult a solicitor/take court action
A letter from a solicitor may be helpful in making a neighbour realise that you are serious about your complaint. It may be particularly effective in making tenants realise that the next stage might be eviction by their landlord. It may also be necessary when, for example, there is genuine disagreement as to who is responsible.
You can use our Find a Solicitor service to find an expert legal specialist who can help you with your dispute.
Although a particular dispute may be resolved successfully through the courts, the relationship between neighbours may be damaged. It is also an extremely expensive course of action to take unless the complainant is eligible for publicly-funded legal services (legal aid in Northern Ireland).
If you are thinking of taking court action you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.
What is the Party Wall Act?
This sets out a procedure if you are doing the following:
- work to an existing wall or floor shared with another property (a party structure)
- building on the boundary with a neighbouring property
- excavating works near to neighbouring properties
Appropriate notices need to be served in order to protect your position. The Act then provides for both parties to appoint surveyors or a single agreed surveyor, who will act impartially. The surveyor will draw up an award, detailing the work to be done. The condition of buildings will be recorded, together with timetables for access and the work.
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