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Handling Disputes with Neighbours

We would all like to live in peace with our neighbours, but unfortunately that is sometimes not how things work out. Here's what you can do if you are having problems.

Disputes can arise with your neighbours for many reasons, and it’s often hard to know what to do to resolve them.

Fortunately, there are a lot of different things you can do if you are having a problem with your neighbour. Our advice on neighbour disputes addresses the most common problems you may encounter and provides some general advice on the different routes you can take to try and sort out any problems with the people next door.

Noisy neighbours

One common complaint people have is with neighbours who are too loud, often at antisocial hours. Whether it’s loud music or the endless barking of an aggravated dog, noisy neighbours can make it impossible to live your life in peace.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to deal with nuisance noise – take a look at our noise page for more information.

Boundary disputes

Where exactly the edge of your property lies can be a contentious topic, and disagreements can arise between neighbours over the extent of each person’s property. These disputes can be extremely costly and sometimes last for years.

Our guide to boundary disputes contains advice on avoiding arguments with your neighbours over land boundaries, how to figure out which parts of the land you actually own, and what to do if a dispute does occur.

Advice on dealing with a neighbour dispute

There are a number of causes for concern when it comes to neighbours, but the majority of them can be dealt with in roughly the same way.

First of all, try talking to your neighbour about the problem. Try to approach them in a friendly way and see if you can reach an agreement on the trouble they are causing you.

If they are causing problems for other people in the street as well as yourself, you may want to approach them as a group – it may be easier for them to understand that they are in the wrong if there are a number of people who disagree with their behaviour.

If you are worried about how your neighbour might react, you could write them a letter instead. Again, try to take a reasonably friendly approach.

You can leave your name off of the letter if you are particularly concerned about how it might be received. Alternatively, as with approaching them as a group, you could ask a number of people who have been affected by the neighbour’s actions to sign their names on the letter.

Should the informal approach not work, you may want to take further action. If the neighbour is a private tenant and is behaving in an antisocial way, you could contact their landlord. If they are in council housing, you may want to speak to the council about the issue. Alternatively your neighbour may be renting from a housing association, which you could contact.

Another option at this point is mediation. Mediation is a service which involves an unbiased third party listening to both sides of a dispute and giving advice on what could be done to fix it. While you will have to pay to hire a mediator, it is probably the cheapest means of dispute resolution available and costs far less than taking legal action.

The Ministry of Justice website offers a listing of mediation providers in your area if you are looking for a mediator for a neighbour dispute.

If mediation does not fix the problem, further action is possible. If your neighbour is creating what is known as a ‘statutory nuisance’, the council must investigate this when informed of it. The definition of ‘statutory nuisance’ includes a variety of issues which can harm people’s health or quality of life.

Examples of this include:

  • excessive noise, particularly at antisocial hours
  • rubbish that is being left to pile up, causing a potential health hazard
  • artificial light which interferes with the use of your property

If your neighbour is causing you this sort of problem, and it is interfering with your quality of life, you should ask the council to look into it.

Should your dispute not involve statutory nuisance, or if the council fail to deal with it to your satisfaction, you may want to take legal action against your neighbour. You should think very carefully about whether you want to do this, as it is likely to be expensive and could take a long time.

If you plan to take your neighbour to court, you should seek legal advice for further guidance on whether it would be worth it and what you should do to prepare if so. Sometimes a letter from a solicitor threatening legal action may be enough to get your neighbour to resolve the problem, without you having to actually go to court.

Remember that if your neighbour is breaking the law or begins to do so after you have tried to talk to them about the problem, you should call the police. Do this if they become threatening or abusive towards you, or if they resort to violence.

You can also contact the police if your problem with your neighbour is that they are sexually harassing you, or abusing you for your sexuality, religion or ethnic background. Any other crime or suspected crime should also be reported.

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