Law guide: Complaints & disputes

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Neighbour disputes

Neighbour disputes

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Contents

Overview

There are a number of common problems that can be encountered with problematic neighbours, ranging from Noisy neighbours to Trespassing. These issues can be very stressful and sometimes result in long and bitter neighbour disputes.

Obviously, the quiet enjoyment of one's home is relative, so someone living in the centre of London can't expect the same degree of quiet as someone who lives in the countryside.

In the event that the behaviour of others is causing disturbance to a homeowner, or their land is being trespassed upon, there are steps that can be taken in order to put an end to these activities.

Anti-social behaviour

Anti-social behaviour includes a range of problems: noisy neighbours, abandoned cars, vandalism, graffiti, litter and intimidating groups. It creates an environment where crime can take hold and affect people's everyday lives. But there are ways for your local authority to tackle the problem. An awareness of these measures will enable you to press the local authority to take them. See Solutions (England & Wales) and Solutions (Northern Ireland & Scotland).

Environmental nuisances

Environmental nuisances include a wide range of instances where the environment around you has become defaced and damaged. This can include Fly-tipping, Graffiti and flyposting, Litter and Abandoned vehicles. In this section you can find out what the penalties are for committing any of these offences, and what you can do if you want to report an incident.

Nuisance neighbours

Everyone has the right to peace and quiet and enjoyment of their own home without excessive disturbance from others. Nuisance neighbours can disturb a person's enjoyment of their home, and inconsiderate behaviour can even be detrimental to health.

There is a package of measures which local authorities, both in their strategic role as crime and disorder partners, and their role as landlords, can use to tackle neighbour nuisance problems, including noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour.

All landlords, whether social or private, have powers to take action against tenants who are breaching their tenancy agreement. This may include injunctions, which can be highly effective preventive measures which can reduce the nuisance caused whilst allowing people to keep their homes. Social landlords (local authorities and housing associations) may be able to ask the courts to attach a power of arrest to such injunctions if there is violence, or a threat of violence.

Eviction remains the ultimate sanction to be used by landlords against those who will not reform their behaviour and who continue to make their neighbours' lives a misery.

Find out in this section what steps you and your local authority can take to improve matters.

Garden disputes

Arguments with your neighbours can often occur because of overgrown gardens, trees that are damaging walls or overhanging property, boundary disputes and high hedges. This section seeks to address these issues and provide you with the information you need to be able to avoid costly legal action.

The control of plants and trees is important to prevent damage to the foundations of a building. In addition, excessive growth can also block light. If your neighbours do not control the growth of trees and plants, your house could become damaged and the value of your house diminished by lack of sunlight. However, there are steps you can take (Trees and plants) to protect yourself and recover any costs which such negligence may have caused you.

A dispute over the position of a boundary, fence or wall is one of the most common causes for a neighbour dispute. The first step to resolving the dispute is to establish exactly where the boundary lies. Your title deeds or the document creating the title to the property should normally outline the general boundaries, but you may need a surveyor to help you figure out the precise boundaries and do a plan of them.

Noise

Noisy neighbours can disturb a person's enjoyment of their home and inconsiderate behaviour can even be detrimental to health.

The assessment of noise nuisance is based on whether it is 'reasonable', bearing in mind the locality, how often noise occurs and how many people are affected.

If the local council thinks the noise is a statutory nuisance, they will serve an abatement notice on the neighbour. An abatement notice will set out what is required of your neighbour. For instance, if the issue is loud music, they may be asked to stop the noise outright, or be asked to just play music between set times.

In some cases, the council may not need to prove a statutory nuisance where the premises hold a public entertainment licence. Action can be taken against premises that operate outside of their licensing agreement.

In this section you can find out more about what a council can do about noise disturbances, including noisy neighbours, barking dogs, and noise from transport vehicles.

Statutory nuisance and pollution

Statutory nuisance (Pollution) is a measure that has been created to deal with various types of behaviour which impact on other people, mostly relating to some kind of pollution. It provides an effective way to deal with situations where you feel your rights are being infringed. This section will give you more information about your rights in terms of statutory nuisance and how to go about enforcing them.

Restrictive covenants

A Restrictive covenant is a private agreement between land owners which may restrict the way land may be used and developed. They are enforceable by one landowner against another and effectively allow a form of private planning control.

Trespassing

If someone buys a home, the title to the land on which it is built must be registered. However, neighbours or other people may not respect the boundaries of that property. It is possible that fences will be moved so that a few centimetres of land are lost or someone could start cutting across part of the driveway or garden.

This is known as trespass to land (Trespassing). If it is allowed to continue for a certain period of time, someone could gain a legal right to continue to do so. If they do gain such a right, it may be impossible to stop them from continuing to use that right, therefore it is important not to allow this to happen on a regular basis, as the value of your property may be adversely affected.