Disputes with neighbours can arise for many reasons, such as noise, parking, fences and overhanging trees and hedges. Because neighbour disputes can quickly escalate out of control and become a source of constant distress and frustration, timely legal advice is often advisable to help with resolution. Thanks to our extensive experience, we have compiled the following guidance on how to prevent neighbour disputes from arising in the first place and how to resolve an existing dispute.
Considerate neighbourly behaviour
In order to pre-empt arguments with your neighbour, it is advisable to consider the following list of simple things any neighbour should have in mind:
If you intend to attach your washing line, plants or anything else to your neighbour’s wall or fence, you need to obtain their consent first. If you do not obtain their consent, you may be liable to pay compensation for causing damage to your neighbour’s property.
If you have a tree within your property, it is your responsibility to make sure it does not damage your neighbour’s property. If you do not take care of your garden or property and it impacts on the neighbours, causing them damage or accident, you may be liable to pay compensation.
If your neighbour’s tree overhangs your property and you intend to cut back the branches, you need to make sure you only do so to the extent that they overhang your land. Cutting back into your neighbour’s property is unlawful. Also note that if the tree is protected by a tree preservation order, you should not cut any branches or you will be committing a criminal offence. You can check for tree preservation orders with your local Council.
You should not throw hedge or tree trimmings from overhanging plants onto your neighbour’s property. Although the plants belong to them, throwing trimmings onto their land can be considered to be fly-tipping which is a criminal offence.
If you burn anything inside or outside your property, for example a fireplace or barbecue, you need to ensure that the escaping smoke does not constitute a nuisance.
Always be mindful of noise made by members of your household, any visitors and your activities. In particular:
Be considerate and avoid holding noisy late parties and playing loud music or at least talk to your neighbours in advance and get their ‘pre-approval’.
If you have a dog(s), it is your responsibility to ensure that the barking does not cause a nuisance when you leave your pet at home alone.
If you live in a terraced or semi-detached property, noisy DIY, hoovering and other noisy domestic activities should usually be scheduled between 8am and 6pm on weekdays, Saturdays between 8am and 1pm and avoided altogether on a Sunday.
You are responsible for looking after your property and your garden to a standard that it does not constitute a source of nuisance to your neighbours. In particular, ensure that your garden is free from accumulated rubbish, odour, flies and vermin.
Before installing security lighting, ensure it is not too bright and it does not shine directly into the neighbour’s property so as to constitute a nuisance.
Before installing any CCTV cameras around your property, you need to ensure that they do not point at any part of your neighbour’s property. This could breach human right of privacy and possibly lead to allegations of harassment.
Ensure the way you and members of your household park your vehicles does not obstruct your neighbour’s access or affect their right to light.
How to deal with common neighbour problems:
If your neighbour is causing you nuisance and it is interfering with your quality of life, you should ask your local Council to look into it. They have a duty to investigate and deal with ‘statutory nuisances’. Examples of this include:
excessive noise, particularly at antisocial hours;
rubbish that is being left to pile up, attracting pests and causing a potential health hazard;
artificial light which interferes with the use of your property.
It is always advisable for you to keep a diary of all incidents of nuisance. You can obtain a diary template from the Council. Should your dispute not involve statutory nuisance, or if the Council fails to deal with it to your satisfaction, you may want to take legal action against your neighbour.
If you plan to take your neighbour to court, you should seek legal advice on whether it would be worth it and what you should do to prepare for it. 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.
If your neighbour’s tree overhangs your property and it bothers you, ask them to trim it back. If the neighbour refuses and it is in a dangerous condition, ask the local Council to get involved and deal with it. Your Council can also tell you whether the tree is subject to a tree preservation order. If it is, you could be fined for cutting it. Otherwise, you have the right to trim the tree back to your boundary line. You should offer the trimmings back to your neighbour but avoid simply throwing them into your neighbour’s garden as this can amount to illegal fly tipping.
If your neighbour’s failure to take care of their trees and hedges leads to an accident or damage to your property, you may be entitled to compensation. You will be well advised to seek legal guidance if you are considering pursuing a claim for compensation.
If there is a disagreement as to who is responsible for repairing a fence, check the property deeds or, in other words, papers related to your house. There may be a stipulation that your neighbour is responsible for any repairs, although that is not always the case. Unless the deeds say that the neighbour is responsible for repairs, they do not have to do anything if the fence is damaged. However, if the neighbour’s broken fence causes damage to your property, you may be able to sue for compensation. Before you do so, you should seek legal advice.
If your neighbour has the responsibility for a fence, they are within their rights to do as they wish with that fence (e.g. choose to paint it in whatever colour they like), even if you do not like it. However, if your neighbour does something to the fence making it unsafe, then you do have a cause to complain to local Council or make a claim to the Court.
When it comes to parking your car, you do not have any rights to the section of road or pavement outside your own property (unless you have private driveway or allocated parking). This means you do not have the right to park there yourself or prevent anyone else from doing so. You cannot put cones to reserve the spot. You also cannot stop someone parking on your grassy verge if you have one. This can be very frustrating but there is little you can do about it. We would recommend that you place polite notices asking others not to park across your driveway or garage and avoid parking on the grass verge.
If someone else’s car is blocking access to and from your property you can contact your local Council or the police. They have general powers to remove vehicles that are illegally parked, causing an obstruction or have been abandoned. If it is an area with restrictions on who can park, then traffic wardens can enforce those restrictions by issuing fines – you can check this with your local Council.
Advice on resolving neighbour disputes
The majority of neighbour disputes can be approached in the same way. First of all, try talking to your neighbour about the problem. Try to talk to them in a friendly way and see if you can reach an agreement on the trouble they are causing you.
Should the informal approach not work, you may want to escalate it to a complaint. If the neighbour is in social housing, you can contact the local Council or relevant housing association about the issue. If your neighbour is a private tenant, you could contact their landlord.
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 not hesitate to contact the police if your neighbour becomes threatening or abusive towards you, or if they resort to violence. Our advice is to always keep calm in dealing with neighbour issues and keep a record of all incidents.
Dealing with a difficult neighbour can be a daunting task. If you find that informal approach has not worked and the local Council or the police are not much help, we are here to offer advice on your legal options. At Deo Volente Solicitors our experienced solicitors will give you the guidance you need to obtain a prompt resolution of the dispute and pre-empt escalation. If court action is required against your neighbour or a claim is brought against you, we will be happy to advise you on the prospects of success of your case and represent you in court.
Contact our dispute resolution solicitors on 01234 673 400 for a free, no-obligation consultation.