Common Neighbour Disputes and How to Handle Them
22 Feb 2021
Neighbour disputes are not rare. Find out the most common issues, how to resolve quickly while still able to maintain a relationship with them.
If you feel that your neighbour is doing something that is wrong and intrudes your private life, you're not alone. Neighbour disputes are so widespread that running away from them is usually out of the question. You never know how your potential neighbouring families will behave in the future when you're doing a property viewing. A list of bad neighbourhoods in the area can be found easily on the Internet, but this alone can't ensure anything. This is why every tenant should prepare themselves and learn to deal with common neighbour disputes if they ever come up.
- What Can Be Classed As A Neighbour Dispute?
- How to Handle Neighbour Disputes
- Who Can Help With Neighbour Disputes
Disputes between neighbours can exist in various shapes and forms. According to Good Move1, who carried out a survey of 1000 homeowners in the UK, over two-thirds of them have had at least one argument with their neighbours. The top 10 reasons are:
- Loud music
- Loud parties
- Overgrowing trees/plants
- Park in the wrong spot or take over the driveway
- Put rubbish in the wrong bin
- Cut down their trees
- Don't take out their own bins
- Knock things into gardens and fences
- Avoid paying for their part of the fence
- Noisy children.
You can also include other serious offences like harassment or abusive behaviours as well, which are also surprisingly more common than you might think.
There are countless sources of disagreements between neighbours, but the vast majority of them can be resolved through roughly the same process.
Talk to your neighbour
Since maintaining a good relationship with your neighbour is still an important goal, try to talk to them about the issue first. Engage in a calm and friendly way to see if you two can come up with an agreement over the dispute.
Describe what has happened, how it has affected you, and which action your neighbour should take to put it right. If appropriate, explain to them what you could help and when the issue should be resolved. Always use clear and nonaggressive languages. Losing your temper only does more harm than good and makes finding a solution through conversation impossible. It'd better if you think about what you're going to say first. If you sound reasonable, they'll be more likely to take action.
Write down the time and date you talk to your neighbour, including your demand and their reply. You may need it as evidence later in the following steps.
Write to your neighbour
You can try to convey your message through a letter instead if you don't feel comfortable about a face-to-face conversation or worried about how they might react. Maintain the same friendly and reasonable approach, and keep a copy of everything too.
If you think there are other people in your neighbourhood that are also suffering from the issue caused by your neighbour, you can try to talk or write to them as a group. This is a much better way to do so alone. A group who all disagree with the behaviour will put more pressure on your neighbour and help them recognise the issue. A tenants' association is also a good idea if you are a member of one.
No matter whether you're approaching your neighbour by yourself or with a group, don't use threats or harassment and stop the conversation if you see any of it from your neighbour.
Contact the landlord of your neighbour
You can try to talk to the landlord if your neighbour is living in a rented property. This could be a private landlord, a housing association, or a local council.
Contact the housing department of your local council or the housing association that your neighbour belongs to. They could investigate your complaint, tell your neighbour to solve the issue, end their tenancy, or request an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) if necessary. If you also live in a social housing property, they might try to rehouse you as well.
Prepare all necessary evidence to build your case, including dates and times of behaviours you deem that have taken a great toll on you.
In case they live in a privately rented home, try to find out the contact information of their landlord and talk to them about the issue. This is especially true for anti-social behaviour - something landlords must take serious steps to address.
Mediation is another option when the matter has gone beyond a casual conversation. It involves a third party that acts as an unbiased middleman. They should listen to both sides and offer advice on how the issue could be resolved in a civil manner without escalating it further. The mediator may charge you a fee, but this is still among the cheapest ways to put an end to the issue and costs much less than legal action.
If you can ask your housing association (if you and your neighbour are both members of one), or your local council for this service. Residents living in Scotland can use the Scottish Mediation2 while the website of the Ministry of Justice provides a listing of providers in many areas in Wales and England3.
Contact your local council
If relying on a mediation service has proven a fruitless attempt, you can take further action by going to your local council, even when you or your neighbour doesn't live in social housing under their authority. If the issue you raise may fall under the definition of a "statutory nuisance"4, your local council must take steps to investigate it immediately.
A statutory nuisance is a nuisance defined in the Environmental Protection Act 19905, including issues that put a risk to your personal health or interfere with the use and enjoyment of your home in an unreasonable and substantial manner.
Common examples of statutory nuisances that may happen between you and your neighbour are:
- When they leave a pile of rubbish that may harm your health
- Gases, fumes, and smoke
- Insects, smell, steam, or dust from their business premises
- Artificial light from their premises interfering the use of your home
Your local council must issue an abatement notice if they think your neighbour has conducted a statutory nuisance. This notice will ask the person responsible for the issue to stop or limit the activity to avoid causing further nuisance, including specific actions to follow and a time limit for your neighbour to follow if possible. Abatement notices6 can be served even if the nuisance hasn't happened yet but may take place in the future.
If your local council can't find your neighbour, the notice will be sent to the owner or any other occupier of those premises. When a structural defect of the premises causes the nuisance, the owner will be the person who receives the abatement notice.
If your neighbour fails to comply with the notice, they can be fined and prosecuted. The initial and further fines (if they don't comply) are both set by the court. For example, breaking a notice about noise nuisance can result in a £5,000 fine if it's their home and £20,000 if it's their business premises7.
Since from this point, your effort to deal with the issue can lead to serious consequences and conflicts in the relationship with your neighbour, make sure to try reaching a solution with them via previous methods first.
Contact the police
There are a few situations you're recommended to ignore above steps and go straight to the police, particularly when your neighbour has become abusive, threatening, resort to violence, or if they are breaking the law. Get to a safe place and contact the police as soon as possible. The police may also be helpful if their actions have caused harassment, distress, alarm, or fear, especially when they come from your ethnic or religious background.
Start a community trigger
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 20148 allows victims of constant anti-social behaviours (ASB) the right to report to appropriate agencies (the housing provider, police, or local council). If you and your community are suffering from such persistent behaviours, you can lodge a complaint and request a multi-agency ASB Case Review9.
Those agencies must carry out a case review if the issue they receive meets a previously defined threshold. The lead agency that manages this process depending on each area, usually the police or council.
Contact a lawyer
You can talk to a lawyer, who can give you advice and draft a letter to send to your neighbour, showing you are serious about the issue. This letter must explain your legal position in the dispute and what might happen if they don't stop their activity and put things right. Consulting a lawyer can be expensive, but sometimes the only way to resolve the matter.
Take your neighbour to court
If you have exhausted all other options, court action is always available, even though it's a time and money intensive process. Only resort to it if the issue causes severe harm to your safety or serious interference to your life.
As we have mentioned above, you can only rely on a third party to sort out the issue with your neighbour. Even landlords are not responsible for their tenants' behaviours most of the time, unless they encourage those behaviours, or are aware of the nuisances beforehand but do nothing to stop them.
Not every tenant can have the patience to find out whether the landlord can take care of the problem whenever it arises. The best way to avoid and deal with them is to choose properties with good management, like Build To Rent developments.
Since tenants of those premises usually have a strict screening process that you would be less likely to end up with a rogue neighbour. Build to Rent properties usually have unified management and have earned a better reputation of resolving complaints and queries from their tenants.
Some neighbour disputes are so prevalent and have been mentioned specifically in the law. Depending on your neighbour's response and the urgency of the issue, you can choose between different options to deal with it and ensure the right to enjoy your living.
Build To Rent properties are also a new choice on the table if you want to avoid those issues as much as possible. A more stringent screening process and centralised management helps tenants come up with a solution more quickly, even if it can prevent disputes altogether.
- Good Move, These are the UK’s Biggest Neighbour Disputes and the Worst Regions for it↩
- Scottish Mediation↩
- CMC, Mediator Results↩
- UK Government, Statutory nuisances: how councils deal with complaints↩
- UK Legislation, Statutory nuisances↩
- UK Government, Abatement notices↩
- UK Government, Complain about noise to the council↩
- UK Government, Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act↩
- UK Government, Anti-social behaviour (ASB) case review (also known as the Community Trigger)↩