3 Most Common Disputes with Neighbours

Disputes with neighbours need to be handled sensibly to avoid acrimony in the future. It is hard to put a price on the benefits of a cordial, or possibly even neighbourly relationship with those that live nearby.

When something goes wrong, it needs to be dealt with carefully, not only because you are likely to be seeing the other party regularly, but also because disputes, once they become official, may be required to be disclosed if you sell your property or affect references you rely on for future rental tenancies.

Resolution to a variety of disputes with neighbours have a common theme: Discuss the issue between the parties in a neighbourly fashion. Frayed tempers and words spoken in anger seldom help resolve disputes and can harm relationships long into the future.

Below are what we find to be the most common disputes with neighbours to get out of hand.

Boundaries and planning

Disagreements over the boundaries between two properties and planning permission are one of the most common disputes with neighbours.

Perhaps one party has constructed an outbuilding or extension that another believes to be in violation of planning or devalues their property. Another situation might involve a fence or wall that one party believes encroaches on their property.

Exactly where a boundary is defined can be extremely difficult to prove. Although legal documents relating to the property such as the title plan may show the boundary the level of detail on the plan does not always make it conclusive for the matter of inches some disputes may come down to.

Compromise is often the cheapest way to resolve disputes with neighbours like this and a mediator can help two willing parties to reach an amicable solution.

When the dispute is one of planning, say when one party erects a building or extension without consultation and and their neighbour feels it devalues or diminishes their enjoyment of their property things can get a little harder to resolve.

The earlier during construction the dispute is raised, the easier the problem is to unravel. The more money committed to a project, the more likely parties are to dig their heels in.

It is worth being aware of what your neighbours’ rights are in this situation. If you simply find a new outbuilding or conservatory to be unsightly, but it is within what is allowed under permitted development, you may find you have no right to object. That said, countless buildings have been ordered to be demolished or altered because they have offended the sensibilities of others in the neighbourhood.

If, however, the structure is large enough to require planning permission and you have not received notice of this, or there is no planning permission in place, you stand a much better chance of having your complaint upheld.

When building a new structure beyond the limits of permitted development (the details of which you can commonly find on your local planning portal) planning permission is required. Part of the process of obtaining planning permission is your local authority contacting the owners of neighbouring properties likely to be effected. If building commences and you have not received a notice, you can check on your local councils’ website to see if planning permission or a certificate of permitted development has been applied for. If you cannot find details on the relevant website, it is usually worth making enquiries with the owner of the property.

If you are not given the information you are entitled to, or you suspect the structure is in breach of planning regulations, the next step is to contact your local authority and complain.

With both instances, raising the problem politely with your neighbour is almost always a good first step.

Noise and nuisance

Problems with noise from neighbouring property can be one of the most emotive disputes with neighbours.

When noise disturbance is regular, most of the avenues you have for official redress will require a little patience at a time when you may feel you do not have much patience left to give.

If you feel comfortable and safe doing so, raise the issue politely with your neighbour, explaining how much noise carries and at what times.

If the noise is music or television, DIY or leisure activities, ask they turn it down after a certain time. If the noise is the result of domestic arguments, upset or distress, you may feel it is better to go directly to the authorities.

For either instance, your local council will have a dedicated noise team to raise your concerns with. More often than not, they will have a Duty Officer who will attend at properties 24 hours a day, normally with a police officer. If the problem is not happening exactly at the time you want to make a complaint then there are a few things you can get ready in advance.

Most commonly asked for is that you keep a diary of the noise. If you can log the noise over a couple of weeks and then give this to the Noise Control Officer or the environmental health department at your council dealing with noise it will assist them in doing their jobs. It is possible they may wish to place a recording device in your home to take measurements of the volume and frequency of the disturbance.

If they are satisfied the noise is unacceptable, they will issue a notice requiring the noise stops within certain parameters. If this is not complied with, fines rise from a few hundred pounds to £5000 and can result in anti-social behaviour offences being pursued.

As with all disputes with neighbours, trying to resolve the matter amicably is appreciated by the official bodies governing this area, but only do so if you feel safe raising the issue.

Trees

Perhaps surprisingly, trees can often be the source of disputes with neighbours. Trees, shrubs and other plants encroaching over boundaries, obscuring views or reducing the amount of light to a property are especially problematic as they need regular management to keep the problem from re-occurring.

You and your neighbours have an obligation to keep plants, trees and roots within the boundary of your own property. Also to keep trees and plants from adversely effecting the enjoyment of their neighbours’ property.

Whilst the first is fairly black and white, a good few disputes arise out of this. However, rights to light and enjoyment can become difficult as they are more subjective. Broadly, if two or more trees or shrubs in your neighbours’ property grow beyond two metres and are blocking light to your property or your garden, the Trees and High Hedges Act 2005 may possibly be used for redress.

A common theme with neighbour disputes, the Department for Communities and Local Government will expect that you will have spoken to the owner of the offending trees or shrubs and tried to resolve the matter amicably. They will also give short shrift to disputes raised simply to cause problems for your neighbour, perhaps after a previous unresolved dispute or ongoing animosity.

Should the situation degrade to the point of needing to involve the local authority, a notice will be served on your neighbour detailing the nature of the complaint, why it has been upheld and what they are required to do to comply. Should they not comply, the local authority is authorised to take action directly.

If possible, it is almost always better to resolve a dispute between neighbours in person. Failing that, the opportunity to mediate to a compromise is more cordial than the more formal methods of complaint.

It is very likely that a dispute between neighbours ending up in court will increase enmity between the parties and those parties will still need to deal with each-other in a civil manner in the future. However, whether it is through bad communication, misunderstanding of rights and the law, or just plain pig-headedness, some disputes cannot be solved by friendly discussion. Having attempted to take the high road, being patient and keeping emotions from overflowing will reap rewards later on, should you have to look to government or police to protect your enjoyment of your property.

Resources

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/problems-where-you-live/neighbour-disputes/

https://www.gov.uk/how-to-resolve-neighbour-disputes/high-hedges-trees-and-boundaries

https://www.planningportal.co.uk/info/200130/common_projects/53/trees_and_hedges