A neighbourly dispute isn’t something we all plan on having, but sadly, from time to time, they do crop up. The express reported that two-thirds of us are affected by neighbourly disputes[i]. So, we’ve put together a detailed list of some of the most common neighbour disputes and how you can resolve them quickly and peacefully.
At Sloane & Sons Garden Benches, we’re experts in all things garden furniture related, but we also know a lot about resolving neighbourly disputes. Whether it’s noisy neighbours, nuisance neighbours or even dealing with harassment from neighbours, by the end of this post, we’re confident you’ll have everything you need to get your issues under control.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons for getting into a tiff with your neighbour.
Unless otherwise stated, all figures here are from a study carried out in the UK by Goodmove[ii]. 1000 participants across England, Wales and Scotland reported on their grievances with neighbours.
We’ll go into more detail about what these issues entail below
The most common neighbour disputes can vary depending on where you live. Nevertheless, at the top of this list has to be noisy neighbours. The main reason in Scotland and England for neighbour disputes was noise related either generated from loud parties or loud music.
In Wales, the most popular disputes are environmental; plants and trees overgrowing onto properties, cutting trees down, or knocking things into gardens. Interestingly, Wales is a hotspot for neighbour disputes in the UK with a whopping 72% reporting that they have some kind of issue with their neighbour. In the rest of the UK, however, garden disputes are still a major cause of neighbour grievances. In the North of England, 18% of respondents had an issue with plants/trees overgrowing onto their property. In Scotland, 20% had issues with neighbours paying their fair share for a garden fence.
Neighbours in the south-west of England had the biggest issue with neighbours parking in their driveway; 22% reporting that this was an issue for them which is above the national average of 17%.
Ever gone to put something in the bin to see that it’s a little fuller than when you last left it? If so, then you’re not alone. 16% of respondents across the country had this issue too, with 23% in the south-east reporting the issue. Additionally, it seems people have issues with their neighbours not taking their bin out at all (15%).
One of the biggest misunderstandings with neighbours relates to property boundaries and, if you don’t have the property deeds to hand, this can be hard to dispute. It can be hard to dispute even if you do have the deeds to your property, defined boundaries can be vague[iii].
Now we have an idea of the most common grievances neighbours have with each other, we can discuss the correct steps to take to resolve a conflict.
There are usually three main steps to resolving neighbour disputes;
Thankfully, most issues are resolved with the first two steps. However, there are times when you need to get a third party involved – we discuss that in the next section. Remember, if you are experiencing issues with your neighbour, the authorities are going to want to see some kind of evidence of when the occurrences are happening so it’s important to keep a log of what’s happened and when. Be sure to include as much detail as possible.
For example: “15th August 20:25 to August 00:05 16th – neighbours playing music very loudly which resulted in us being disturbed in the evening and the children couldn’t get to sleep”.
If your neighbour sends you a text, WhatsApp, or gives you a call, be sure to keep a record of that too.
Noise can be a sensitive subject, and legally, it depends on what type of noise you’re experiencing. Sadly if it’s just footsteps and general domestic noise, there’s not really much you can do legally as this is likely due to poor sound insulation in the homes. Nevertheless, you can always have a polite chat with your neighbour to see if you can both come to a resolution. If this noise is irritating you, it’s likely irritating them too and they might appreciate it if you discuss it with them in a polite setting.
If the noise issue is something else; i.e. animals barking/howling, or loud music, especially between 11 pm and 7 am then speak to them about it, listen to their reasoning and if it persists, take notes on when it’s happening. Speak to other neighbours to see if they’re having similar issues. If this goes to mediation, they may need to act as witnesses. Such disturbances are classed as ‘statuary nuisances’ and the council has to investigate this when it’s reported.
If a neighbour is going onto your land to throw their rubbish in your bin or parking in your drive, it’s classed as trespassing and the best way to take action with this is to put a request in writing (make copies) asking them to stop. If they rent their property, you can even reach out to their landlord for a suitable resolution and if the issue persists they may be evicted. You can find the landlord’s details on the Land Registry website. If the problem persists, you should seek legal advice and look at getting a court injunction.
Dealing with harassment from neighbours is something none of us wants but sadly it does happen. Occasionally, neighbours can become violent or issue threats. In this situation, the police suggest you report this immediately[iv] so they can resolve it ASAP. If you also believe you’re the target of any sort of hate crime based on orientation, religion or ethnic background you need to contact the police.
Sometimes ignorance can be bliss, and as long as there’s not a genuine threat to your safety and the issue is minor, then it may be best to try and ignore it. If you live in a flat and can hear footsteps all the time, try to not concentrate on it, as in your head it’ll feel like it’s getting louder. Avoid communication and contact with them and try to get on with your life. Don’t let things get passive-aggressive, however, as this could lead to more problems down the line.
In all of the above scenarios, it’s best to not retaliate in a ‘tit for tat’ like situation as this will just result in more tensions and result in the police or council not being able to do anything as both parties will be classed as being in the wrong.
If talking to your neighbour and listening to their grievances doesn’t help, it may be time to call in a third party such as the local authorities. We included how to deal with certain situations above, but if it’s something else, feel free to check out Citizens Advice[v] to see what kind of intervention you’re legally entitled to.
You can complain to the council if things seem to be escalating with no resolution in sight. If you want to make a noise complaint, you can find out how to contact your local council here.
If you need to make a complaint about your neighbour’s garden (i.e. if their hedges are too high) you need to try and settle the dispute informally before getting the council involved. You can trim hedges to your property boundary only and you can make a complaint if two or more trees/shrubs are over 2m tall and are affecting the enjoyment of your home or garden.[vi]
You’ve sat down in the garden and had a big chat with your neighbour. It turns out, that it could be you that’s in the wrong. This can be a tough pill to swallow, but there are very graciously and neighbourly ways to handle this situation and apologise for your wrongdoings.
Explain your reasoning (if any), say your sorry and most importantly don’t continue the behaviour. If you think something might pop up that would disturb your neighbour in the future, for example, a party or building work, give them plenty of notice so they can be prepared or make arrangements to not be in the house. Most people will be reasonable if they’re informed of what’s going on in advance.
As a cherry on the cake, you may want to get them a card or a small gift to help mend broken bridges.
We hope that after reading this post, you’re in a much better position to resolve any disputes you may have with your neighbours. Remember, most issues can be resolved through a good chat, but occasionally mediation and police intervention is required. If you become the victim of any sort of assault or threats, call the police immediately before the issue escalates.
Holland, L (2016) Nuisance neighbours are plaguing the lives of MILLIONS of Brits [online] Available at https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/693958/Noisy-nuisance-neighbours-complaint-rising-affects-millions-Brits [Accessed 20th January 2021]
Goodmove (2020) These are the UK’s Biggest Neighbour Disputes and the Worst Regions for it [online] Available at https://goodmove.co.uk/blog/these-are-the-uks-biggest-neighbour-disputes-and-the-worst-regions-for-it/ [Accessed [20th January 2021]
Gov.uk (n.d.) Resolving neighbour disputes [online] Available at https://www.gov.uk/how-to-resolve-neighbour-disputes [Accessed 20th January 2021]
Citizens Advice (n.d.) Complaining about your neighbour [online] Available at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/problems-where-you-live/complaining-about-your-neighbour/ [Accessed 20th January 2021]
Rogers, N. (2020) Property boundaries – how disputes can tip neighbours over the edge [online] Available at https://www.daslaw.co.uk/blog/property-boundary-disputes-neighbours [Accessed 21st January 2021]
Met Police (n.d.) Disputes with neighbours [online] Available at https://www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/asb/asb/antisocial-behaviour/disputes-with-neighbours/ [Accessed 21st January 2021]
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.
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