Neighbour Disputes: Practical Steps

Many people will experience a disagreement with one of their neighbours at some point. Often, disagreements can be resolved amicably and informally between the parties.  However, not all disagreements are capable of being resolved easily and in the age of Covid-19, a large proportion of the nation is stuck at home, possibly engaged in DIY or gardening projects whilst being furloughed or working from home. As tensions rise, conflict between neighbours is more likely to arise over issues that are usually brushed off as insignificant.

Practical Steps

If you experience friction with a neighbour, the practical advice from our litigation department at present is as follows:-

  1. Try to understand your neighbour’s point of view, as well as your own.  Write your thoughts down and re-read them when things have cooled down. Consider carefully whether it is such a big issue after all and whether, under normal circumstances, your issue is able to be resolved amicably.
  2. Seek an opinion from a trust friend or family member about your experience and how they might react to it. Ask them if they think that you may be more sensitive to the situation because of the additional stress and inconvenience that everyone is placed under.
  3. If you feel able to approach your neighbour, do so calmly. If you feel it more suitable, write to them in a polite way, avoiding any aggression. Remember to proof read or ask a family member to proof read the letter before sending it.  Re-read it at least once to ensure that it does not come across negatively which might be counter-productive and antagonise the situation.
  4. If the above steps do not work, perhaps suggest mediation to your neighbour, bearing in mind this may be difficult at present due to social distancing. Details can be found on GOV.UK website:

Common neighbour disputes

Loud music, construction work, barking animals or deliberate antisocial behaviour outside the hours of 07.00am to 11.00pm. 

This is probably the most common cause for complaint, especially if your properties are joined by a party wall.  Sometimes your neighbour may be unaware of the extent of the nuisance and believe that they are merely living their life as normal.  As we know, one person’s normal can be another person’s nightmare.

If the informal approaches above do not work then you can report the issue to your local Council who will have a team to deal with noise complaints.  They might visit the area to check the level of noise from the street.

Violence or harassment

If your neighbour is being violent towards you or harassing you in any way then they are breaking the law and you must report this to the police.  The police can investigate and consider whether action is appropriate. Their first step is usually to speak with your neighbour and ask them to stop or advise them of your concerns.

The number to call to report is 111 (unless it becomes an emergency situation where your wellbeing is in danger, in which case telephone 999).

Disputes in relation to the boundaries between properties (ie) hedges, walls, fences. 

If a boundary dispute arises, you can obtain a copy of the title plan (either from the Land Registry if your property is registered, or from your bundle of title deeds if it is not). The plan may not always show a clear boundary but you may be able to see whether a boundary has been moved or if there seem to be any discrepancies as to what lies on the ground.

We suggest that you first have an informal discussion with your neighbour to see if the issue can be rectified.  If you reach an agreement, it is important to have this recorded legally and consider whether a change to either your own or your neighbour’s title deeds is necessary. At that point you should seek advice from a regulated legal professional.

“I have had enough and want to sell my property”

You might think that simply selling your property will rid you of the problem. However, when selling a property you are required by law to disclose any previous or ongoing disputes that have arisen with your neighbours. Failure to do so could result in legal action being taken against you by your purchaser.  You may find yourself liable to significant legal costs and subject to paying compensation to your purchaser if their claim is successful.

If you cannot resolve the situation

If you have exhausted every avenue mentioned above, you can instruct a legal professional to advise you on your position and raise the issue formally with your neighbour. For assistance please contact our dispute resolution department on 01229 580956.

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