Resolving Neighbour Disputes

Everyone wants to feel safe and comfortable in their home, and a dispute with a neighbour can be deeply distressing. You may feel that your right to comfort and safety has been violated and you might not feel content in your own home. This is a particularly unpleasant feeling for anybody to have, and although there are no formal guidelines on how to deal with neighbour disputes, there are a few steps you can take initially to try and resolve them in a quick and friendly manner before they escalate.

A few common disputes include:

  • Noise

When people live close to their neighbour, a level of noise should be expected and accepted but it is still a very common complaint raised. Noise complaints can vary from loud music playing inside the house to excessive or loud barking from a dog. This can be more disruptive if you share walls with your neighbour such as in terraced or semi-detached houses.

  • Parking

Many conflicts between neighbours arise as the result of disputes over parked cars, mainly when people park their cars on the road upon which they live. Residents often think they have a right to park in front of their own home, but this is an unwritten rule and it is not always possible. Other road users have the right to park outside your home providing they are not contravening the Highway Code. Another common issue revolving around parking is when neighbours have a shared driveway for access to their houses and people park on these access routes.

  • Property Boundaries

Boundary disputes occur when two people both believe they have the right to a piece of land. They often begin when one person puts up a fence or wall on land which another person thought belonged to them.

The best way to avoid a boundary dispute happening in the first place is to try and firmly establish the boundaries of the land before you change anything. Even work which you do not think will change anything could lead to trouble if you are not cautious.

For example, if you intend to replace a hedge with a fence, you should bear in mind that a fence will set a far more specific boundary than the hedge did, and this could lead to a boundary dispute if your neighbours do not agree with where you have put it. For this reason, you should never change or add a boundary divider without checking with your neighbours first. In most cases, a simple notification of your intention to the neighbour avoids escalating arguments.

  • Trees and hedges

Overhanging trees are another common reason for neighbour disputes. If a neighbour’s tree overhangs into a neighbouring property, the tree owner should be asked to trim back the tree. If this is not done then the person complaining of the overhanging tree has the right to trim back the tree to the boundary line. However, if you live in a conservation area or the trees are protected by a tree preservation order you’ll need to ask your local council’s permission to trim or cut the trees. You should also informally talk to your neighbour to let them know of your intentions to trim back the tree branches. The tree branches and foliage should also be returned to your neighbour or disposed of properly with their consent. If you do have trees which may overhang, it is also important that you ensure that they do not have the reach to damage anything on your neighbour’s property as this could lead to a nuisance claim.

What is the impact?

Disagreements between neighbours, however small, can fester over time and do lasting damage to your relationships in the long term. That’s why we would always encourage you to raise your concerns with one another and find amicable solutions as early as possible.

If you can’t resolve a dispute with a neighbour it can really wear you down. This can have a serious effect on your quality of life, especially if it leads to you feeling threatened, isolated or scared in your own home or community, and may even impact a later sale of the property. If this is the case, we would strongly advise you to take action using the steps below.

What you can do

Often, your neighbour will be unaware of the problem so it is best to try and have a polite word with them initially. If your neighbour is a tenant, you could also contact their landlord or housing association for assistance.

If the problem involves noise, your local council may be able to help.

For disagreements over boundary walls, fences, trees or hedges you can contact Citizens Advice for free information and support.

In some cases, you may also want to contact a solicitor and our team here at Spire Solicitors LLP are happy to assist.