Having an argument or a disagreement with someone in your neighbourhood is not uncommon (e.g. because of a barking dog, a high hedge, or a parking problem).
The information in this guide lists the steps for resolving a dispute with a neighbour and what to do if they issue threats or the situation turns violent.
Note: The help guide for resolving neighbour disputes is also available in Welsh language (Datrys anghydfodau rhwng cymdogion).
In most cases, it is important to keep notes about the problems. Accurate and factual records would be useful for legal professionals if you seek further action. Include as many details that you can (e.g. what happened, how it affected you, and for how long).
So for example, you could record something like:
"23rd of July 2020; my neighbour's dogs at number 23 in my street were barking from 9:15pm to 11:35pm; it was so loud that I could hear them in my living room; it was so annoying that I turned up the volume on my TV to drown out the noise."
Here's the important part:
Always keep any messages you get from your neighbour. Furthermore, collect anything that you can as evidence (if it's safe to do so). An example would be taking a photograph of fly-tipped rubbish (e.g. dumped outside your home).
Often, you can resolve the most common issues before you need to make a formal complaint (or involve others). For example, you could try having a friendly discussion about the actual problem.
You may have some concerns about approaching them. If so, you could write a letter and explain the problem in a clear and factual manner.
Sometimes, the dispute will affect other people in the neighbourhood. If so, it is usually best to involve them in any discussions.
As a rule, a quarrel or controversy is easier to settle if more than one person is complaining. Hence, being a member of a tenants' association, or creating one, may help.
Note: The Citizens Advice Bureau offer free and practical advice about dealing with the most common neighbour disputes (e.g. noise, abandoned rubbish).
Note: The Regulator of Social Housing produces a list of social housing providers (including current registrations and deregistrations).
In most cases, speaking to your neighbour will settle the issue. But, you may choose to get expert help from a mediation service instead.
In simple terms, mediation uses an impartial person (like a referee). They will be trained in dealing with difficult and complex discussions held between two sides that are unable to get an agreement.
Note: Most mediation services will charge a fee. But, hiring the services of a solicitor (e.g. taking legal action) will be more expensive in the long run.
You can report a noise nuisance to your council if a dispute with a neighbour is a 'statutory nuisance' (damaging to health).
Typical examples of statutory nuisances covered by law in the United Kingdom, include:
Even though your council has a duty to investigate all statutory nuisances, you should try to solve the problem using the methods listed above before contacting them.
Councils issue noise abatement orders if they determine someone is causing a statutory noise nuisance. It has instructions on what the person must do to avoid further legal action (e.g. stop making a noise).
Note: Breaking an abatement order can result in a fine up to £5,000 if it is about noise from domestic premises. The penalty for noise coming from a factory or business can be £20,000.
The council cannot intervene in a dispute about high hedges until you have tried the 'informal' method of solving it. But, you can get a complaint form from the council if the hedge is (all):
Note: The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government produces further guidance about how local authorities deal with high hedge disputes between neighbours. There may be a fee for involving the council.
The law allows you to trim branches or roots if they cross into your property from that of a neighbour (or from a public road).
But, you can only trim foliage up to the property boundary. Your neighbour could take legal action in a court for 'damaging their property' if you trim branches or roots beyond the boundary.
As a rule, before you start trimming, topping, or lopping foliage, you would need to apply to work on a tree that's protected if (either):
Note: Another section has more information on consumer rights about trimming overhanging trees and how to avoid breaking the law.
The highways authority is likely to get involved if your property borders a road. They can ask that you cut back any hedges or trees that cause an obstruction in the road.
Furthermore, they can come on to your land and carry out the work themselves (without your permission) and charge you a fee for doing so.
As a rule, all neighbours have a responsibility for maintaining their own hedges. Hence, your neighbour may be liable if their foliage grows too high or it damages someone else's property.
Note: Another section explains the process of appealing against a high hedges decision made by a local council.
Disputes about your property boundaries (e.g. a boundary or party wall shared between two properties) can be difficult for neighbours to solve without seeking legal advice.
Nonetheless, you would need to give advance notice to your neighbour before doing any work on a 'party' wall (shared).
Note: You can get free advice about boundary disputes and party walls from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
It is not always possible to resolve disputes between neighbours in a friendly manner. Furthermore, you should always contact the police if the situation becomes threatening, or:
Despite being considered as a last resort, you should be able to take legal action against a neighbour through the court systems (e.g. at a County Court).
The process of taking another person or business to court can be complex and expensive. Besides paying a solicitor for their services, you may also need to pay court and tribunal fees.
Most of the responsibility for providing services and specialised facilities in your area rests with your local council. Even so, the amount of coverage that you get will depend on where you live.
Understanding the strict rules on controlling your dog in public areas can help you avoid getting a large fine, a significant prison sentence, or both.
Note: Research suggests around 60% of people row with their neighbours. The short video, presented by a lawyer, contains expert advice on what to do if you are living next to a nuisance neighbour.
Steps for Resolving Neighbour Disputes in United Kingdom