How to deal with nuisance neighbours

How to deal with nuisance neighbours
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Meet our experts

 

  • Danielle Clements, Senior Associate Solicitor at Gorvins Solicitors,
    www.gorvins.com
  • Stephen Thompson, Charted Legal Executive in Civil and Property Litigation for Wake Smith Solicitors Ltd, www.wake-smith.com

When we were younger it felt like our streets were welcoming communities, with everyone on first-name terms and willing to pop round for a natter. Nowadays many of us have lost that sense of community, or worse – we’re living next door to inconsiderate neighbours who make a lot of noise or leave their garden in a mess.

If you’re suffering, you’re far from alone. A 2014 survey from Which? found that one in four of us had experienced nuisance neighbours in the past 12 months alone, ranging from noise issues to more serious problems such as drug use. It also found that more than half of those surveyed didn’t know what to do about the situation.

1. Start with a chat
“A good first move would always be to try to discuss the problem with your neighbour,” says Danielle Clements, Senior Associate Solicitor at Gorvins Solicitors. “I’d always recommend trying to have a face-to-face chat in the first instance rather than writing a letter. It can be hard to read your tone in a letter and they might become defensive. It can sometimes be tricky to broach a problem in person, so you could take a friend along with you for moral support.”

2. Write a letter
“If a chat doesn’t work, proceed carefully,” says Stephen Thompson, Charted Legal Executive in Civil and Property Litigation for Wake Smith Solicitors Ltd. “Getting the courts involved should be a last resort because it can be expensive and stressful. A carefully-worded letter might be your next good option. Be polite and spell out that you don’t mean to cause any offence, and that you’re writing to try to maintain a good relationship.”

3. Make a note
If the problem doesn’t improve, it’s worth keeping a diary of any incidents. For example: ‘Tuesday, January 22, loud music was playing from 10pm-1am’. Include any contact you make too – and keep copies of any letters you send. Hopefully it won’t come to this, but should you need to go to court, a written record will provide vital evidence.

4.Approach the landlord
If your neighbours are renting their property they should have signed a tenancy agreement with their landlord, and that will include the fact that they are not to cause a nuisance. If you know the homeowner, it’s definitely worth letting them know of any issues, so they can speak to their tenants and decide whether to let them continue the tenancy. You could also speak to the letting agents to contact the landlord on your behalf,
if you know which company the
house is let through.

5.Get some advice
A good first port of call is the Citizens Advice Bureau, which is a not-for-profit organisation and won’t charge you. Advice about neighbour disputes is always different because the circumstances can vary so much.
Visit your local office or call 0344
411 1444. You may also find some useful information online here.  It may be worth contacting your buildings and contents insurer for legal advice, as they will have legal teams to help with certain disputes, depending on your policy.

6. No noise
Loud neighbours can make life a misery, especially if talking to them hasn’t achieved much. “Although annoying, some types of noisy behaviour are unlikely to be classified as harassment,” says Stephen, “for example children playing, loud voices and slamming doors during the day. But if you’re disturbed by loud music, parties and car alarms you can report it to your local council, who will have an out-of-hours team able to visit you. If music or a barking dog is really loud and persistent, a 999 call to the police may even be necessary under the grounds of harassment.”

7. And finally...
If nothing seems to be helping, and as a last resort, you can hire a solicitor to begin what’s known as ‘injunctive proceedings’ – approaching a court to get an order or instruction for your neighbour, to force them to stop their bad behaviour. “While the police and the courts can help, it won’t be a quick process,” says Danielle, “and it’s in everyone’s interests to resolve the matter amicably so you can carry on living peacefully in your home.”

If you are renting

“Your rights are no different if you are renting your property,” says Danielle, “but what you do depends on the problem. For noise issues, or anti-social behaviour, it’s still up to you to seek independent advice, whereas if it’s an issue about land or damage to the property, your landlord needs to be told and should address the issue.”

Land disputes

There are numerous problems which fall under this category – from boundary arguments, to plants or trees creeping over from their side of the fence – and you’re more likely to require legal help (if you can’t reach a compromise with your neighbour) than with noise issues. Each case is different, so it’s worth contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau in the first instance.

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