While we all hope that we'll find like-minded, friendly and considerate people living next door to us, there are times when sadly this isn't the case. Problems with your neighbours can be frustrating and sometimes upsetting, but there is often something you can do about it to put things right.
We asked Danielle Goodwin, a helpline advisor for the housing charity, Shelter, to answer our most pressing and concerning questions about neighbours.
My neighbour and I keep arguing over our shared driveway and the fact their overgrown garden is starting to invade my garden. What can I do to sort this out?
It’s almost always better to take early steps to try and solve a disagreement, before it gets worse, so act right away. The first thing to do is discuss the issue at a meeting in a place where you both feel comfortable.
Think about what you want to say and achieve, and in the meeting, negotiate with your neighbour. Write down anything you agree with your neighbour and both sign the document – but only sign something if you agree with it. If you can’t agree, there are other methods like mediation which can help resolve the disagreement.
I've heard about mediators. What are they and how might they help the situation?
A mediator is someone not involved in the dispute who can help you both come to an agreement. You may have to compromise, so think about what is important to you. To find a professional mediator, ask the council, contact a local advice centre for a list, or use the Ministry of Justice search. There are some arguments that shouldn’t be resolved by mediation including serious crime or an ongoing court case.
What sort of disagreements might you want to take to court?
Issues like damage to your home or belongings, harassment, noise, nuisance and antisocial behaviour, or personal injury should be taken to court. But serious crime should always be reported to the police.
What should I bear in mind before deciding to take my case to court?
Try and settle a dispute without going to court as it can be complicated, expensive and might not get the result you want. If negotiation and mediation haven’t worked, you can think about arbitration – an informal court hearing where a third party makes a final and binding decision. This can be quicker, less stressful and cheaper than taking a case to court. Find out more from Citizens Advice.
What steps should I take if I do decide to take a neighbour to court?
Always remember that court action should be a last resort. But if you do decide to take your neighbour to court, we’re here to help. Visit Shelter’s online advice for more information on what to expect and the practical steps to take.
What are the rules on noise from neighbours - when is noise considered too much and a nuisance? What can I do to stop my noisy neighbour?
Some noise is unavoidable, but sometimes noise from a neighbour is excessive or an ongoing problem. In such cases, it’s a good idea to keep a record of any noise or anti-social behaviour, and get in touch with your local council about it. In serious cases, either the environmental health department, or a dedicated anti-social behaviour unit will be able to help. Find out more from Shelter's online advice about what you can do if the noise problem is caused by antisocial behaviour.
I feel threatened by my neighbour's behaviour. What can I do?
If someone threatens you or is violent towards you, call the police or 999 in an emergency. If you are being harassed by a neighbour, you can also take legal action. Harassment can include texts, phone calls, letters, emails, comments or verbal threats. It could also include someone standing outside your house, driving past your home or following you. If you’re being threatened or harassed, visit Shelter’s online advice for more information.