Dealing with a neighbour dispute can be difficult. As a tenant, you want to have a good relationship with your neighbours, as it helps to enhance the safety and security of your home as well as providing potential new friendships. However if you do happen to have a disagreement with your neighbours, how should you handle it?
How to handle them
Trying to solve problems yourself
Approach your neighbour
If you have a complaint about your neighbour, you’ll need to contact them directly first to discuss the issue and how it can be resolved. After all, there’s a chance that your neighbour may not know they’re being disruptive and the problem could be resolved with a simple conversation.
If you’ve had problems with your neighbour in the past and you no longer feel like you can talk to them face to face, then write to them instead.
Using others to resolve your problems
It may be that you’re unable to resolve the problem yourself. Don’t worry, help is available, and different people can help you depending on the nature of the issue.
Look at mediation
If your approach is rejected, then you can contact local mediators. These can help both you and your neighbour come to an agreement in a timely and amicable manner.
The mediator will be someone impartial and they’ll be trained in dealing with disputes, acting as a referee. You can find someone local to help you here.
If the neighbour’s a tenant and has already refused to co-operate when approached, then it may be time to contact their landlord. If it’s possible for you to find out who the landlord is, then they may be prepared to talk to their tenant about the issue.
If you have reason to believe that discrimination’s an issue, then make sure that you inform the landlord. Private landlords can apply for possession on the grounds a tenant has been a nuisance or committed an offence, such as a racially motivated attack. If you think discrimination is involved, then you must ensure your landlord knows about this.
If a criminal offence is being committed, such as harassment, then you’re entitled to get the police involved. This could also involve breach of the peace, assault or harassment because of your race or sex.
If you believe you’re being racially discriminated against, you’ll need help from experienced advisors, such as your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
If your complaint is damaging to health or is a nuisance (such as excessive noise), you can ask the local council for help. These issues are known as ‘statutory nuisances’ and could include:
- Noise (such as music or dogs)
- Artificial lights (excluding street lamps)
- Dust, steam, smell or insects (usually from a business premises)
- Smokes, fumes and gases
- A build-up of rubbish that could be hazardous to health.
Your council will have a duty to investigate any statutory nuisances reported, but you should always try and resolve the problem yourself before contacting the council.
You can also contact the council if your dispute is regarding a hedge or tree. However, you must attempt to resolve the problem informally with your neighbour before contacting the council. You can ask for a complaint form if the hedge or tree matches the following criteria:
- Two or more mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs
- Over two metres tall
- Affecting your enjoyment of your own home or garden because of its height
You may, however, have to pay the council a fee for it to consider your complaint. If this is the source of your dispute, you can read more here.
The environmental health department
If you believe that your neighbour is breaching the law in relation to public health or pollution, then you can inform the environmental health department.
If this is the case, your neighbour will likely get an informal visit from an environmental health officer who will explain the problem, asking them to rectify it. If this fails and the problem persists, they’ll be served a notice, requiring them to stop or deal with the nuisance.
If you think your neighbour has begun (or completed) building work without permission, or has been using the land for an unauthorised purpose, then contact the local planning department. They’ll investigate whether there has been a breach and, if so, how it can be resolved.
If you don’t believe your neighbour is taking your complaint seriously, then you could get your solicitor to draft a letter. This can be a particularly effective step if your neighbour is a tenant, as it can make them realise that they may be evicted.
Going to court
Going to court should be your final option. Going to court isn’t only expensive (unless you’re eligible for legal aid), but it can also irreparably damage the relationship you have with your neighbour. If you’re thinking of going to court, you should speak to an expert advisor first.
Attempting to resolve a dispute with your neighbour can be both daunting and problematic. However, by doing your best to resolve the problem informally yourself you’ll be taking the best possible step, and hopefully the problem can be solved amicably. If this fails, there are experts who can help you, so don’t hesitate to contact them.