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 a quick, friendly solution is best for everyone involved.
Our litigation lawyers regularly handle neighbour and boundary disputes both local to our offices in in Salisbury, Andover, Fordingbridge and Amesbury and also throughout Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset and further afield.
Looking for legal advice on a neighbour dispute? Call us on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 or one of our four local office numbers for FREE initial phone advice – no strings attached.
What kind of disputes can arise?
In Britain, we live in very close proximity to one another, especially when compared to other countries. This means that any one of a number of different forms of disputes can arise between neighbours, often over seemingly trivial matters.
What may start out as seemingly minor issues can, if not correctly managed, quickly escalate into costly legal disputes and court action which far outweighs the value of any rights lost or damaged.
Some of the different forms of disputes between neighbours include:
• Boundary disputes — If a neighbour erects a fence or hedge on what you believe to be your land, this can cause disputes. Similarly, the responsibility for the maintenance of fences and hedges tends to cause disagreements. If one resident has a right to access their property by crossing someone else’s land, this too can cause disputes and result in a lengthy and protracted argument. Click here to read more about Boundary Disputes, Hedge Disputes, Fence Boundary Disputes and Party Wall Boundary Disputes and find out how we can help you
• Harassment from neighbours — This tends to be a police matter, but often a strongly-worded letter from a solicitor can make a problem neighbour sit up and take notice of what they are doing and reconsider their behaviour.
• Maintaining shared facilities — This doesn’t just extend to fences and hedges, but also shared or communal gardens and other facilities which may be shared between two or more residents. This is particularly prevalent in blocks of flats where facilities such as gardens are often shared and the maintenance of the facilities is meant to be shared equally amongst residents.
• Noise – Noisy neighbours are one of the most common forms of residential disputes, with noise issues causing large amounts of stress for people. It might be a neighbour playing loud music late at night or starting a DIY project early on a Sunday morning. These are relatively minor annoyances — everyone needs to decorate and we all have parties from time to time — but when the noise is regular, drawn out and debilitating for those around, it may legally become defined as noise pollution and be subject to legal intervention.
• Problems with children — Children can be noisy. We all know that. But things can get more serious and children can cause damage to property or make the lives of local residents hell. Often, parents will be mortified that their child has upset someone and will seek to initiate reparations if the matter is handled sensitively- but some don’t. If a reasonable solution can’t be reached, it may be time to involve the police or a solicitor.
• Trees and gardens — The modern scourge of tall leylandii hedges causes many neighbour disputes, with residents worrying about their loss of light. Likewise, a tall tree might block out the light to a neighbour’s house or even cause damage to their property by letting the roots grow under their land. Problems can also be caused by the state of the neighbours garden – however if a neighbour has a very untidy and unsightly front garden, your local council may be able to pressurise them into maintaining it in order to preserve the aesthetic of the local area.
There are plenty of other issues which also has problems between including party walls, general construction work issues – not to mention parking.
Beware – neighbour disputes can be expensive and protracted
Disputes between neighbours can be extremely expensive to resolve and can take many years — especially if they have to go through court. Any court will want to see that every possible measure has been taken to stop it getting that far, including attempts to reach friendly solution, mediation and legal representation in order to come to an agreement. Going to court should always be your last resort for a neighbour dispute – but sometimes it may well be necessary.
Dealing with neighbour disputes – first steps
If you are having a problem with a neighbour, your first action should be to speak to them and try to come to an agreement on a personal level. Although it may be hard, try not to let your feelings cloud your judgement and look for a way of resolving the dispute that’s acceptable for all parties. If that doesn’t work, and your problems continue, consider speaking to a solicitor.
Neighbour disputes – using a solicitor.
An experienced solicitor who specialises in neighbour disputes could help to resolve the issues by initially speaking to the neighbour and writing to them to let them know your grievances and suggest a way in which the dispute could be resolved.
If your neighbour is flouting laws or regulations, your lawyer may point this out and let them know that their actions could result in legal action being taken against them. In many cases, this will lead to the dispute being resolved as most people will not want to end up in court — particularly if they know they are flouting the law and likely to end up losing the case.
Can Mediation Help?
If that initial legal letter is not successful, then the solicitors for the two parties can try to negotiate an agreement . If that also doesn’t work, our solicitors will suggest trying mediation. Mediation involves both parties sitting down and trying to come to an amicable resolution by stating their case in front of an independent mediator. The mediator’s job will be to try and find some common ground in order to build an agreement which suits both parties. An independent surveyor may need to be involved with the mediation.
Both mediation and negotiation are likely to be considerably quicker, less confrontational and cheaper than taking the matter to Court. What is more, in our experience, it is always better to try to sort things out in a friendly manner given that the people involved in the dispute will have to live close by each other.
In many cases, disputes can be resolved at this stage without the intervention of a court case and a judge to come up with a verdict.
Neighbour disputes – going to court?
Should the case reach the court, it should be noted that the judge’s word will be final. A resolution sought through mediation is likely to suit both parties to some degree, but going to court could be a gamble as the judge will likely come to a resolution which solves the matter once and for all but suits only one party. A judge will also want to see that all reasonable steps have been taken to resolve the dispute before coming to court, and will not look favourably upon a party who has refused to negotiate or has simply filed court papers before trying to find other ways of resolving the issues at hand.
A legal battle against a neighbour can be very financially demanding and often home insurance providers’ legal cover will not stretch to disputes with neighbours. It can take a long time to resolve the issue and in the meantime you must live in close proximity to the person whom you’re engaging in legal action with. This can be extremely debilitating and upsetting and sour local neighbourhood relations, so a quick and amicable resolution is always highly preferable to having a long, drawn out dispute which will cost everyone time and money.
In order to have your dispute resolved quickly and amicably, a legal representative should be hired to look over your case and advise you as to what the best steps would be to take, allowing everyone to move forward and resolve the dispute. If you’re having a problem with a neighbour and would like some friendly and impartial legal advice, contact us today and we’ll be more than happy to help.
What can I do if my neighbour is being persistently noisy, abusive or threatening?
The police or Local Authority may intervene if the threats and abuse are serious, amount to harassment or there is persistent and serious noise nuisance.
Disputes between neighbours can be extremely distressing for those involved and what may start out as seemingly minor issues can, if not correctly managed, quickly escalate into costly legal disputes and court action which far outweighs the value of any rights lost or damaged.
If you are in the unfortunate position of an escalating dispute with a neighbour or would like to prevent a potential dispute, for specialist legal advice you can rely on, contact one of our Lawyers today.