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Neighbour disputes

Although we would all like to get along well with our neighbours, sometimes we may face problems with noise, planning disputes, or anti-social behaviour. Find out more about what to do and what rights you have.


What can I do about my noisy neighbours?

It can be frustrating to have noisy neighbours, whether they are playing loud music, have the TV turned up, or have noisy pets.

How much of a problem it is depends on how often the noise occurs and when, as noise during the day may be less of a problem than noise late at night.

Your local council has powers to deal with loud noise at night. With other types of noise, they should investigate if you say it is a nuisance or damaging your health. If the council agree the noise is a ‘statutory nuisance’, they must issue a notice. Statutory nuisance is a legal term and refers to significant or unreasonable noise that stops you from enjoying your property.

A council notice will tell the person what they should do to stop or restrict the noise. They can be prosecuted if they ignore it.

Take these steps:

  1. Try to resolve the problem with your neighbour directly. Sometimes people don’t know how noisy they are and aren’t aware that other people can hear them. If you feel able to do so, you could approach your neighbour and talk to them about the problem. This may be enough to resolve it. Only do this if you feel comfortable and safe.
  2. Consider mediation services to help you resolve the matter with your neighbour. A mediator is an independent person who can help both sides come to an agreement. Some councils and housing associations provide free mediation services to their tenants or you can search for a mediator online through the Ministry of Justice.
  3. Contact your landlord, your neighbour’s landlord or your local council. If you are not sure which council department to contact, talk to the Environmental Health team to begin with. They should investigate and decide what course of action they can take.

The charity ASB Help have a section on their website about noise, including tips for gathering evidence and examples of reasonable noise


What can I do about my neighbour’s anti-social behaviour?

Anti-social behaviour from neighbours can make life hard and stressful, and it can also be frightening.

It may include:

  • loud noise
  • verbal abuse or intimidation
  • vandalism, property damage and graffiti
  • animal nuisance
  • rowdy or inconsiderate behaviour
  • dumping rubbish

Anti-social behaviour can be challenged in a number of ways:

Injunctions

Authorities like social landlords, councils and the police can apply for injunctions to stop anti-social behaviour, including injunctions that are specific to housing.

Police fines

The police can issue fines to people engaging in anti-social behaviour.

Criminal Behaviour Orders

A court can make a Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) if someone is being prosecuted for a crime that involved anti-social behaviour or if that person is known to have engaged in anti-social behaviour. CBOs used to be called Anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs). Councils and the police can ask the court to make them.

Statutory nuisance notices

Your local council can issue a notice if they decide that the problem is a ‘statutory nuisance’.

Eviction or re-housing

If the person responsible is a council or housing association tenant, their landlord could take steps to evict them. If you are a council or housing association tenant, your landlord may be able to help you resolve the problem or even re-house you if the anti-social behaviour is particularly bad.

What you can do:

  • Keep a record of incidents - what happened, when it occurred and who was involved. This may help when making a complaint so you have a clear record of what anti-social behaviour has taken place.
  • Complain to the local authority – you can report anti-social behaviour to your local council.
  • Contact the local police. In an emergency, dial 999. If it’s a non-emergency situation, call 111 or visit your local police station.
  • Contact your landlord if you are a council or housing association tenant, as they may be able to offer additional help, such as mediation.
  • You could also talk to Citizens Advice, as they are able to give advice on anti-social behaviour in housing.

What can I do about my messy neighbours?

Sometimes it’s not noise that bothers us. Smells, dust or rubbish, from either neighbours or local businesses can also be a problem.

If the problem is defined as a ‘statutory nuisance’, the council has a duty to serve a notice ordering it to be stopped or reduced.

To be defined as a statutory nuisance it must:

  • be damaging to health or have the potential to damage health
  • affect the comfort or quality of life of people in your area
  • unreasonably or substantially interfere with your use and enjoyment of your home.

A ‘statutory nuisance’ could include:

  • artificial light – for example, if you neighbour has a very strong, motion activated security light that affects your sleep (this category does not include street lights)
  • dust, steam, smell or insects from business premises – for example, if you live next to or on top of a workshop and this creates a lot of dust and steam
  • smoke, fumes or gases – for example, if you live on top of or next to a restaurant that sends fumes or strong smells your way
  • a build-up of rubbish that could harm health – for example, if you live near a business that leaves a lot of waste outside that rots and attracts vermin.

What you should do:

  1. Approach your neighbour or the business causing the problem first, to raise your concerns with them. Only do this if you feel comfortable and safe.
  2. Try mediation, where someone independent tries to help both sides reach an agreement.
  3. If that doesn’t resolve the matter, or you don’t feel able to approach them yourself, talk to your local council’s Environmental Health team and ask them to look into the matter.

How can I manage a dispute with my neighbour about planning permission?

Does your neighbour want to extend their house? Have they built something that affects you or your home? In order to make certain changes to a home or property, an application for planning permission needs to be made.

The local authority planning department will then send out a notice to the people they think may be affected by the development to see if there are any objections.

If you receive a notice and are not happy with the proposal being made, you should register your objection with the planning department. Simply registering an objection doesn’t mean that the proposal will be refused, but it is important to make your views known to the council.

Things which people might need to get planning permission for include:

  • Extending their home
  • Creating a driveway and dropped kerb
  • Building an outbuilding
  • Putting up a conservatory 

However, planning permission may not be necessary if the works meet certain conditions. A smaller extension or outbuilding may not need permission. You can check the precise rules with your local authority planning department, or use the Planning Portal website.

You can complain to the local authority planning department if you think a neighbour needed planning permission to make changes to their property but didn’t get it. You can also raise a complaint if your neighbour is using an outbuilding for a purpose which they don’t have permission for, for example, using it as a residence, or if they have sub-divided their house without permission.

  • To find out what work might require planning permission see Planning Portal.

If you have a dispute with your neighbour over a shared wall or fence, then these are civil matters. The local authority planning department does not intervene in these matters. Instead, you will have to resolve them yourself by appointing a surveyor, or seeking legal advice.

You can find an explanatory booklet of the rules on GOV UK

Our free factsheet Anti-social behaviour in housing has much more information on how to deal with neighbour disputes

More information you might find useful

Last updated: Oct 12 2017

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