Skip to content
Please donate

Neighbour disputes

At one point or another, many of us have to deal with nuisance neighbours, planning disputes or anti-social behaviour. This page explains what to do and what rights you have.

What can I do about my noisy neighbours?

Whether it's music or TV, loud gatherings or barking dogs, it can be very frustrating to have noisy neighbours. How much of a problem it is depends on how often it occurs and when. For instance, noise in the day can be less of a disturbance than noise late at night.

If you're having trouble with loud noise at night, your local council has powers to deal with it. And even if it isn't at night, they should investigate if you say it's a nuisance or damaging your health.

If the council agree the noise is a ‘statutory nuisance’ (a legal term that refers to unreasonable noise that stops you from enjoying your property), they must issue a notice. The notice will tell the person to stop or restrict the noise – and they can be prosecuted if they ignore it.

Take these steps to tackle the problem:

  1. If you feel safe doing so, try to resolve the problem with your neighbour directly. Noisy neighbours might not realise that they're disturbing anyone – talking to them about it calmly could be enough to sort the issue. Only do this if you feel comfortable and safe.
  2. Consider mediation services. A mediator is an independent person who can help two 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're 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 has a section on its website about dealing with noisy neighbours – including examples of unreasonable noise and tips for gathering evidence.

What counts as unreasonable noise from neighbours?

To count as a 'statutory nuisance' that the council can help deal with, neighbour noise must either:

  • unreasonably and substantially interfere with your use or enjoyment of your home
  • 'injure' your health or be likely to do so.

In basic terms, the noise needs to be unreasonable – local councils won't take formal action against ordinary domestic noise, such as footsteps, talking or children playing.

Is there a law about noise after 11pm?

The Noise Act 1996 defines night hours as 11pm to 7am.

Local councils can issue warning notices about noise above permitted levels between these times. Noise doesn't necessarily need to be a 'statutory nuisance' for a warning notice to be issued.

Some councils have 24-hour teams to deal with noise complaints.

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

Anti-social behaviour from neighbours can be very stressful – and sometimes frightening. Anti-social behaviour includes:

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

It's a good idea to do the following if you're dealing with anti-social behaviour:

  • Keep a record of incidents – what happened, when it happened and who was involved. A clear record of anti-social behaviour can help if you make a complaint.
  • Complain to the local council.
  • Contact the police. In an emergency, always call 999. If it's not an emergency, call 101 or visit your local police station.
  • If you're a council or housing association tenant, contact your landlord. They may be able to offer additional help, such as mediation.
  • Contact Citizens Advice for further help.

Persistent and significant anti-social behaviour issues can be dealt with in a number of ways, including:

  • Police fines. The police can fine a person engaging in anti-social behaviour.
  • Injunctions. Authorities like social landlords, councils and the police can apply to the courts for injunctions to stop anti-social behaviour.
  • Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs). Local councils and the police can ask a court can make a CBO if someone is being prosecuted for a crime involving anti-social behaviour or is known to have engaged in anti-social behaviour. CBOs used to be called Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs).
  • Statutory nuisance notices. Your local council can issue a notice if they decide that the problem is a ‘statutory nuisance’. These notices require the person to stop or limit the activity causing a nuisance.
  • Eviction or re-housing. If the person is a council or housing association tenant, their landlord could take steps to evict them. If you're 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 can I do about my messy neighbours?

Sometimes, it isn't noise that bothers us. Smells, dust or rubbish from neighbours or local businesses can be a problem too.

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 the area
  • unreasonably or substantially interfere with your use and enjoyment of your home.

What counts as a statutory nuisance?

Things that could come under this definition include:

  • artificial light – for example, if your neighbour has a very strong security light that affects your sleep
  • dust, steam, smells or insects from business premises – for example, if you live next to a workshop that creates a lot of dust
  • smoke, fumes or gases – for example, if you live next to a restaurant that gives off strong smells
  • a build-up of rubbish that could harm health – for example, if your neighbour leaves a lot of waste outside that attracts vermin.

There are a couple of things you can try to deal with the issue:

  1. Talk to the neighbour or business causing the problem to raise your concerns directly. It's important you 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 neither of these approaches resolves the matter, talk to your local council’s Environmental Health team and ask them to look into it.

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 property?

In order to make certain changes, someone needs to apply for planning permission. The local council 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 from the council and you're not happy with what's being proposed, you should register your objection with the planning department. Registering an objection doesn’t mean that the proposal will be refused – but it's important to make your views known to the council.

Things 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.

Planning permission isn't always necessary if the works meet certain conditions. You can check the precise rules with your local council or on the Planning Portal website.

You can complain to the local council if you think a neighbour needed planning permission to make changes to their property but didn’t get it. You can also complain if your neighbour is using an outbuilding in a way they don’t have permission for – for example, using it as a residence – or if they've sub-divided their house without permission.

If you have a dispute with your neighbour over a shared wall or fence, that's a civil matter, and the local council won't intervene. Instead, you'll need to appoint a surveyor or get legal advice to resolve the issue.

Find out more about party wall disputes on GOV.UK

Phone icon We're here to help

We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 120 local Age UKs.

Share this page

Last updated: Apr 08 2024

You might also be interested in...

Renting and social housing

Whether you're already renting and looking to move somewhere new, or you’re considering renting a property for the...

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top