Do you have some problems with your neighbour? Be it a boundary dispute, or loud music late into the night, these are not unfamiliar issues. 

 

Neighbour disputes

Where people live close together there is always the possibility of friction and disputes. 

Lifestyles can clash; maybe people of different age groups, or from different cultural backgrounds. Even different working or sleeping patterns can easily lead to arguments.

 

Common issues that cause problems between neighbours include:

Boundary disputes
Fence disputes
Trees & high hedge disputes
Blocked access, parking & pathways 
Right of way issues
Nuisance neighbours
Property maintenance
Breach of covenant
Party Wall Act
Building & construction disputes
Adverse possession claims
Access to Neighbouring Land Act  

 
 

How to deal with a dispute with your neighbour:

It is advisable to take advice at an early stage to avoid the situation escalating out of hand. 


If you have a dispute with your neighbour you can:

1. Try to solve the problem informally by talking to them.
2. If your neighbour is a tenant, you could contact their landlord.
3. You could use a mediation service if raising the issue informally does not work.
4. If the dispute involves a statutory nuisance (something like loud music or barking dogs), you can make a complaint to your local council.
5. Contact the police if your neighbour is breaking the law by being violent or harassing you. 
6. As a last resort you can take legal action through the courts.
We can help you with your neighbour disputes

Whether regarding boundaries, trees, blocked access or neighbour nuisance we can assist you to amicably resolve what can prove to be an extremely stressful and distressing situation.

Noisy Neighbours

Having noisy neighbours is a common problem, but what constitutes a nuisance noise is not always straight forward.

Nuisance noise can come in a variety of forms:
  
• Arguments
• Loud or bass-heavy music
• TVs
• DIY projects
• Moving furniture
• Alarms
• Ball games
• Dogs barking
• Door slamming

No house or flat is completely sound proof. We all expect some noise from our neighbours. We are all affected to a degree and inflict some noise on our neighbours too.

A little give and take must be expected.
We all have a different level of tolerance and will often put up with the noise for some time before we do anything about it.
However, if the noise disturbs you, and is loud or sustained, it can have a seriously detrimental impact on your life and enjoyment of your home.

How can you deal with noise problems?

If you have a dispute with your neighbour:

• Try solving the problem informally by talking to your neighbours
• If your neighbour is a tenant, you might contact their landlord
• If an informal approach doesn't work, a mediation service might help
• If the dispute involves a statutory nuisance (e.g. loud music or barking dogs), you can make a complaint to your local council
• Contact the police if your neighbour is breaking the law by being violent or harassing you
• As a last resort you can take legal action through the courts

Talk about it

As a first step just talking to your neighbours may help the situation.

Most people are unaware they are causing a nuisance and unless you tell them they might continue unknowingly. It is advisable to discuss the problem with your neighbour before making a formal complaint or getting others involved.

If you are worried about approaching them, write an informal letter explaining the problem clearly and state the facts. Be polite and non-confrontational.

If the problem affects other neighbours, you might wish to involve them too. It may be easier to settle a dispute if the complaint comes from a number of people. However, extra care should be taken to approach your neighbour in a friendly, non-confrontational way if doing so as a group.
If you are a member of a tenants' association they may be able to help.

Contact the landlord

If your neighbour is a tenant, you can complain to their landlord.
Their landlord could be a housing association, the council or a private landlord. It is likely that the tenant will be in breach of their obligations under their tenancy agreement if they are causing a nuisance.
The landlord may take action to deal with the issue. This might include a threat to remove the tenant.

Mediation

If you can't resolve the problem by speaking to your neighbour, you may be able to get help from a mediation service.

Mediation sees an impartial person, trained in dealing with difficult discussions, sit between two opposing sides. They act like a referee in a dispute.
There can be a fee for mediation, but this will be cheaper than taking legal action.
Mediation services differ depending on where you live:
If you live in England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice website has details of mediation providers in your area (http://www.civilmediation.justice.gov.uk/).
Your council or housing association may also provide a mediation service
Some charities also provide a mediation service.

Talk to the council

You should try and solve the problem by talking to your neighbour or through mediation before contacting the council.
If your dispute involves an activity damaging to your health or is a nuisance, you can ask your local council for help. This is known as a 'statutory nuisance'. This might include issues such as loud music or barking dogs.

You will need to contact your local authority Antisocial Behaviour Unit. Your local council has a duty to investigate any statutory nuisance.

Before involving your local authority, gather some evidence to present as proof of the types of disturbances you are experiencing.
You might keep notes of each disturbance, including the time, how long it lasts and the cause or nature of the noise.

For example if a dog is barking because it is locked outside at night, make a note. You could then contact your local authority or council and give them the details you have collated. They are likely to need the following details:

• a description of the noise
• name and address of the premises the noise is arising from 
• details of occupier of the premises 
• date and time the noise occurs, and its duration
• how the noise is affecting you

Your local council will be able to investigate your concerns, using equipment to measure the noise emitted. This is often done by an officer from the Environmental health team.
The information they find will form the basis of the evidence the local authority can use to issue a notice to prevent the nuisance. 
A 'noise abatement' order will tell your neighbours what they must do to stop making a noise nuisance or else face further legal action.
Your neighbours will need to comply with the terms of a council notice, or may face being prosecuted.
Breaking an abatement order can see someone fined up to £5,000. If the noise is from a factory or business, the fine can be up to £20,000.
However, following an investigation into your complaint, the Council may decide the noise does not amount to a nuisance. In this case it may still be possible for you to take your own action through the courts. 

  

Call the police

You should call the police if your neighbour:

• is violent, threatening or abusive
• is harassing you sexually, or because of your sexuality, religion or ethnic background
• is breaching the peace (being disorderly in the street or making a lot of noise)
• is breaking the law in any other way - or if you suspect this

101 is the number to call when you want to contact your local police in England and Wales when it is less urgent than a 999 call. The 101 number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Taking legal action

If you want to take your own action you can complain directly to your local magistrates' court. This is done under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, or by taking civil action.
Taking someone to court can be expensive so it should be seen as your last resort.

If you do decide to take legal action you must write to the person causing the noise and notify them of your intentions. This must be done at least three days before commencing legal proceedings.

You must persuade the court that the noise amounts to statutory nuisance. To do this, ensure you keep a written record of the dates, times and duration of the noise, as well as a description of the noise and the distress it has caused.
If you are successful in your case, the court may issue an order that those responsible stop the noise nuisance. The court may also issue a fine.

Boundary disputes with neighbours

This is the most common disputes between neighbours.
A minor disagreement can quickly become a full-scale dispute and become very expensive to resolve. 
If you have a boundary dispute then you should obtain legal advice as soon as possible.
This is particularly important in a residential case where two neighbours are in dispute. Effective representation at this stage may avoid a long, bitter and expensive dispute. 

  

  What is a boundary?

Every piece of land and property, whether or not it is registered, has exact legal boundaries. The legal boundary is an imaginary or invisible line that divides one property from another.
The physical boundary is a feature such as a fence, wall or hedge. The physical boundary may or may not follow the line of the legal boundary.
The physical boundary may change over time.
There may be many reasons; a diverted water course, a wooden fence that moves slightly every time it is replaced. The reason for these changes is rarely recorded and can easily lead to disputes.

The Land Registration Act 2002 allows you under certain conditions to determine and record the exact line of your boundaries on a registered title. This will avoid any future boundary disputes.
It is always wise to check your position with regards to your boundary before making any changes.
Your neighbour may complain that a new wall is overlapping their land or you may feel that their new extension takes up part of a pathway between your houses.
Boundary disputes are extremely stressful for all involved and can last a number of years.

 Establishing the boundaries and ownership

The first stage of dealing with a boundary dispute is to check the title deeds of the properties to establish the position of boundaries.

The Land Registry records the general position of the boundaries in each registered title using an adapted large scale Ordnance Survey plan. This title plan may not accurately represent the true ground positions of the boundaries.

The red line drawn around a property on the Land Registry plan only shows the general boundary. It does not identify whether the boundary runs along the centre of a hedge or along one side of it. 

Ordnance Survey maps are equally unreliable because, as part of the mapping process, they do not mark exact property boundaries. So a line surrounding the property is not necessarily the property boundary. 

Further information may be required from a surveyor specialising in boundaries.

Surveyors can survey the land, check deeds and the plans attached to them and refer to historical documents and aerial photographs.

It is possible that you can obtain an expert that agrees with you where the boundary is only for your neighbour to find one that believes it is somewhere else. This is why a lot of boundary dispute cases end up in the Courts with a Judge making a decision based on all of the evidence as to where the boundary is.

However, litigation through the Courts should always be a last resort. Many boundary disputes can be resolved through correspondence or by mediation or a 'meeting on site' of experts.

Check the title deeds to see who has a duty to erect a barrier.

The title deeds of a property may specify that the owner must erect a fence, wall or other barrier and may even stipulate the type of barrier to be erected. 

The title deeds can also contain restrictions on putting up a barrier, for example on open plan housing estates. If the deeds make no reference to fences or barriers then, generally, the property owner is under no obligation to erect one.

Who can use or repair a barrier

In order to establish who can use or repair a barrier, you first need to establish who owns it.

The ownership of the barrier may be stated in the title deeds of the property, as may the responsibility for repairs and maintenance. If the deeds do not refer to the rights to use and repair a barrier, then you should seek legal advice.

If the barrier belongs to one owner, s/he can use it as s/he wishes, without the neighbour's consent, providing it is safe.

The neighbour has no rights over the barrier. For example, s/he could not use it to support trailing plants without the owner's permission. If the fence is jointly owned, each neighbour can use it for support, provided neither makes it unsafe.

A property owner is not obliged to repair her/his barrier unless the title deed says so.

However, if the barrier injures a person or damages her/his property, s/he may be liable for damages. It is therefore in the owner's interests to keep the barrier in a reasonable state of repair.

How do I find out who has responsibility for a boundary fence, wall or hedge?

A title register will give information about the ownership of boundary features only where the information was available in the title deeds lodged for registration. 

The most common marking on deed plans indicating boundary ownership, or the liability to maintain and repair it, is a 'T' mark.

'T' marks on a plan to a deed would normally indicate that the proprietor of the property within the red edging is responsible for the maintenance/repair of any boundary with the inward facing 'T, mark.

However, the wording in the deed must also be read to obtain the necessary interpretation of the 'T' marks in the particular deed.

'T' marks on a deed plan that are not referred to in the deed have no special force or meaning in law.

Not all deeds contain plans showing 'T' marks and sometimes the boundary may be referred to in the wording of the deed. 

The Land Registry rarely reproduce 'T' marks on the title plan. More commonly they will add a note at the end of the register entry, such as, "The 'T' mark referred to affects the northern boundary of the land in this title".

Sometimes a deed is referred to in the register as 'Copy filed'. In that case you will need to request a copy of it to see if it contains any details as to ownership/upkeep of boundary features.

Even when the register refers to walls, fences, hedges and other boundary features, these may have changed since the register was created.

For example, new boundary features might have been built and the neighbours at that time might have agreed who was responsible for them.

When ownership cannot be determined

There is no legal foundation in the belief that the way a wall or fence is constructed indicates ownership (e.g. that the posts and rails of a fence are on the owner's side).
Deeds may contain covenants to maintain a wall or fence but, on their own, such covenants do not necessarily give ownership. 
Where the ownership or responsibility for maintenance of a boundary cannot be determined, that boundary feature is generally best regarded as a party boundary. 

Any alterations or replacement of the boundary should be done only with the agreement of the adjoining owners.

  

 How to resolve boundary disputes

In a dispute with a neighbour you should always start with amicable discussion.
You may find that the land that is important to you but may be insignificant to your neighbour or that your neighbour readily agrees to your suggested solution.
It is also worthwhile putting together documents that establish boundaries as this will help you with your discussions and help you communicate clearly. 

To sort out your neigbours problems you can use negotiation and mediation.

As a last resort you could take the issue to court.
We can help you with your boundary problems

We will be able to help you decide whether or not you have a viable case and if you do we are here to help. 

We will look at your specific problem and obtain any technical information that may help solve the dispute at an early stage. We can also advise on alternative dispute resolution procedures which could avoid the need to go to court.

If necessary we will prepare the evidence and information that a court will need to make a judgement.

 

 

 
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