Written by Elvinas Kukys – v2lawblog
It is not possible to set out a standard set of guidelines for dealing with every neighbour problem. This is because the problems vary with and the dispute depends on the individuals in circumstances of the case.
Common neighbour disputes
- Accessing the neighbour’s land for repairs
If you want to carry out repairs, you need to get permission from the owner of the land. There may be a right of entry specifically for the purpose of repair in the property’s legal documents. If there is no such right, and no agreement can be reached, the law allows you as the person wishing to carry out repairs to apply to the county court for an access order allowing you to enter your neighbour’s land to carry out the repairs.
- Noisy children
Noisy children themselves are not a ‘nuisance’. For example if you’re a nightshift worker and want to take a nap during the day, the only real solution is a conciliatory approach to the neighbour itself.
- Damage done by children
If a neighbour’s child cause damage to your property, legally the child can be sued for damages if they are old enough to know what they were doing. In practice, this is unrealistic since few courts would look favourably on such action. However, the parents may also be liable if they have failed to exercise the control that would be expected of a parent given the child’s age.
- Ball games
If a child throws a ball into a neighbour’s property, the neighbour should either hand it back or allow it to be collected. However, as it is a trespass for the ball to cross the neighbour’s boundary, even if it was unintentional, the neighbour would be entitled to compensation if any damage has been caused.
- Noisy neighbours
It is useful to keep a record of the disturbances which can be used as evidence in any future action. Remember never fight fire with fire. You won’t win the case, because you will be held as guilty as your neighbour if you try to make more noise than your neighbour. Local authorities have extensive powers to deal with noise nuisance. The authority can serve a notice on the person causing the noise, or on the owner or occupier of the property. If the person causing the noise does not comply with the notice, the local authority can prosecute them or apply for an injunction.
- Noise in the neighbourhood
- Loudspeakers must not be used in the streets between 9.00pm and 8.00am.
- The local authority has the power to deal immediately with noise coming from licensed premises at night between 11pm and 7am.
- A local authority has the power to enter a building and silence the alarm, where the alarm has been operating non-stop for 20minutes or on and off for an hour and is causing a noise nuisance.
- Parking space
Unless there are local parking restrictions giving a right to a particular space, residents do not have automatic rights to a parking space on a public road. However, they do have a right of access to their drive. If the drive is shared, then each person has a right of access and neither should block the drive.
Serious neighbour disputes
- Being harassed by neighbours
If they are shouting indecent comments, when you leave the house, turning up the music on purpose, because they know, that you have an exam tomorrow, or accidentally-on-purpose throwing all their litter onto your lawn. Whatever their harassment method of choice, under the Harassment Act 1997, residents can take action against anyone who pursues “a course of conduct which amounts to the harassment of another” if they can prove this behaviour is done deliberately. You also need to provide information, and proof, that harassment occurred on at least two occasions. So keeping a diary would be the best solution to write down the time and date of every unpleasant incident.
- Disgusting neighbour house
Overflowing bins, a rat infestation, or a garden so full of rubbish the germs have formed their own society and pecking order. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, you can protect yourself from neighbourly behaviour that could affect your health. For more information, or to report your neighbours, you should contact your local council’s Environmental Health department.
- Crack den or brothel?
If your street has become a magnet for undesirable visitors, then it might be worth using Housing Act 1996. Under this act you can appeal to the High Court or County Court to grant an injunction to stop these neighbours from “engaging or threatening” in conduct causing or likely to cause a nuisance. It also contains a clause that prohibits use of residential premises for immoral or illegal purposes.
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