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What is a Nuisance Neighbour and What Can be Done?

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Having trouble with the neighbours?

From late-night DIY to anti-social behaviour, the list of problems nuisance neighbours can cause is endless, some more severe than others.

How should you deal with the situation? Which problems can you report, and which can’t you? Here’s a closer look.

How to complain about nuisance neighbours

  1. Keep records
  2. Talk to them 
  3. Contact your landlord
  4. Contact their landlord
  5. Contact Citizens Advice 
  6. Use a mediation service
  7. Contact your local authority
  8. Call the police
  9. Take legal action

What is a nuisance neighbour?

Noise is the most common complaint, however, there are other causes for dispute that many are unaware of. The problems aren’t simply limited to loud music and late parties.

Here are some of the examples of neighbours causing problems:

Home improvements

When it comes to DIY and home renovations, your neighbour should keep these to the day-time. If next-door is fond of some late-night home improvements or lawn-mowing, this can be a cause of a neighbour noise complaint.

Overhanging trees

It might sound strange, but overhanging trees have been the reason for many disagreements between previously friendly neighbours.

A neighbour’s tree should not be hanging into your garden. However, you can only cut it back as far as your own fence. Failure for either party to adhere to this can be cause for dispute.

Boundaries between ‘shared’ walls can become blurred, which is why many seek legal advice when informal agreements don’t work.

Light pollution

Is a neighbour’s security light shining directly into your house?

Artificial light, excluding street lamps, is a type of ‘statutory nuisance’ that councils take seriously.

Invasion of privacy

Having your privacy invaded by a neighbour, for example through security cameras, is a cause for concern.

Particularly if you have children, invasion of privacy can be a serious issue.

Noise complaints

Of course, when it comes to neighbourhood disputes, noise complaints are the most common cause for complaint. A one-off party can be forgiven, however late music every night is unacceptable.

However, noise pollution can come from unlikely sources! For example, a loud water feature that stays on all night can disturb the houses nearby.

Pet complaints

Noisy or dirty pets can be a serious problem between neighbours.

If a dog’s barking until the early hours of the morning, or using your garden without permission, you have grounds for complaint.

Inconsiderate parking

Persistent inconsiderate parking, for example in front of others’ drives, is common behaviour from nuisance neighbours.

Being abusive

Anti-social behaviour, such as being abusive to you or your children, should not be tolerated. In severe circumstances, the police may need to be contacted.

Lighting bonfires

Lighting a bonfire can constitute nuisance behaviour!

There are strict rules surrounding bonfires, for example when they can be lit. Safety concerns also come into play, as allowing smoke to drift across the road can be dangerous for drivers.

What isn’t a nuisance neighbour?

Some people consider certain behaviours to be a nuisance, even if they’re not.

While neighbours can have problematic habits, they’re not always issues you can complain about.

Failing to take care of their garden

When trying to maintain a healthy garden, it can be a nuisance if your neighbour allows theirs to look unkempt and overgrown.

However, unfortunately, it’s their own property.

Leaving rubbish out

Unless they’re dumping rubbish onto your property, their own waste is not of your concern.

However, if the problem takes over the street or others’ gardens, the council will intervene.

Complaining about anti-social behaviour

If your neighbour has a right to complain, even if they do it regularly, they’re not a nuisance.

Unless they’re displaying the same behaviours themselves, if they have a right to complain, they can do so.

Failing to tidy up

Similar to the unkempt garden, a neighbour’s failure to tidy up after themselves isn’t something you can complain to the council about.

How to deal with nuisance neighbours

If your neighbour causes one or more of the problems above, you need to take some action against them.

No one wants to complain for no reason, however, certain circumstances require action. But, many situations go unreported because people are too scared to make a complaint, or don’t know how to go about it.

Talk to them

To go about talking to your neighbour, don’t be confrontational or argumentative. Instead:

  • Visit them at a convenient time, such as the weekend or when they’re in their garden
  • Begin with a normal conversation, don’t start with a complaint
  • Calmly explain how they’re problem, such as noise after a certain time, is affecting you
  • Offer a solution

However, if you and your neighbour are on particularly bad terms, this can be difficult. But, a polite and conversational approach is always better than a confrontational one.

Keep a record

Keep a record of everything your neighbour does wrong.

For example, having a list of how many noise incidents occur, and how long for, will be useful when making complaints.

For problems such as persistent rubbish in your garden or bins, try to take photo or video evidence.

This will not only help verify your complaint, but make others take you seriously.

Who do I complain to about noisy neighbours?

Sometimes, raising the issue informally simply doesn’t work. The following methods don’t just apply to noise, but any problem that may arise:

Contact your landlord

If you rent your home, try contacting your landlord or letting agent. While it may not appear that noisy neighbours are directly their problem, it’s in their interest to keep their tenant happy. They may have a better relationship with your neighbour, or perhaps your neighbour’s landlord, making it easier for them to raise issues.

If you’re a housing association tenant, you can go through a complaints process or contact the Housing Ombudsman Service. The Ombudsman is in place if you feel your landlord or letting agent hasn’t dealt with your concerns sufficiently. Therefore, your first step should always be to contact your landlord.

The Ombudsman deals with each complaint individually. They can work directly with your landlord to resolve the problem, carry out an investigation, or refer you to a different organisation if necessary.

Use a mediation service

If talking to your neighbour doesn’t work, use a mediation service.

A mediator will be an impartial party, therefore you can trust your problem will be dealt with without bias. Mediation is used more and more frequently to help resolve conflict for a variety of reasons, including problems between neighbours.

There can be costs involved, however using a mediation service isn’t as expensive as taking legal action. Plus, the benefit of having the stress removed often outweighs the cost.

Your council or housing association may be able to refer you to a mediation provider. Alternatively, if you live in England or Wales, your area will have its own mediation service you can contact. If you live in Scotland, use the Scottish mediation service.

Complain to your local council

You can report a problem, such as noise pollution, to your local council.

Anti-social behaviour affects local communities, therefore it is something authorities take seriously. This is particularly useful for those who have a bad relationship with their neighbours.

It can take your council several weeks to deal with the problem. So, if you’re unhappy with any lack of progress or general handling of the situation, you can complain through your council’s complaints process.

Call the police

Calling the police may sound extreme, however, sometimes it can be necessary.

Many are unwilling to call the police, as neighbourhood disputes can sound trivial. But, if a neighbour is being violent or harassing you, call the police immediately.

You should also call the police if you witness your neighbour breaking the law in any way. This may sound obvious, but far too often, many look the other way.

Take legal action

Taking legal action should always be a last resort, as it can be a time-consuming and costly process.

However, sometimes, you may have no other choice. Think of turning to the courts as an ‘if all else fails’ situation.

Going through the courts will incur fees, such as solicitor costs. However, you can seek free legal advice from a law or advice centre. The Law Society will also be able to help you find a solicitor who deals specifically with neighbour disputes. While it’s important to turn to the courts only as a last resort, if you have grounds for complaint and have kept evidence, you should see the issue resolved.

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Last Updated: August 6th, 2021

Phil Spencer

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