Research by a high street bank shows that over 90,000 people sell up because they don’t like the neighbours area. While neighbourhood disputes can start over something relatively trivial they can easily escalate. What can you do to resolve them?
Common disputes between neighbours
Towering Leylandii hedges caused so many problems a few years ago that the government introduced new rules so that local authorities can intervene if necessary. You may feel your neighbour is being completely unreasonable, but think twice before you head to the courts. The most common neighbour disputes are around boundary walls, fences and hedges:
- Boundaries and fences: When you buy a property you’ll be given the title plan, but it’s not normally detailed enough to reveal exactly where the boundary is and may not be completely accurate. Deciding where the boundary really lies is a job for the experts.
SAVVY TIP: The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has a free boundary disputes guide, which you can download. There is also a boundary disputes service, which you have to pay for, which aims to avoid going to court.
- Noise: Noisy neighbours — whether it’s parties, loud music or late night DIY – can be a real problem. These days local councils (through environmental health officers) have significant powers, although the process can take time.
SAVVY TIP: My advice is to talk to your neighbour as soon as possible. Experts say the first step should always be to try and sort it out face to face — and the earlier the better. If that doesn’t work, contact your local council. Some local authorities (although sadly, not all) have specialist dispute resolution services, which are very effective. The Gov.uk website has information on dealing with neighbour disputes.
- Repairs: Working out who is responsible for repairing a fence, wall or shared part of the building can be easier said than done. Whoever owns it should repair it (and pay for it).
- Parking spaces: Do you have a neighbour who thinks they have a right to the parking space outside their house? Most residential roads don’t have assigned or marked spaces, but that doesn’t seem to stop some people from huffing and harrumphing if you take ‘their’ space.
SAVVY TIP: I’ve seen these disputes escalate well beyond the ‘notes on the windscreen’ stage. Unless you have the appetite for a long-running battle (with all its consequences) it’s probably not worth taking on.
Information about nuisance neighbours
If you’re looking to buy a house, it can be difficult to find useful information about the neighbours until your solicitor gets involved (namely, once you’ve put an offer in).
SAVVY TIP: Some experts suggest asking whether there have been any disputes ‘whether or not they are resolved’. In Scotland, home reports (which are mandatory for sellers) don’t ask any questions about neighbours. Although by law, you are supposed to answer questions you’re asked by a buyer or estate agent truthfully.
- Do your own research: Visit the area at different times of the week (especially if you work shifts and need to sleep at odd hours). Check local websites such as or skim the local paper online.
SAVVY TIP: Talk to other people living nearby. Some may not want to open up to you, but others may be happy to spill the beans.
- If you’re selling: If you’ve accepted an offer, you must give information about any disputes when the buyer’s solicitor makes preliminary enquiries. If you’ve complained to the council or legal letters have been sent, there will be a paper trail showing that you knew about the problem.
Citizens Advice has information on how to deal with neighbour disputes.
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