According to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), specifically the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms S.1 Art. 8 ‘Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.’
Furthermore, as in Article 1 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR the Protection of Property ‘gives every person the right to peaceful enjoyment of their possessions.’
On occasions, you may feel as though these rights are being taken away from you due to issues concerning your neighbours.
There are 6 main ways in which you can resolve neighbour disputes:
Talk to your neighbour
The majority of disputes between neighbours can be resolved simply by discussing the issue with each other, avoiding the need to take legal action. Resorting to using the law can sometimes make a situation worse, causing tension and awkwardness.
Contact your neighbour’s landlord
If your neighbour is in rented accommodation it is possible to contact their landlord, whether this be a housing association, the council, a private landlord or a letting agency.
Use a mediation service
If you have been unable to resolve the issue by speaking to your neighbour you might find it useful to get help from a mediation service. Visit www.civilmediation.justice.gov.uk to find a mediation provider in your area. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which a third party (the mediator) assists the parties in coming to an agreement.
Make a complaint to your local council
You can ask your local council for help if the dispute involves an issue that is either damaging to health or a nuisance (known as a ‘statutory nuisance’) and includes noise; artificial light; dust, steam, smell or insects from business premises; smoke, fumes or gases; or a build up of rubbish that could harm health.
Call the police
You should phone the police if your neighbour is: harassing you sexually, or because of your sexuality, religion or ethnic background; being violent, threatening or abusive; is breaching the peace; or is breaking the law. For emergencies call 999, for non-emergencies call 101.
Take legal action
You can take action through the courts if all else fails. This is seen as a last resort due to the costs of taking someone to court, which includes paying court fees and hiring a solicitor.
Below are some examples of the disagreements you may find yourself having with a neighbour, the legal aspects of these issues and the most appropriate way of dealing with them from the options above.
Under the provisions of the Noise Act 1996, your local authority has a mandatory obligation to deal with any noise that is deemed to be a nuisance.
What can I do?
The best course of action would be to talk to your neighbour or their landlord and if it continues, make a complaint to your local council.
Section 2 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2004 describes anti social behaviour as ‘conduct…likely to cause…harassment, alarm or distress to any person.’
Anti-social behaviour falls into 3 categories:
Personal – targeted at an individual or group
Nuisance – causing trouble, annoyance or suffering to the community
Environmental – targets the wider environment such as public spaces and/or buildings
What can I do?
To report anti-social behaviour call 101. However, if someone is in immediate danger, call 999. Alternatively you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111
Public health/environmental issues
If you believe your neighbour to be causing a public health or environmental risk, the local authority environmental health department can be approached. Examples may include the accumulation or burning of rubbish, animals being kept badly (including failure to clear faeces), insects/pests, and smoke, fumes or gases.
If you are affected by smoke, smell or noise by neighbours, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, you can either ask your local authority to take action or you can take action yourself.
Usually, an environmental health officer will contact the neighbour and try to resolve the matter informally. If this fails, a notice may be served requiring them to stop or deal with the nuisance.
Breach of planning control
If you suspect a neighbour of carrying out building work without the correct permission you should contact your local planning department to investigate the matter. If there has been a breach of planning control, the authority can issue an enforcement notice requiring the owner to alter or remove the work. If the owner does not comply with the notice the local authority has the power to undertake the work itself and recover the costs of doing so from the owner.
Written by Emily Venables who is a law undergraduate at the University of the West of England