Problems in the neighbourhood

Female Customer In BookshopDisputes with neighbours

Neighbour disputes will vary and mostly depend on the individual circumstances. Some common neighbour problems which involve:

  • boundary disputes
  • noise
  • maintenance of shared facilities
  • overgrowing gardens, hedges and trees
  • trespassing

In some cases, your neighbour may behave in a way that amounts to discrimination. For example, if you are attacked because of your race or religion, this will be a 'racially motivated attack' or a 'religiously motivated attack'. Both of these are criminal offences and includes verbal abuse or threats and abusive slogans painted on a wall or building.

If your neighbours are discriminating against you, you might be able to:

  • Report them to the police if you are being harassed or victimised
  • Report them to your local authority even if they are not local authority tenants
  • Take them to court if you are being harassed or victimised
  • Take action against them for antisocial behaviour

How can I resolve a dispute with a neighbour?

Approach the neighbour

It is always advisable to speak to your neighbour first before involving anyone else or making a formal complaint. If you are concerned about how your neighbour would react, you could try writing to them instead.

Try mediation

This will involve an impartial person who is trained in dealing with disputes to act as a go-between for you and your neighbour.

There will usually be a charge to use a mediation service but it will usually be much less than legal action.

Contact the landlord

If there is no change after your direct approach with your neighbour, you can try contacting their landlord if they are a tenant.

If the landlord is a local authority or housing association, you should speak to someone within the housing department and they may be prepared to intervene on your behalf to resolve the issue.

It may be more difficult to find out who the landlord is, if it is a private accommodation. If you are able to, a private landlord (like a social landlord) is able to apply a certain level of pressure; he may even apply  for possession on the grounds that a tenant has been a nuisance to neighbours or committed an offence such as racially or religiously motivated attack.

Contact the police

If your neighbour’s behaviour amounts to a criminal offence, you can contact the police.

The common offences in the case of neighbour disputes are breach of the peace and racial or sexual assault or harassment.

Use a solicitor’s letter

A letter from a solicitor may be helpful in making a neighbour realise that you are serious about your complaint. You neighbour may also realise that the next stage might be eviction by their landlord.

Take court action

This is usually as a last resort because it very expensive and although the dispute may be resolved successfully through the courts, the relationship between neighbours may be damaged.

Move home

You may also choose to move from your home because of a dispute with your neighbour. If you own the property, you will need to disclose the neighbour dispute to your buyer. If you do not tell the buyer about your dispute, they can sue.

Anti-social behaviour?

Anti-social behaviour has no exact definition, rather, it involves behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress such as:

  • noise, for example, playing loud music at night
  • verbal abuse
  • intimidation through threats of violence or actual violence
  • harassment, including racial harassment
  • property damage and graffiti
  • dumping rubbish
  • animal nuisance, including dog fouling
  • drunken behaviour

Some of these may be covered as neighbour disputes but when they are persistent, they could also be seen as anti-social behaviour.

What can I do about anti-social behaviour?

What you can do about anti-social behaviour will largely depend on what you are complaining about and the result you want to achieve from your complaint. You may, for example, want one or more of the following:

  • an apology
  • to be re-housed or for the responsible people to be moved or evicted
  • to have the anti-social behaviour stopped
  • to get compensation for any damage, loss or injury suffered
  • Take action yourself through mediation or taking court action if you want compensation or an order to stop the behaviour from recurring
  • Ask the landlord to take action. This will mainly depend on whether it is a private or local authority landlord. Local authority landlords must have anti-social behaviour policies in place and this also applies to housing associations in England and Wales.

A landlord would normally be able to apply for a court order to evict the tenant who is behaving in an anti-social manner and a private landlord may ask the police or local authority to take action.

A local authority or housing association landlord may:

  • rehouse you or the person behaving in an anti-social way
  • apply to the court for an anti-social behaviour order
  • apply to the court for an order to stop gang violence or protect you from gang violence apply for a court order to
  • suspend a tenant's right to buy
  • refuse to allow a tenant to exchange with another tenant

To complain about a local authority or housing association tenant, you will normally have to contact a housing officer. If they a private tenant, you will need to contact their landlord or landlord’s managing agent.

Contact the local authority to take action on your behalf even if you are not a local authority tenant. The local authority can:

  • take action to stop noise, nuisance and threats to health
  • take action to evict the person behaving in an anti-social way, if they are a local authority tenant
  • prosecute where the behaviour amounts to a criminal offence
  • apply for a court order to stop or prevent violent anti-social behaviour in its area
  • apply for a court order to stop gang violence or to protect you from gang violence
  • apply for a court order to stop someone causing a public nuisance, including dealing drugs
  • apply for a court order to shut down sites where there is ongoing disorder or nuisance
  • offer the victim alternative accommodation
  • take over management of a property where there are particularly serious anti-social behaviour problems in England and Wales
  • attacked you or another person and has caused physical and/or psychological damage
  • willfully damaged your property
  • behaved in a threatening or abusive way in order to intimidate, frighten, harass, alarm or intentionally distress you
  • incited racial hatred or violence by, for example, distributing racist leaflets

The police can give out on the spot fines depending on the type of anti-social behaviour in question, as well as, apply for an anti-social behaviour order or an order to stop gang violence or protect you against gang violence.

Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO)

An ASBO is a civil order to protect the public from behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress and if you are given an ASBO, it means you are prevented from doing certain such as:

  • going to a particular place, for example a local shopping centre
  • spending time with people who are known as trouble-makers
  • drinking in the street

Who can get an ASBO?

An ASBO can be given to anyone who is aged 10 or over and who behaves in an anti-social manner. An ASBO will normally last for at least 2 years but may be reviewed if behaviour improves.

What happens if the order is not followed?

It is a criminal offence to break or breach an ASBO and you can be taken to court. The sentence you will be given will depend on the circumstances and your age. For example:

  • If you are aged between 10 and 14, you may be fined £250
  • If you are aged between 15 and 17 you may be fined up to £1,000
  • You may also be given a community sentence or, if over the age of 12, a detention and training order (DTO) for up to 24 months
  • Adult offenders may be fined up to £5,000 or sentenced to 5 years in prison, or both

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