Are your neighbours giving you grief? Here’s what you need to know about dealing with them.
On the whole, we get on with our neighbours.
More than half (52%) of Brits have a good relationship with the neighbours*. But what happens if you’re too trusting? And what do you do if things turn sour?
Can I give my key to a neighbour I trust?
Leaving a key with a neighbour, or hiding a spare key for them to use, is risky – and the way you use your keys could invalidate your home insurance. But it’s a risk that almost half (45%) of Brits take.
If a burglar finds the spare key and breaks into your house, you might not be able to claim on your home insurance policy.
Many insurers cover burglaries only if there are signs of forced entry. If it looks as if a burglar has been able to wander in without any security, it could invalidate your claim.
Besides, giving your house keys out isn't the best way to protect your home from burglars.
Neighbour disputes – what to do
One in six (17%) says that they’ve experienced tension with their neighbours. And these tensions risk flaring up if you don’t nip them in the bud.
The government offers guidance on what to do when it comes to neighbour disputes:
General escalation process
- Talk to your neighbour – either in person or in writing.
- If they’re renting, contact their landlord.
- Use a mediation service.
- If it’s a noise complaint, you can contact your local council.
- Contact the police if they’re breaking the law.
- Take legal action, although this should be a last resort.
Fireworks and bonfires
There are strict laws around the use of fireworks. And if you break them, you could get an on-the-spot fine of £90.
You’re not allowed to set off any fireworks – including sparklers – in a public place. This includes on the street. All private firework displays must be in your own garden.
The cut-off time for setting off fireworks depends on the time of year:
- New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali – 1am
- Bonfire Night – midnight
- Every other night of the year – 11pm
Your local council might have specific rules around fireworks.
Garden bonfires are legal. But if your neighbours have a bonfire and the smoke is hazardous to your health, or if it drifts onto the road, they could get a fine.
If talking to your neighbours doesn’t work with this sort of issue, the council can issue an abatement notice. This orders them to stop or get a fine.
Antisocial noise is regular and persistent noise between 11pm and 7am. Music played at excessive volumes is antisocial at any time of day.
As with other disputes, it's usually easier to try to resolve things with your neighbours in an informal way first. Often, neighbours aren't aware of how loud they are and how it affects others.
You could also use a mediator if you don't want to speak to them yourself.
If this isn't possible – or if informal resolutions have failed – you can get in touch with your local authority. Keep a noise diary so you can prove that the noise is persistent.
Trees and hedges
You can plant hedges or trees if they're on your side of the boundary and they're under 2 metres tall.
If your neighbour has hedges or trees that are taller, you could make a complaint to your local authority.
You can trim trees and hedges that grow into your property. But you can trim only up to the boundary level. If you go further, it could be classed as damage to your neighbour’s property.
Fences and walls
Boundary fences and shared walls are tricky. Before you do any work, you’ll need to give your neighbour notice.
As with hedges, fences should be no higher than 2 metres.
If your neighbour damages your property, you might be able to claim on their home insurance policy.
This depends on whether:
- They have a valid home insurance policy.
- You can prove they caused the damage.
- They agree with the claim.
Alternatively, you could claim on your own policy and try to recuperate your costs. But there's no guarantee you'll be able to get your money back.
As a last resort, you could take your neighbour to court over the damage. But unless you have legal protection cover on your home insurance policy, it’s likely to cost much more than repairing any damage.
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Parking rules and regulations can be confusing.
But if someone has parked on your drive, they’re trespassing. But it’s a civil offence so the police are unlikely to get involved. It’s a criminal offence only if they’re causing an obstruction in the road itself.
If they’re on the road but blocking your drive, you could contact your council.
Be careful: if you try to move their car and damage it, you could be prosecuted for vandalism.
How your neighbours can impact on selling your house
If your neighbours are antisocial, it could affect how much your house is worth and those nearby because it makes the desirability of the area lower.
If you’re selling your home, it’s your obligation to declare any problems you have with your neighbours. Even if you’ve approached them about an issue only informally, you should mention it.
In extreme cases, this could have an impact on your chances of securing a sale – but if you don’t disclose a neighbour dispute when selling your property, it could come back to bite you later.
Side note: when viewing a house, always ask the homeowner about their relationship with their neighbours.
*Figures taken from omnibus research carried out by OnePoll on behalf of Confused.com. This was a nationally-representative poll of 2,000 UK adults. The research was conducted between 11 and 15 June 2020.