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21 Oct 2020
Jamie Gibbs Jamie Gibbs

How to resolve disputes with your neighbours

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Angry woman with pillows over her ears

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*. And one in six (17%) said that the lockdown period brought them closer to their neighbours.

But what happens if you’re too trusting? And what do you do if things turn sour?

 

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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. 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 may not be able to claim on your home insurance policy.

Many insurers would only cover a burglary if there were signs of forced entry. If it looks like a burglar has been able to wander in without any security, they could invalidate your claim.

READ MORE: How keys can invalidate your home insurance

 

Neighbour disputes - what to do

One in six (17%) said that they’ve experienced tension with their neighbours. And these tensions risk flaring up if you don’t nip them in the bud.

Here's what you need to know when it comes to neighbour disputes: 

 

General escalation process

  1. Talk to your neighbour – either in person or in writing.

  2. If they’re renting, contact their landlord.

  3. Use a mediation service.

  4. If it’s a noise complaint, you can contact your local council.

  5. Contact the police if they’re breaking the law.

  6. Take legal action. This should be a last resort.

For more information, visit GOV.UK.

 

Fireworks and bonfires

With many public firework displays cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s fair to assume that we’ll see a lot more household firework displays this year.

But 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 displayed 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, the council can issue an ‘abatement’ notice. This tells them to stop or get a fine.

 

Noisy neighbours

Antisocial noise is regular and persistent noise between 11pm and 7am. Music played at excessive volumes is antisocial at any time of day.

It's usually easier to try and 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.

 

Boundary disputes

Trees and hedges

You can place 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 can make a complaint to your local authority.

You can trim trees and hedges that grow into your property. But you can only trim up the boundary level. If you go further, you could be damaging 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 beforehand.

As with hedges, fences should be no higher than 2 metres.

 

Neighbour damage

If your neighbour damages your property, you may be able to claim on their home insurance policy.

This depends on whether:

  • They agree to do so

  • They have a valid home insurance policy

  • You can prove they caused the damage.

You could also 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 on your policy it’s likely to cost much more than repairing any damage.

READ MORE: Legal expenses cover and home insurance

 

Blocking driveways

If someone has parked on your drive, they’re trespassing. It’s a civil offence so the police are unlikely to get involved. It’s only a criminal offence if they’re causing an obstruction in the road itself.

If they’re on the road but blocking your drive, you can contact your council.

If you try to move their car and damage it, you could be prosecuted for vandalism.

 

How your neighbours can impact selling your house

If your neighbours are antisocial, it could affect the value of houses nearby. This is because the desirability of the area is lower.

When selling a house, it’s your obligation to declare any problems you have with your neighbours. Even if you’ve only approached them informally, you should mention it.

This could impact your chances of selling the house, but if you don’t declare it, it could come back on you later.

 

*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.

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