Falling out with your neighbour can be particularly distressing for you and your family.
It can affect your enjoyment of your home and garden. It can also be intimidating knowing that you may have to pass your neighbour in the street.
Therefore, there is always a balance between enforcing your rights and reaching a friendly compromise that you can both live with.
With extreme problems, the behaviour will amount to harassment, assault or racial abuse. Here, you will need to contact the police.
However, with most neighbour disputes the situation is not so bad and it is almost always best to speak first before the situation gets worse. If speaking doesn’t work a friendly but clear complaint letter is often the next step. The sample letter lower on this page can be adapted to your situation.
Where the neighbour rents their home, you can also write to their landlord. Behaviour such as causing a nuisance to neighbours is often a breach of the tenancy agreement and can give the landlord the power to evict the tenant – but many landlords will first often offer to help to try and resolve the problem.
If that doesn’t help, our disputes and litigation services offer fixed fee legal advice and also the introduction to a mediation service. The summary below covers many of the situations that can arise between neighbours.
Explore Neighbour disputes and anti-social behaviour for more information.
Summary of the law - neighbour disputes
Your rights - noise or nuisance
The first step is to speak to your neighbour to try to reach an agreement you can both live with.
If they do not co-operate, start to keep a diary record of the disturbance covering the type of noise and timing.
Then you can consider action such as a formal letter of complaint (sent to them or their landlord if they rent their home). The sample letter below suggests mediation if you can’t both reach agreement between yourselves. This is something our small claim service may be able to help you with.
If mediation does not work then you your next step is to report your neighbour to your local council.
Noise or nuisance law: Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows the Council to investigate a nuisance on your behalf.
There are some situations that are unlikely to be covered, such as the sound of children playing.
They will find your diary helpful. They should also use equipment to measure the level of noise. They can advise if it counts as “noise nuisance” meaning they can take matters further.
They may then speak to your neighbours to see if they will agree to stop or reduce the noise nuisance. They also have the power to take your neighbour’s noise-making equipment.
If this does not stop the “noise nuisance” they must issue a “noise abatement order”. This tells your neighbour what they must do to stop making a noise nuisance.
If your neighbour does not comply with the “noise abatement order” about the council can take further legal action and they can be fined up to £5,000. If it’s noise from a factory or business, the penalty can be up to £20,000.
Councils also have the power to take swift action in certain situations :
Types of noise or nuisance that the legal action can help with:
Your rights – hedge over 2m high
Hedge: You do not have the right to reduce the height of your neighbour’s hedge even if it is blocking your light.
As with all neighbour disputes you should first try speaking with your neighbour to resolve the matter. If that fails you can put your concerns in writing, perhaps offer a suggested solution and perhaps offer to use a mediation service. The sample letter below covers this type of situation and our small claims service can give you legal advice and put you in touch with a mediation service.
If all else fails you can resort to the law. The Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003, covers issues relating to high hedges over 2m.
If you report your problem to your local council, it gives the council powers to investigate your complaint. You will often first have to pay a fee. If they agree the hedge should be reduced to 2m, the council can then take legal action to force the reduction in the hedge’s height through a court order.
You right to go onto neighbour’s land to repair your property
Access to neighbour’s land: You may have the right of access in the title deeds to the property. It is usual to have such rights – these can be checked with the Land registry.
If you do not have such rights then the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 may give you the right to go onto your neighbour’s land in order for you (or a workman instructed by you) to carry out 'basic preservation works' to your property.
If the neighbour doesn’t agree to your request to access his land for this type of maintenance, then you’ll need to apply to court. However the court can still refuse you the requested access if it considers this would cause hardship to your neighbour or significantly interfere with their enjoyment of the land in question.
If you did need to apply to court and were given an “access order”, it will specify what work you can carry out, when and where. It may also say that you must provide compensation to your neighbour for any loss or damage suffered by them.
Your rights - shared facilities with your neighbour
Lots of services can be shared with your neighbours – paths, driveways, parking bays, fences, water and sewage pipes and chimneys. With flats even the roof is shared.
The title deeds will often cover who is responsible for repairs and the rights of access needed for repairs. These can be usually checked through the Land Registry.
Where the service has been used over a long time – continuous and unchallenged use – usually for 20 years – then the right is given in law.
If a neighbour disputes your right to the facility or to make repairs then you may need to apply to court for the court to decide what should happen in the circumstances.
Types of shared use disputes include:
Your rights – neighbour dispute over property boundary
Neighbours can fall out over where the boundary lies between their houses and gardens.
The title deeds will give the position of the boundary line. Most land in England and wales is registered and there are computer records that can be usually checked through the Land Registry. If land has not been registered, the owner should have title deeds (often held by their solicitor or mortgage company).
Problems can occur if:
Here it may be necessary to obtain a court order to decide on ownership – if an agreement cannot be reached between the neighbours (perhaps through mediation)
Ball goes into neighbours land: The ball or other item remains the property of the owner and should be returned. But the ball owner cannot go onto the neighbours land to collect it without their permission and they are responsible for any damage the neighbour can prove was caused by the ball.
Tree branches or roots crossing the boundary: The owner of the tree is determined by the position of the tree trunk - on which side of the boundary it was planted. Where there is a tree preservation order on the tree, the local council’s permission is needed before the tree or branches are trimmed.
If a neighbour’s tree is causing you a problem by having overhanging branches or roots that extend under your side of the boundary, the legal position is:
If the tree needs more severe action to prevent it causing damage, and the tree owner will not take action, you can apply to your local council to ask them to inspect and if necessary they can order that the tree owner makes the tree safe (or they can do this and reclaim the costs from the tree owner).
Please note: To give you general information about your dispute, the information given here is a simplification of a complex area of law and cannot be relied upon. As part of our commitment to serving you better, we highly recommend utilising the resources available at the Money Advice Service website. Their comprehensive guides and information cover various aspects of financial and legal matters, including small claims advice and may be able to give you the support you need. See the full terms and conditions of this website
Format - complaint letter(neighbour dispute)
Information to include
Sample letter – hedge dispute
Start of official letter to other side.
Any relevant background information:
Set out a history of what has happened (in date order) – include any steps you have taken to reach agreement.
Be specific and refer to any written or verbal agreements reached with your neighbour.
Following our discussion yesterday, I thought it would be helpful to summarise the issues.
However before I start I would like to stress that my aim is that we can reach an agreement that we can both live with.
I have lived at number 23 since June 1991.
You have lived next door at number 21 since 2003.
Between our houses is an evergreen hedge. It was planted on your side of the boundary by the previous owner.
After you moved in, for the first few years, you kept your hedge trimmed at about 2 metres high.
I think that in 2010 I upset you by cutting back the overhanging branches on my side of our boundary. You felt I had cut it back too far – going into your side of the boundary – harming the hedge.
I am sorry about this. This was not my intention.
Since then you have not had the top of the hedge cut back at all.
Identify clearly why you are unhappy.
Give any relevant dates
Be clear about why you think the other person is responsible
The hedge is now about 4m high. It blocks all sunlight from my garden and house from about 11 in the morning onwards.
This is affecting my family’s enjoyment of my house and garden.
Give details of any problems you have suffered as a result.
If relevant refer to photos.
I have attached photographs to show you the impact of the hedge.
Losses and expenses
If the problems have caused you losses or expenses - give details.
Also provide proof of the damage and cost of repairs or replacement wherever possible.
Losses and expenses
Be as clear as possible about the remedy you would like.
I would like us to resolve this issue directly with each other.
If we can’t reach an agreement I would be happy to consider using mediation with someone independent trying to help us reach agreement.
Suggested solution: I would like the hedge cut back down to about 2m high.
I appreciate that it is your hedge and this would now be expensive.
I offer to split the cost equally with you – so we both have half the cost of this work and also an annual trim every spring.
Give your opponent 14 days to reply to the letter – to either:
Please do not ignore this letter. I would like us to try to resolve our dispute without court proceedings and legal costs.
Please reply in the next 14 days, so that this can be resolved as set out in this letter.
I am happy to agree a time with you to inspect the problems from my side of the hedge in my home and garden. The best daytime number to make arrangements is my mobile of 0799 043 732
If you do not agree with the solution I have suggested, then please reply within 14 days with a detailed explanation of why not.
Point out that ignoring your letter will mean you may start legal proceedings for the court to deal with the dispute and that you may refer the judge to your letter.
The sample letter covers some special paragraphs you can include if it is relevant to your particular situation.
I am sure it will not prove necessary but if I do not hear from you within 14 days then I reserve the right to start court proceedings without further reference to you.
If I do have to issue court proceedings, I will refer the court to this letter and I will also ask the court to order you to pay me interest, court fees and legal costs.
Hedge only: Alternatively I may ask the local council to investigate. If they agree the hedge should be reduced to 2m, they have the right to take legal action against you.
Noise/nuisance only: Alternatively I may make a complaint to the local council, which can lead to a fine.
Access to neighbour’s land: If we can’t reach agreement my application to the court will be for an access order to enable me to carry out the maintenance work set out in this letter.
I am sure this will not be necessary and I I look forward to hearing from you within the next 14 days.