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 done 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 small claims service offers 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


Summary of the law - building work disputes

Your rights

Rights over building work:

  • The work should be carried out with reasonable skill and care.
  • Unless you agreed something different, the building works should be completed in a “reasonable” time
  • The customer is entitled to have the poor quality work redone properly at no additional charge. In more extreme cases you may be entitled to claim back the cost of someone else doing the work properly
  • The customer can also claim the cost of putting right any damage caused or replacing damaged items
  • The customer can also claim any other reasonable losses and expenses but generally not their inconvenience or time spent in bringing a claim.
  • Some builders’ contracts or terms of business may seek to limit these rights and limit the remedies available  – the court would need to decide if such terms were unfair.

Rights over cost of building work:

Unless you agreed something different, the cost of the building works should “reasonable”.

  • Quotes: If a builder’s quote is agreed (and the building work starts during the time when the quote was still valid), the builder can’t charge more for carrying out the work agreed between you. This is true even if it costs the builder more than they expected to do the work.
  • Estimates: If a builder’s estimate is agreed then this is not fixed and is only a guide to the final price. However the final price should still be based on the estimate. If the final price is a lot higher than the estimate, then the customer will only be expected to pay a reasonable amount assessed on the basis of what the estimate said.
  • Extra work: If a customer asks a builder to do extra work (or do part of the job differently than originally agreed) the builder can charge extra for this (on top of the original quote or estimate). The extra cost should be agreed (with a note kept at the time).Otherwise it will be necessary to assess what extra charge is reasonable.
  • Obvious mistake in a quote or estimate: If a builder makes a genuine mistake in a quote (perhaps in adding up the various aspects) then the builder usually has the right to be paid by their customer the amount that  was really intended.

The area of law is known as “breach of contract”. Customers are also given extra rights under Consumer Rights Act 2015.

What do you have to prove to bring a claim?

1: What was agreed.

Before a tradesperson started work, you will usually have reached an agreement as to what they were going to do and the cost. This agreement can be:

  • A formal written contract
  • An agreement and price reached in an email or text exchange
  • A verbal agreement or understanding
  • A common-sense understanding as to what is “reasonable”

2: What you are unhappy about.

This will be what the builder or their customer has done that has not followed the agreement. Examples include:

  • Poor quality of work
  • Mistakes made
  • Wrong design or materials.
  • Charged more than was agreed.
  • Left the job unfinished.
  • Customer of builder not paying the bill

What evidence should you collect together?

1: Proof of what had been agreed between you. Perhaps a formal contract or an email or text exchange or notes you made at the time of a verbal agreement.

2: Proof that the agreement has been broken – such as photos of  poor quality building work or of using the wrong materials or design.

3: Proof of the financial loss caused to you – such as an estimate to put right the poor quality work or bank statements showing that the customer has not paid what was agreed.

What can you claim?

Financial compensation or repair work– to put you in the position you would be in if the agreement had been followed.

1: The work completed (if left unfinished)

2: The work re-done to a reasonable standard

3: The cost of any other losses and expenses caused by the broken agreement. They can include future losses. Examples include the cost of cleaning carpets damaged by water damage and the cost of taking time off work to clean up and minimise damage to other property.

But all must be reasonable and cannot be a loss you would have suffered anyway. A builder is entitled to receive money for the work done properly.

What is the deadline for starting a claim at court?

Usually 6 years from the date of the agreement was broken. 3 years if the poor workmanship caused you a physical injury.

But this can get very complicated if you did not realise there had been bad quality work at the time.  You might be entitled to a 3 year extension but it is important to take advice as soon as possible.

Example claims
  • Plumber leaving leaking pipes causing damage
  • Builder not finishing job
  • Electrician not putting plugs and sockets in right place or damaging central heating pipes.
  • Roofer not using right materials or agreed design.
  • Decorator not doing a good job or causing damage


Disclaimer reminder


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. Before taking action please use our Small Claims service to get specialist legal advice on your specific circumstances. See the full terms and conditions of this website


Format - complaint letter



Information to include

Sample letter – building works dispute


Start of official letter to other side.

[If you know the person’s name]: Dear Mr Smith,

[If you do not know their name]: Dear Sirs,



Any relevant background information:

What was agreed between you?

What happened (in date order)?

Be specific and refer to any written or verbal agreements.  



You agreed to build a new porch to my house.

We did not have a formal contract but on 3 February 2013 you visited my house and we agreed the work you would do. I have kept the notes I made at the time. The work included a sloping roof.

We agreed your quote for a fixed price of £3,000 (including VAT and materials)

You started the work, as planned, on 12 March 2013. It took longer than you had said. I think you were also working on another job at the same time.

The roof you built was flat. I expressed concern about this but you assured me it would be better than the planned sloping roof.

The work was finished on 15 April 2013.



Details of any payments requested and any payments made.

As agreed, I paid you an upfront cash payment of £2,000 on 10 March 2013 – before you started. My bank statement will confirm the withdrawal of this amount.

On 15 April you invoiced me for a further £2,000.  An extra £1,000 on what we agreed.

I refused to pay the extra but paid you a cheque for £1,000 on 17 April (making a total of the agreed £3,000).



Identify clearly why you are unhappy.

Be clear about why you think the other person is responsible.


On 20 April we had heavy rain and the roof started leaking.

I consider this to be because of you did not complete the building works with reasonable skill and care.

I attach photos that I took during the storm.

You have refused to fix the problem because you say I owe you a further £1,000 for the building work. As we had a fixed price agreement and I did not ask you to do any additional work, I am not liable to pay you any extra.


Problems caused

Give details of any problems you have suffered as a result.


Problems caused

As a result the new carpet in the hall has been badly water damaged.

I attach photos of the damage before I got it cleaned.


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

£500 to repair the roof and make it watertight. See the estimate form New Builders Ltd.

£100 for drying and cleaning the carpet – invoice from carpet cleaners Ltd.

£50 to relay the carpet (that I rolled up to minimise damage during the storm). See the quote from Jim Carpet fitter. I have not yet paid this as I am waiting until the repair work is completed.



Be as clear as possible about the remedy you would like.

Say what action you would like them to take (or stop).

Where you seek money - put a price on the settlement you seek.


1: Problem put right: I am entitled to first ask that you to sort out the problem with the building work at no additional cost to me within a reasonable time.

Timescale: I consider it reasonable for you to reply within 14 days and to sort this out is within 21 days of this letter – by 1 July 2013.

Instructing someone else to put it right: If you do not reply within 14 days confirming that you will make the repairs needed to sort out the problem, then I will exercise my right to instruct someone else to do the work and will claim their charges from you. If you put me in this position of having to do this, I will use this letter to show that I gave you a reasonable opportunity to arrange to carry out the repair work yourself – at no cost to me.

2: Payment of the losses and expenses listed above which total £150

Please note that I do not accept that I owe you an additional £1,000.




Give your opponent 14 days to reply to the letter – to  either:

agree with your complaint and give you the remedy that you seek


arrange to inspect the problem


set out their detailed response.


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 dispute can be resolved as set out in this letter.

Arrangements: I am happy to agree a time with you to inspect the problems at my home. Please telephone me to discuss the arrangements for inspection and repair within the next 14 days. The best daytime number to use is my mobile of 0799 043 732

If you do not agree that you are liable and/or do not agree with the remedy sought, 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.


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. I will ask the court for an order that you pay me £500 for the repairs and £150 for my losses and expenses – a total of £650.

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.

I look forward to hearing from you within the next 14 days.

10 Ending

[If you started with their name]:

Yours sincerely,

Ian Rate

[If you started using Dear Sirs]:

Yours faithfully,

Ian Rate