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Neighbour Disputes – Know Your Rights



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Noisy Neighbours


Excessive noise from a neighbour can be very stressful and can quickly grind you down.  The first step that you must take is to approach the neighbour directly, explaining politely what the issue is and generally letting them know that they are causing you a problem.  If this does not work, then the next step should be to write to them, giving specific examples of noise activity and how it affected you.  These steps may not always be possible if the neighbour in question will not listen or is abusive but you have to prove that all avenues have been exhausted before you can take the matter further with the Local Authority.


To make the complaint formal you must go direct to the local authority Environmental Health Department, which has a duty to investigate all noise complaints that it receives.  Legislation is under sections 80 and 81 within the Environmental Protection Act of 1990 (as amended by the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993).  Whether it is a noisy neighbour, a pub, nightclub or even commercial premises – they are all covered by this act.  Following your complaint, you will be contacted by an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) who will explain the council’s plan of action in relation to the complaint.


Depending on the circumstances, the local authority’s action can take the form of some of the following steps:

 

  • Serving an abatement notice on your neighbour
  • Suggesting the use of a mediation service
  • Keeping the identity of the complainant anonymous
  • Asking you to keep a record of noise activity
  • Installing recording equipment in your home
  • Visiting you to witness the noise disturbance first hand
  • Confiscating noise-making equipment

If the local authority is unable (or unwilling) to help, it is possible to take your own legal action under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.  To be successful, you will need to convince a court that the noise problem that you are experiencing constitutes a statutory nuisance.  You are required to give a minimum of three days notice, in writing, to the person who you are taking action against.  The Magistrates Court will then decide if a summons can be issued.  If you intend to go down this route it is strongly advisable to get legal advice as you will be liable for all costs relating to the action.  It may also be possible to take a civil action and attempt to get an injunction against the perpetrator.


If your neighbour rents their property it could also be advantageous for you to see a copy of their tenancy agreement.  Some landlords, particularly housing associations and councils, often have clauses which prevent the tenant from making high levels of noise between certain hours.  If this is the case, then they are in breach of their tenancy agreement and could be faced with eviction if it continues.  Although there is technically no reason why you should be allowed to see this, it would certainly be worth researching if you are having no success with your complaint.  The website nfh.org.uk has a wealth of information about noisy neighbours including downloadable forms.


Hedges & Trees


These are often the source of bitter disputes between neighbours, particularly the high leylandii hedges that are favoured by some homeowners for their speed of growth.  The process is very similar to that of a noise complaint in that you are advised to approach your neighbour directly and exhaust all other avenues before making a formal complaint to the council.  Unfortunately, if you do have to go down this road, there is a fee payable and local councils do not deal with disputes about deciduous trees and hedges.  For detailed information on this subject, log onto the direct.gov.uk website.