There is a well known saying that the actions of one, affect the many. Neighbourhood disputes are a prime example of that. Without even realising it, we each have our own standards of acceptability pertaining to the area around our home and our neighbourhood. It seems obvious to state but this varies greatly from individual to individual. And therein lies the problem. When a small issue is raised with a neighbour or local resident, different but staunch points of view can often be mistaken for stubbornness, and make finding a resolution difficult.
Types of neighbourhood dispute
- Parking Spaces. Residents often like to believe that they have a “right” to park outside, next to, or in front of their property. This is not true, unless there are specific parking restrictions giving right to a space. But property owners do have right of access to their driveways, whether individual or shared.
- Nuisance Parking. Closely linked to issues with parking spaces, nuisance parking is where two or more vehicles are parked with the purpose of selling or servicing them. This is against the law.
- Children. Yes they can be noisy and yes they can play in inappropriate areas, but this is not illegal. They can even cause damage, which can be inconvenient and costly.
- Noise. Nuisance noise from music to vehicle alarms is highly contentious and can even be used with antagonistic purpose.
- Shared Amenities. Issues often arise around shared drains, pipes, roofs or drives. Your legal property documents such as title deeds and plans, may assist in determining ownership and therefore responsibility.
- Boundary disputes. Driveways, hedges, fences and party walls.
What to do about your issue
The first thing to do is to raise the complaint with the relevant neighbour or resident. If tensions are already high, or you simply feel uncomfortable approaching them, it may be wise to consider writing to them. In doing so, you will be able to be specific about your issues and ensure you cover all the points you wish to raise. Calmly but purposefully discussing an issue and agreeing a way forward, is preferable to ongoing animosity.
Where more than one resident has been affected by the issue, it may worth raising it as a collective. Someone may be more open to the suggestion that their behaviour is antisocial, if a group of neighbours all feel the same.
Escalating the issue
If the resident refuses to discuss or respond to your complaint, your next step is to escalate the issue. If they are a tenant in the property, you should first contact the landlord to make them aware of the situation. Then, depending on the type of dispute, there are several routes and resources available, from which to get help or advice.
- Contact your local PCSO (police community support officer). They can give you valuable advice about the legalities of your dispute and help tackle antisocial behaviour.
- Contact your local planning department. They have the power to investigate any suspected breach of planning control. For example, if the neighbour has carried out building work without permission.
- Contact the environmental health department. Where a property owner is in breach of public health or pollution laws, the local authority may be able to help. They may even contact the neighbour and attempt to resolve the matter informally themselves. An Environmental Health Officer (EHO) can also investigate noise. They have the power to deal with music, vehicle alarms and other noise.
Resolving your dispute
In the worst of cases, neighbourhood disputes can evoke feelings of tension and even accusations of victimisation. All of which make for highly charged situations. In these situations it is less likely that a resolution will be found, without the intervention of a third party.
The first third party option available is alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADR seeks to find a resolution using mediation services. Generally thought to be quicker and more cost efficient than litigation, mediation can be highly successful if both parties are open to it. This method is particularly favourable when considering the long term effect of a dispute. If you continue to live in the same vicinity as the other party once the dispute is settled, it makes sense to make the outcome as amicable as possible.
The final option for dispute resolution is consulting a solicitor or taking court action. The slow and overloaded court system means that you could wait months for resolution, and find yourself with a hefty bill at the end of it. Finally it is also worth considering that the dispute may be settled, but the relationship with your neighbour may be irreparable.