Neighbourly disputes can arise from a variety of reasons, and it’s often hard to know how to resolve them.
It’s impossible to provide a standard set of guidelines for dealing with every neighbour problem. This is because issues are so varied and the solution to any particular dispute will depend on the individual circumstances of the case.
According to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), neighbourhood disputes are a regular occurrence, meaning there is a selection of advice available to people who are being affected by some of the issues that regularly crop up.
Try to deal with a neighbour dispute by first speaking to your neighbour about the problem. There may be a way of resolving the issue easily and amicably. Through talking, you may find a way to find a solution you are both happy with. The same applies if a neighbour comes to you with a problem.
The best way to avoid a boundary dispute happening in the first place is to try and firmly establish the boundaries of the land before you change anything. Getting help from a solicitor or chartered surveyor is an option at this point.
Also, speak with your neighbours at an early stage to identify the position of, and responsibility for maintaining, the boundaries.
In order to establish a boundary, you should gather as much information as possible about your property and the properties bordering it. Consult the property deeds and gather information from the Land Registry. This should give you some idea of where your property begins and ends.
Fences and Hedges
If there’s a disagreement as to who is responsible for repairing/removing a fence or hedge, the property title deeds should be able to clear this up.
There should be a condition declaring who is responsible for any repairs that need doing, although this will not always be the case. If your neighbour has the responsibility for a fence, they can do as they wish with it, even if you don’t like it.
There are rules about how high a neighbour's hedge can be. You can ask your neighbour to cut a high hedge back. Contact the local council if your neighbour's hedge is causing a problem. The council may be able to go in and do the work needed and then recover the cost from the owner. If the owner doesn't comply with the notice, they can be fined.
There are special rules covering structural work to walls which stand across the boundary of land belonging to different owners, or which are used by two or more owners to separate buildings.
The owner must notify neighbours about any work they intend to carry out. These rules allow for the agreement or objection to any work within certain time limits, and compensation and temporary protection for buildings and property. If there is no agreement an independent surveyor can be appointed to decide what work can be done, and how and when.
For more information on party walls, see our consumer guide.
If your neighbour owns a tree, it’s their duty to make sure it doesn’t damage your property. This can include letting roots grow under your property, or causing an issue.
If a neighbour’s hedge blocks your light, you can prune it back, but you can’t reduce its height. You are entitled to remove the parts of trees that overhang your garden, but don’t go into your neighbour's garden without permission.
If you have a problem with a neighbour's tree that is dangerous, blocking light to your home, or that may cause damage to your property, contact the owner first. If this does not resolve the issue, contact your local council.
Invasive plants, such as Japanese Knotweed, can cause substantial damage to your property. Therefore your neighbour must ensure that these plants do not spread to any additional properties or land.