Neighbours having a dispute and looking at documents

Falling out with the neighbours can be extremely uncomfortable, especially as there’s nothing you can do to escape them other than moving house.

We look at some of the most common causes of discord between neighbours and explain what your rights are, so you can hopefully sort things out amicably.

High hedges

The problem: Their hedges are too high and blocking out all your light but the neighbours refuse to cut the vegetation back.

What you can do: If a hedge is restricting the amount of light you enjoy in your own garden or home, you are entitled to trim it. However, you should always seek legal advice first as some hedges are protected by law. If the hedge is more than two meters high, you can make a complaint to your local council who may order your neighbour to lower the height of the hedge. Bear in mind, however, that your neighbour may decide to appeal against the council’s decision, and you could have to pay a fee before the council will even agree to look into the issue.

Loud music

The problem: They love cranking up the music late at night.

What you can do: Anything that disturbs your sleep can be really upsetting, particularly if your neighbour refuses to turn the music down when you ask them to. Keep a record of when noise is made and try to record the music so you have evidence of how it is interfering with your daily life. You should then contact the environmental health department at your local council - they can then issue your neighbour with a warning. If they ignore this warning, the local authority can either fine or prosecute them. Here’s more advice on how to deal with noisy neighbours.

Boundaries can cause real problems, especially as they may not be exactly where they are described in your title documents

Blocked drain

The problem: Their drains pass through your land and there’s a blockage.

What you can do: As a general rule, you’re responsible for maintaining any drains within the boundaries of your property, so you can’t demand your neighbours foot the cost of repair bills. Lateral drains and sewers also used to be the responsibility of property owners, but now local water companies have a duty to maintain them – get in touch with them so they can locate the problem and put it right. If you live somewhere with a private sewer, then the situation is different and you and anyone else who shares the sewer have a joint responsibility to pay for any repairs.

If a neighbour is refusing to pay their share, contact your local authority environmental health department who can order them to contribute to the cost of repairs.

Boundary dispute

The problem: They disagree on the boundary between your property and theirs.

What you can do: Boundaries can cause real problems, especially as they may not be exactly where they are described in your title documents. Often they change over time because one party slowly encroaches on the other’s land, or because the boundary has been moved by mutual agreement in the past but no formal note has been made of this change. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) offers a guide to boundary disputes which can be downloaded from www.rics.org.

It suggests speaking to your neighbours as soon as possible to identify the position of, and responsibility for maintaining, the boundaries. If you think your boundaries have changed over time and you can’t reach an agreement with your neighbours, you should seek legal advice from a solicitor.