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Neighbour Disputes, Noise Nuisance and Antisocial Behaviour (ASB)

Have an eye to the future – you may still be living next door to each other for years to come, and you do not want to be locked into a feud

When dealing with a neighbour nuisance problem of whatever kind, the first rule is to keep in mind – at every stage – the special nature of any relationship between neighbours. Like it or not, you will be at each other’s mercy for as long as you remain neighbours, which may well be a long time. Even if you do not like your neighbour, you need to try to get on with them.

You should at all costs diffuse the situation if you can, early on and as tactfully as possible, avoiding a pattern of worsening tit-for-tat. Even where you do go on to need to take firmer action, throughout the process you should not lose sight of this all-important first principle.

Let your neighbour know there is a problem early on: they may not know what effect their behaviour is having on you and simply bringing it to their attention in a non-confrontational way may be enough

Diffusing the situation means making contact with your neighbour in the first instance and persuading them that there is a problem. You should aim to do this before the relationship becomes too acrimonious, and before taking any more drastic action. Often, the person responsible for the antisocial behaviour / noise nuisance will be unaware that their behaviour is causing a problem, and letting them know will make all the difference.

From an early stage, keep an antisocial behaviour diary, and were appropriate support it with photos, videos or sound recordings

Whatever further steps you need to take, it will help if you have kept records so that you can be specific about what your neighbour has been doing, with dates and times, how it has affected you, and what attempts you have made to resolve it. Record this in a dedicated diary and keep it up to date. Don’t worry if it becomes repetitious – the important thing is to keep it up. Consider also taking photographs or making recordings.

Do remember the golden rule, though – that the aim is to diffuse the situation, and you should not let your efforts at record keeping become something that will rile your neighbour.

Discuss the problem with your other neighbours, so that they can help you deal with it

It may be that your other neighbours are experiencing similar problems, and they may be able to help you bring it to an end. Consider approaching your residents’ association, if you have one.

Keep in mind however that your objective is to diffuse the situation if you can, and you should avoid alienating the neighbour who is causing the problem if possible. For groups of residents dealing with an isolated perpetrator of antisocial behaviour, a sympathetic approach will often be the most effective.

Consider taking legal advice about what further steps you should take, and getting a solicitor to help you to pursue them effectively

A legal adviser will be able to advise you as to your options for taking things further, if you have not been able to resolve the dispute or put an end to the antisocial behaviour by approaching your neighbour yourself. This might include advising you about which organizations can assist, and putting your case to them as effectively as possible to them so that the key points are taken on board.

It may help for a solicitor to draft a letter to your neighbour for you to send in your own name, explaining that there is a problem and asking them to stop. Alternatively, a letter from a solicitor at this stage may be an effective way of convincing them that things have become serious, by warning them about the potential consequences of continuing.

Finally, a solicitor will be able to help you bring a claim for a civil injunction (see point 10 below), but this will not usually be appropriate until all other steps have been exhausted.

Consider having mediation with your neighbour – this can help you to come to an understanding with each other if possible, when you seem to have reached a stalemate

If discussing the problem with your neighbour leads to a stand-off, mediation may help. The purpose of mediation is to cut through misunderstandings on either side about what the problem is. A trained mediator will help to make sure that each side listens to the grievances the other side has and to take them seriously. This is particularly important where the dispute has already taken the form of a tit-for-tat, and both sides feel that the other is in the wrong. It is important to go into mediation with an open mind, and think about concessions you can trade with your neighbour to make life more bearable for your both. Your landlord or the local council may be able to provide funding for mediation for you.

Contact your neighbour’s landlord to let them know about the problem – they may be persuaded to take preventative action against your neighbour

If a tenant, your neighbour is it is likely to have a tenancy agreement prohibiting antisocial behaviour at the property. If there is a problem, you should raise it with the landlord early on, but not before you have first raised it with your neighbour directly. Thereafter, you should keep raising it with your neighbour’s landlord, and keep them up-to-date with the records you are keeping about the problem.

If you and your neighbour have the same landlord, they may well assist as a go-between, or help to arrange for mediation. They may carry out an investigation, such as gathering evidence of noise nuisance by installing noise monitors. Your neighbour’s landlord will be able to apply pressure requiring antisocial behaviour to stop, and could threaten to apply for an antisocial behaviour injunction.

Ultimately, the landlord will be able to take action to repossess the property if the antisocial behaviour carries on. Bear in mind, however, that this is likely to be an option of very last resort for your landlord, and that the vast majority of neighbour disputes do not lead to this conclusion.

Approach your local authority for help – they will also be able to take preventative action against your neighbour if the antisocial behaviour does not stop

Your local authority may have a dedicated department for dealing with antisocial behaviour, and will in any event have broad powers to intervene, mediate and apply to the court to obtain an order criminalizing further antisocial behaviour.

Your local authority will also have an Environmental Health department with powers to curb antisocial behaviour by imposing penalties, where it amounts to a public nuisance. This will include for instance noise nuisance, and nuisance from unpleasant fumes or accumulated rubbish.

If your neighbour breaks the law, then call the police

It may be appropriate to call the police about your neighbour’s behaviour. Criminally antisocial behaviour will include for instance behaviour that is violent or threatening, breaches of the peace, vandalism, or harassment – and particularly harassment based on your ethnic background, religion or sexuality.

The police will have powers to intervene and either prosecute or threaten criminal sanctions if the behaviour carries on.

If all else fails, consider bringing a civil action in the courts against your neighbour

If you have not been able to resolve the dispute with your neighbour yourself, nor by appealing for help to your neighbour’s landlord, the local authority, or the police, then it may be appropriate to bring a civil claim under the Protection From Harassment Act or for common law private nuisance.

The purpose of such a claim would be to obtain an injunction against your neighbour, prohibiting them from engaging in the antisocial behaviour that was the subject of your claim. It would then be a criminal offence for your neighbour to breach the injunction.

This is similar to the action which the council, landlord or police would be able to take against your neighbour, and it will normally be more appropriate for one of those organizations to do so.

In some cases it may also be possible to include a claim for compensation, but this will be subject to your neighbour’s ability to pay, and you will not normally be able to recover the costs of bringing your claim.