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This article focuses on the law surrounding the most common neighbourhood problems and the ways in which such disputes can be resolved.
A boundary dispute is one that arises where two neighbouring properties believe they have the right to a piece of land. The general boundaries of the property will be displayed in the Official Copy of the Land Registry title plan, with most boundaries being defined, such as fences, walls and hedges.
If you encounter a disagreement with a neighbour regarding a boundary, informal discussions with your neighbour at an early stage can be helpful. It may be appropriate to write to your neighbour detailing your concerns, and how you wish to proceed to resolve the matter.
If you are unable to agree where the boundary lies, it may be necessary to obtain advice from a chartered surveyor specialising in boundary disputes, who will be able to survey the land and check the deeds and plans for the property.
Mediation: If the dispute cannot be resolved amicably, you may choose to escalate the dispute to mediation to reach a mutually agreed outcome, with the assistance of a skilled and experienced independent mediator.
Court Action: If mediation fails or the other party refuses to engage, it may be necessary to escalate the dispute to court for resolution. This should be considered as a final resort as court cases can be complex, costly and lengthy. Resolution through solicitors is also advisable prior to court action.
Noise is the most frequent nuisance complained of and includes unreasonable, persistent loud noise after 11pm and before 7am, or other inappropriate volume of household noise, such as barking dogs. If you are experiencing a noise disturbance, ensure you keep record of when the noise nuisance occurs, including the date, time and how loud the nuisance was.
If informal attempts to resolve the issue have not been successful, nuisances can be reported to the local council’s environmental health department to investigate. A noise abatement order can be issued if deemed the noise amounts to a statutory nuisance. This order is a formal warning asking the individual to stop making certain noises entirely, or to restrict the times at which they can make such noise. If the abatement order is breached, the council may consider additional measures such as a financial penalty or even prosecution.
Harassment from neighbours can be particularly distressing and can take place in a variety of difference forms, such as email, text, telephone calls and physical presence. This behaviour does not necessarily have to be violent, however it must cause alarm or distress, for example stalking or threatening behaviour.
If harassment happens frequently it can be reported to 101, the non-emergency police number if there is no immediate threat, or using 999 where there is immediate risk. The police have the power to issue an harassment warning notice detailing the law of harassment and warning against further behaviour of this nature.
Civil action can also be taken against the individual for harassment, where an application can be made to your local county court for an injunction to prevent continuation of the harassment.
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