A recent Which? survey found that one in four people have had a problem with nuisance neighbours in the last year, leaving people angry, irritable and stressed.
We also found that 64% of people who have experienced problems in the last year didn’t know where to go to seek help and advice.
In this guide we explain the steps you can take to deal with nuisance neighbours.
- Keep a diary of when an incident occurs and how long it lasts
- Speak to your neighbour to see if they will stop the annoyance
- Contact your landlord or freeholder who may be able to take action
- Contact your local authority who may investigate and prosecute
- Go to the ombudsman if you've exhausted your council's complaints process
Keep a diary and take notes
It's always a good idea to make notes and keep a diary of when noise or an incident occurs, and how long it lasts.
It helps you keep track of what's been happening and when, and provides good evidence for any complaint you make about your neighbour.
It will also help others to understand the issue and the impact it has on you.
Try talking to your neighbour
It can be difficult to pluck up the courage to talk directly to a neighbour about a problem of their making.
But sometimes people are unaware that they are causing a problem, especially when it comes to noise.
If you're able to talk directly to your neighbour, you may find that the problem can be sorted out quite quickly.
However uncomfortable you might feel about raising the issue, you'll probably feel a lot worse if you have to continue living with the problem.
If you're genuinely frightened of talking to your neighbour, due to anti-social behaviour for example, you should contact your local authority's anti-social behaviour team or your local police.
If you rent or own a leasehold
If you live in a rented property or own a leasehold, you should contact the landlord, housing association or freeholder and explain the problem.
They may be able to take action against your neighbour.
Housing associations will have a complaints process, so if you're a housing association tenant it's important to follow this process.
If you're a housing association tenant and are unhappy with how your complaint has been dealt with, you can escalate it to the Housing Ombudsman Service.
All housing associations are members of the Housing Ombudsman Service scheme, as well as some landlords, but it only deals with complaints between tenants and landlords.
If you're not a housing association tenant but have complained to a housing association about one of their tenants - or persistent rubbish dumping for example - and are unhappy with the way your complaint has been dealt with, you still have options in escalating your complaint. Your local councillor or MP might be willing to take up your complaint on your behalf.
If you take your complaint to your local authority, make sure you follow its complaints process and allow up to 12 weeks for them to resolve it. If, after this process you are still unhappy, you can escalate your complaint to the Local Authority Ombudsman.
Complain to your local authority
Regardless of whether you rent or own your property, local authorities have a duty to investigate excessive noise, anti-social behaviour and rubbish dumping that affect local communities.
They have powers to take action against people if their behaviour is unacceptable.
If relations with your neighbour have broken down, or if you don’t feel able to, or are afraid to speak to your neighbour, you should contact your local authority to report the nuisance.
Local authorities have dedicated teams assigned to deal with noise control, anti-social behaviour and rubbish management.
For example, if your problem relates to excessive noise, your local authority's noise team can come and record the noise as it happens. This provides vital evidence for the local authority to take action.
Formal complaint about your council
If you're unhappy with the way your local authority deals with your issue, you should make a formal complaint through the council's formal complaints process.
It's important to keep a note of each time you contact the council telling it about your neighbour's behaviour.
Local authorities often have more than one stage in their complaints procedure and this process may take several weeks.
Find contact details for your local authority.
Complain to the ombudsman
If you're unhappy with the way your local authority has dealt with your issue and you have exhausted its internal complaints process, you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.
You should give your local authority 12 weeks to deal with your formal complaint, after which you can refer it to the ombudsman.
You should normally make a formal complaint against your local authority within 12 months of realising it has done something wrong, or hasn't dealt with your issue adequately.
When making a complaint about your local authority to the ombudsman, here are some things the ombudsman will look for before investigating your complaint:
- your local authority didn’t send anyone to visit you to find out about the problems
- your local authority asked you to fill in diary sheets but then did nothing with them
- your local authority gave you an out-of-hours emergency number but nobody came out to witness the nuisance
- your local authority accepted that your neighbours were causing problems but didn't do anything to stop them
- your local authority didn't assess the level of the noise when you complained
If you are seeking compensation from a neighbour, for example due to damage to your property as a result of building work a neighbour is doing, and are unable to resolve the issue amicably, you should consider Civil Mediation.
The Civil Mediation Council, part of the Ministry of Justice, provides a list of local, professional and experienced mediators. There is a fee attached to this process. Depending on how much you are seeking to claim, fees range from £50 - £425 + VAT.
It's worth remembering that although the fees may seem steep, they are likely to be considerably cheaper than hiring a solicitor.
Going to court
As a last resort, you might want to consider legal action against a nuisance neighbour.
Bear in mind that taking someone to court is expensive, so this option should only be considered if you have exhausted all other routes. There are likely to be court and solicitor fees.
For more information on making a court claim, visit the GOV.UK website.