With everyone spending more time at home this year, we have seen an increase in enquiries from people who are having issues with their neighbours. In particular, we have seen an increase in boundary disputes, right of way issues, nuisance claims and harassment claims. We ask Ed Smith, a Partner in our property disputes team, to give his top tips for anyone facing a neighbour dispute.
1. It’s good to talk
Where possible, speak to your neighbour first. Having a (hopefully friendly!) conversation may stop matters escalating. Sometimes issues are caused by the two neighbours not quite understanding the other’s intentions, so having a chat can help.
If you are not comfortable having a discussion with your neighbour, you could write a letter. It is important to word the letter carefully. The tone of the letter could affect your future relationship with your neighbour (and therefore, the dispute). It is also worth bearing in mind that any note that you send to your neighbour, and vice versa, may be seen by a judge if the dispute should reach court.
Of course, if the issue is one of anti-social behaviour or harassment, it may not be appropriate to speak to the neighbour face to face. If you are in any way concerned, speak to a solicitor and/or the police.
2. Keep a record
Keep a note of any conversations you have had with your neighbour, and keep copies of all notes, emails and texts. If you are dealing with something like a boundary dispute or trespass, take photos to show what has happened.
Photographs and copies of correspondence can be invaluable as evidence later down the line.
3. Keeping it civil
We know just how emotive neighbour disputes can be. They can become heated very quickly. It is important, therefore, to try to keep relations as civil as possible. Not least because even after the dispute is resolved, you will still live close to your neighbours.
Solicitors and other experts, such as surveyors, will advise you on the situation, absent the anger or frustration you may have for your neighbour. This is just one of the reasons that getting a solicitor involved early doors can help you settle the dispute.
Likewise, having that early conversation can help to keep neighbourly relations courteous.
4. Speak to a solicitor
In the last of his top tips for those facing a neighbour dispute, Ed recommends that you speak to a solicitor.
A specialist property disputes solicitor will have experience in a range of neighbour disputes and will be able to advise you on how best to resolve your dispute. Taking early advice can be invaluable: your solicitor will advise you on the legalities and whether the dispute is worth pursuing. Getting a solicitor involved early can also help speed up resolution of the dispute.
Our property disputes solicitors have a wealth of experience of dealing with all kinds of neighbour disputes. Call us on 0800 988 7756 for a free initial discussion about your issue.