Dealing with neighbour disputes and rows: Top tips

By KentOnline reporter

Full article first published on Houzz

Amanda Pollard, Houzz contributor

Happy relationships are good for health and wellbeing, so it’s great to have harmonious one with your neighbours. Most common issues that arise can be resolved with a little effort on both sides, and where problems escalate there are legal frameworks to help.

Follow these tips for maintaining a peaceful community atmosphere.

Photo by the Window Film Company UK Ltd
Photo by the Window Film Company UK Ltd

Enhance your privacy

Feeling a little overlooked? It’s a common issue, especially in towns and cities where neighbours live in close proximity. There are a few things you can do to your home’s windows to increase privacy. Try fitting some frosted or etched glass that will let in light but block the view. Alternatively, buy some window film that will do the same job. Window treatments such as Venetian blinds and shutters will also help to obscure the view from outside.

If you’ve got a larger budget, you could try out some smart window technology with glazing that switches from clear to opaque when an electrical current is passed through it.

Discover how to create privacy in an urban garden

Photo by Neptune
Photo by Neptune

Turn the noise down

A late-night party or a weekend of loud DIY can be annoying, but if it’s a one-off you can probably let it go. However, if your neighbour’s noise is constantly keeping you awake at night or disturbing your day-to-day life there are actions you can take.

It sounds obvious, but you can usually resolve something like this by talking to your neighbour. It might be the case that they didn’t realise they were disturbing you – most people don’t want to deliberately annoy others, so a polite conversation could be enough to nip it in the bud.

'Bear in mind that once you complain to the council, tensions will rise'

If the noise persists, you might need to take it further. Contact the local council who will write to your neighbour to inform them that people have complained. At the same time keep a noise diary, logging when and where noise occurs.

Hopefully this will resolve the situation, but if the noise continues the council might suggest mediation.

Bear in mind that once you complain to the council, tensions will rise and the official complaint log might affect your chances of selling your home later on. So, only proceed if it really can’t be resolved by discussion.

Photo by Cameron Landscapes and Gardens
Photo by Cameron Landscapes and Gardens

Keep the fun in playtime

A neighbourhood full of happy children is music to most people’s ears, but if the noise is stopping you from doing something else it might be worth talking to the parents concerned. Most responsible adults will gladly keep noise levels down at certain times of the day, for example if you need to take a nap or are making important phone calls.

Some games can lead to accidents, and it’s not unheard of for property to be damaged by a low-flying frisbee. The best way to deal with an incident like this is a simple chat with the parents again. In most cases, your neighbours will be mortified and offer to pay for repairs.

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Photo by Clifton Interiors Ltd
Photo by Clifton Interiors Ltd

Push the boundaries

Boundary disputes can be a big problem, so where possible it’s best to preempt the situation. If you’re in the process of purchasing a property, ask your solicitor to provide an official copy of the Land Registry title deed.

This will highlight any boundaries and who owns them, but as it’s based on an Ordnance Survey map there might be a few discrepancies. Compare it with the property and try to clear up any queries and contradictions at this stage.

Now is a good time to talk to your new neighbours about it, to clarify everything up front.

Once you know who is responsible for each boundary structure, it’s important that you uphold your end of the bargain. If the fence between your neighbour’s garden and your own falls down, take responsibility and fix it. However, you shouldn’t make changes to a boundary structure without informing your neighbour.

Planning a side-return extension? Make sure you don’t impinge on your neighbour’s boundary, by either building right up to the wall or even over on to their land. By keeping communication open with your neighbours you should be able to resolve any issues before even applying for planning permission.

Photo by KR Garden Design
Photo by KR Garden Design

Go to great heights

A few blossoming branches from your neighbour’s tree hanging over into your garden could be a bonus, but not if it’s impinging on your space. Tell your neighbour that you’re going to trim it back to the boundary, but don’t forget you’re supposed to offer back any branches or fruit to the owner.

If your neighbour’s tree looks like it might be dangerous, a quick chat will hopefully prompt them to take action.

No luck? Talk to your local council, as they have powers to deal with a property owner’s tree if it is on the verge of causing damage.

Photo by CATO Creative Ltd
Photo by CATO Creative Ltd

Hedge your bets

Many neighbour disputes begin when a tall hedge blocks out light from the adjoining garden. If this is affecting you, feel free to trim the roots and branches, but that’s as far as you can go. You’re not allowed to reduce the height of your neighbour’s hedge without permission.

Try to resolve the issue with your neighbour, but if this doesn’t work your next port of call is your local authority. They’ll use the guidelines of high-hedge legislation to assess whether the height needs to be reduced.

Photo by Tom Kaneko
Photo by Tom Kaneko

Plan a neighbour-friendly extension

One of the main worries when planning a rear extension is that it will impinge on the neighbour’s home and garden. Before you or your neighbour applies for planning permission, it’s a good idea to talk through the plans together. A protruding structure at the back of the house can block out light to the adjacent property, and impede the view as well.

If this is an issue it’s worth considering ideas that would work for both parties. For example, the extension above has a pitched roof with lower eaves on the boundary wall. The property owners got plenty of light and space, and the extension didn’t overwhelm the neighbour’s property.

Tour of the rest of this Victorian home’s neighbour-friendly extension

Photo by 50 Degrees North Architects
Photo by 50 Degrees North Architects

Be considerate with your renovation

Amid all the planning, budgeting and excitement of a home renovation, don’t forget to factor in your neighbours. Speak to them first to let them know what will be happening. Although there’s not much they can do to stop you proceeding, a little consideration will go a long way to maintaining a good relationship.

If your builders need to gain access through your neighbour’s property, make sure you ask well in advance.

'Show your appreciation with a thank-you gift, and hopefully they’ll be as considerate when any renovations of their own'

Locate your skip directly outside your own home, and cover it at night to prevent passers-by from throwing in beer cans and takeaway containers.

Ensure that building work stops at Saturday lunchtime to avoid ruining your neighbours’ weekend.

After the work is completed, show your appreciation with a thank-you gift, and hopefully they’ll be as considerate when any renovations of their own.

Planning a renovation? Discover trustworthy builders in your area

Maintain communal areas

Shared facilities, such as communal gardens or hallways in apartment blocks, can present some tricky neighbourly issues. It’s not always clear who is responsible for each element, but the title deeds should indicate ownership of certain areas.

Own a share of the freehold? If there are a few flats in the building it’s a good idea to set up a management company with formal arrangements for maintenance, service charges, a contingency fund for emergencies and perhaps even a management agent. Put together a resident’s association and organise formal meetings where you can discuss upkeep and accounts.

In a smaller building with just a couple of flats, you could draw up a trust deed, with similar details about the running of the building and maintenance charges.

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