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Dealing with neighbourly disputes
There are many factors to consider when choosing a new home, from location and size, to which way the garden faces, but one thing you can’t be sure of is how well you’re going to get along with your neighbours.
Whether it’s a disagreement about fence boundaries, or a grievance about noise, neighbourly disputes aren’t uncommon. In fact, our latest research has revealed that almost half (49%) of homeowners in the UK have previously experienced a legal dispute or argument with a neighbour.
With this in mind, we also looked into which cities are most likely to experience issues with neighbours, and what the most common ways of dealing with these situations are.
Which cities are most likely to experience a neighbourly dispute?
Our research has shown that where you live could have an impact on how likely you are to experience a dispute with a neighbour, with certain cities more prone to neighbourly arguments than others.
Those living in Newcastle have experienced the most issues, with almost three-quarters (73%) of residents admitting to having previously experienced a legal dispute or argument with a neighbour. Belfast residents (61%) are the second most inclined to disagree with those who live nearby, while Glaswegians (59%) follow closely behind in third.
There must be something calming about living by the seaside, as the cities least likely to experience a neighbourly dispute are all located by the south coast. Just over a third (37%) of homeowners in Brighton have said they’ve previously had an issue with a neighbour - the lowest of all cities analysed - while 39% of people in both Southampton and Plymouth have said the same.
Age also plays a role in how likely you are to enter into a feud with a neighbour. 71% of those aged between 25 and 34 admitted to having experienced a neighbourly dispute, compared with only half (51%) of those aged between 45 and 54, and 35% of those aged over 55.
|% of residents who have had a legal dispute or argument with a neighbour
Common causes of neighbourly disputes and how to resolve them
When experiencing an issue with a neighbour, it’s important to know your legal rights. Our research has revealed that people’s awareness of the best course of action actually differs a lot depending on the situation they might find themselves in.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common way that homeowners deal with neighbourly issues is to speak to their neighbour directly, with 62% of people citing this as the way that they have resolved any previous disputes. Hopefully, should you experience any issues with your neighbours, discussing the issue with them one-on-one will help to rectify the situation. If the problem continues though, there are various other ways in which people would look to settle a dispute.
Homeowners are most aware of their legal rights when it comes to noise complaints. Whether it be loud music, barking dogs, or noisy children, 51.5% of people surveyed stated they know the correct way to deal with any noise-related issues should they arise.
Almost half (47%) said that when faced with noise issues, they would speak directly to their neighbour, and 15% of people would go straight to the council.
If you do find yourself struggling with noisy neighbours, you should always try to solve the problem by talking with them first, and then by using a mediation service if you can’t come to an agreement. If the situation continues, you can ask your council for help.
Should you have an issue with a broken fence and it’s a neighbour’s responsibility, 51% of people feel confident that they know the correct course of action to take.
Again, the first port of call should be to speak with your neighbour directly, but if it is deemed a safety hazard and they don’t repair it, you can report a dangerous wall or structure to your council. 65% of those surveyed would take the correct route and speak with their neighbour directly in the first instance.
Spotting Japanese Knotweed on a neighbour's property
When asked how they would deal with spotting Japanese Knotweed on their neighbour's property, 43% of those surveyed would speak to the neighbour directly, while 17% would go straight to the council. Interestingly, the majority of those aged between 16 and 24 would actually choose to go straight to the police if they spot the troublesome weed in the next-door's garden, with 18% of them saying this is how they would deal with the plant problem.
If you do happen to spot the plant, you must alert your neighbour first, as they might not be aware that it’s growing in their garden. You may only take legal action once they have been made aware of the issue and have failed to remove the Japanese Knotweed. Your neighbour isn’t legally required to remove the weed from their own property, but they are legally required to stop the spread onto anyone else’s land.
When faced with nosy or intrusive neighbours, 54% of homeowners are unsure of their rights.
Despite almost half (47%) of people stating they would speak with the neighbour first, 13% said they would contact the police. This option is preferred amongst 16- to 24-year-olds, with 27% of this age group choosing to call the police straight away in this situation.
While a frustrating problem, the best way to deal with intrusive neighbours is to speak with them directly. Following this, if you deem their behaviour anti-social, you can turn to your local council for support. If you feel like your neighbour has broken the law however, for example they’ve been violent or threatening towards you, then you should contact the police.
Damage to property
More than one in five (22%) homeowners would also contact the police if a neighbour inflicted damage to their property. Again the younger generations are more likely to call the police in the first instance, with 27% of those aged between 16 and 34, suggesting that contacting the police is the best way to deal with damages incurred by a neighbour.
If you believe the damage was intentional, then you are well within your rights to contact the police. However, if the damage was accidental, you should speak with your neighbour about potentially paying for the repairs. If they refuse to pay, you may be able to take them to court for negligence.
Extra precautions homeowners can take when resolving disputes with neighbours
While disputes regarding noise or parking might have an easy solution, disagreements involving damages are slightly trickier to resolve. Whether it happens on purpose or by accident, damage to your property can be very costly, so ensure you have adequate home insurance to ensure you are protected as possible. Also, make sure you keep records of any communication with neighbours, and take photos of any issues. This could help you further down the line if you do find yourself having to make a claim.
If you’re unsure on the best course of action, government websites and Citizens Advice are good places to find information on your legal rights, and contacting your local council could be an option if you need additional support to resolve the issue.
Sources and methodology
Compare the Market surveyed 1,009 homeowners in the UK. The survey was conducted in May 2023.
Anna McEntee - Insurance comparison expert
Anna’s all about delivering fantastic insurance products at a great price. Value is the most important thing for Anna, as she cuts through the jargon and finds what’s most important and worth your hard-earned money.