Posted on 11th April 2014

Are Problem Neighbours on the Rise?

Most people will be aware of the Old Testament line to love thy neighbour. However in modern-day Britain that somewhat rose-tinted version of how the world should be is becoming rather tarnished. It comes as new research reveals that we, as a nation, are becoming so intolerant of our neighbours that were resorting to complaining to the local authority in ever greater numbers.

The research from Churchill Home Insurance shows that householders made over 460,000 complaints about neighbours in 2013 and that irritations included noise, animals, mess and household disrepair. Local authorities received wide-ranging complaints about neighbours and their behaviour, pets and property with 104,000 of these made about filthy homes, messy gardens and vermin.

In 2013, there were a further 93,579 complaints about the accumulation of refuse, 46,539 about pets causing a local disturbance and 21,090 about parked vehicles causing a disruption. In our region, Newcastle received an above average number of complaints at 45 per 1000 people, while Stockton-On-Tees was also listed in the top 10 for complaints per head of the population.

Noisy neighbours are the major and steadily growing - cause of these residential issues nationally, whether it concerns loud music, barking dogs or disturbance from DIY work. In nine months in 2013 councils received 200,120 noise complaints. To combat this, local authorities have issued 4,283 noise abatement notices to persistently loud residents. However these are not always successful in quietening the neighbourhood, as 644 notices were broken during this period.

It is a moot point as to whether sheer the volume of complaints is an indication of an increase in noisy neighbours or whether people are now simply more likely not to endure bad behaviour. Whatever the real situation, there are several important points to remember when dealing with problem neighbours.

In the first instance, try to have a polite and friendly word with the neighbour as they may not be aware of the impact they are having. If that fails, there are neighbour, dispute, mediation and conciliation services that can be accessed via the Direct.gov site or by calling the local authority housing department for advice.

If the problem persists, then the householder can complain to their local council. It is possible to take legal action for what is known as 'private nuisance', but it is much better to speak to the local council rather than go to law at this stage.Council officers only have the power to deal with 'statutory nuisances' as defined in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which covers issues such as excessive noise or vibration, emission of smoke, fumes and dust or animals kept in unhygienic or unsafe conditions.

If the householders complaint is about noise, council officers may leave equipment inside the property to record the disturbance over a period of time. The 1996 Noise Act gives local authorities additional powers to deal with noise at night and if an environmental health officer is satisfied there is a noise nuisance, they have the power to enter premises and seize any equipment responsible for creating the noise nuisance. Duration or repetition is not necessarily a factor as one-off events such as a noisy birthday party can also be considered a nuisance. Whatever the outcome it is important to try to remain calm as the problematic neighbour may be going anywhere any time soon.

Please note: This article is intended as guidance only and does not constitute advice, financial or otherwise. No responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by Latimer Hinks.