Neighbour disputes

Jon Maynard Boundaries Ltd, Boundary Demarcation and Disputes, Rights of Way, Expert Witness, Chartered Land Surveyor

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Other neighbour disputes

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Your Neighbour's trees
Noisy neighbours
Smoke and airborne pollution
Rubbish
Contravening Planning Permission
When developers acquire land next door
When a developer encounters a NIMBY next door
Car parking
Other neighbour nuisance

 

These are some of the other ways in which your neighbours might cause annoyance, with suggestions of what to do about them. There are numerous variations and complications on the themes below, and you may need to tackle any of them in conjunction with each other or with a boundary or easement problem.

 

Your Neighbour's trees

Your neighbour's trees may grow tall enough to block out your sunshine; they may alter the environment of your garden causing difficulties to your own plants; they may reduce the amount of light coming through your windows. But it is only when their branches overhang your land, or their roots encroach beneath it, that you can really do much about it.

What you can do

If the branches or roots of your neighbour's trees encroach upon your land, you may trim them back to your boundary. You do not need to give notice that you will do so, provided that you do not trespass on your neighbour's land to do the work. You can even (with the permission of your local authority) trim trees that are the subjects of preservation orders. But you cannot keep any fruit that was growing on the branches that you remove.

If your neighbour's trees are shown to be doing actual damage to your property, for example:

  • banging against your roof when the wind blows,
  • roots taking enoughwater to deprive and damage your own plants,
  • root growth causing ground heave resulting in broken garden walls,
  • roots extracting water from under your buildings causing subsidence and damage to buildings,

then you should talk to your neighbour and ask him to do whatever is necessary to relieve the problem. Failing that, may be able to take legal action, either to have the roots restrained from encroaching on your land, or possibly to have the tree removed, as well as to recover damages. For the best advice on trees, consult an arboriculturalist, but if you want someone to measure the positions and heights of trees and the lengths of their shadows then you should consult a chartered land surveyor.

If your neighbour's trees are evergreen and form a continuous barrier then you could deal with them as high hedges under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003.

 

Noisy neighbours

We all like to party sometimes, and we should be tolerant of a neighbour who does the same. But if the noise is frequently repeated then we do have a problem. Noise created by a temporary circumstance, such as building work next door, is again something we may have to put up with.

What you should do

If you have a repeated or frequent problem with noise coming from a neighbour, contact the Environmental Health department of your local (borough, district or city) council.

 

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Smoke and airborne pollution

Smoke from a neighbour's bonfire and smells from an adjoining factory are things we may occasionally experience that we have to put up with. But they can sometimes become unacceptable, for example when the smoke from a neighbour's bonfire dirties the washing drying in your garden or even gets into your house.

What you should do

If it is a question of inconsiderate siting of the bonfire, or of burning it on a day when the wind blows the smoke towards you, tackle the neighbour peaceably and suggest alternative means of achieving his ends (disposal of garden waste) without inconveniencing you.

If you experience actual damage from an isolated pollution incident, such as smoke or fumes spoiling your washing or other possessions, necessitating clean-up or replacement, consider approaching the manager of the factory or farm responsible with a claim for compensation.

If the above suggestions don't work, or if the complaint is about frequent industrial or agricultural pollution, contact the Environmental Health department of your local (borough, district or city) council.

 

Rubbish

If your neighbour chooses not to keep his garden as tidy as you might like him too, there is little you can do about it - unless the untidiness is extreme. Mounds of decaying rubbish can prove a health hazard, and may encourage rats and other vermin. This is unacceptable.

What you should do

If you are concerned about health or vermin, contact the Environmental Health department of your local (borough, district or city) council.

If the mounds of rubbish are causing damage to you property, by bearing against your fence and damaging it or because liquids discharging from the rubbish are decaying your fence, your plants or your soil, then either talk to your neighbour about the problem or discuss with your solicitor the possibilitry of a claim for damages as a result of nuisance.

 

Contravening Planning Permission

Cases sometimes arise where land is being used for purposes for which it does not have planning consent, and such a change of use may create a nuisance for neighbours. For example, you may live next to a farm that is no longer operated as a farm, whose land is now being used for noisy motor sports.

What you should do

If there has been a change in use of your neighbour's land and you are troubled by the use to which it is now being put, check with the planning officer of your local (borough, district or city) council. If your neighbour does not have the appropriate planning consent, the council should be able to do something about it.

 

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When developers acquire land next door

You may live next door to a large property (house, hospital, school playing field) that has become disused and is now the subject of redevelopment. Developers are shrewd businessmen, and a few of them have a tendency to build first and ask questions later. You may receive an offer you can't refuse - to have your rickety old fence replaced with a smart new one at the developer's expense. You should be wary of the possibility that the new fence may not go up in the same position as the old one it replaces!

What you should do

Instruct a chartered land surveyor to check your title deeds and confirm that your fence is in the correct position and to do a land survey to accurately record its present position. Then invite the developer to replace the fence in the same position as the existing one, showing him your surveyor's plan and warning him that your surveyor will be back to check that the new fence is in the correct position

 

When a developer encounters a NIMBY next door

I don't want developers to think that I am predisposed to treat them all as cowboys: many of them are gentlemen who just want to act responsibly and respectably and earn a living. Occasionally, such a developer will find that the land he has acquired adjoins land in the ownership of a NIMBY. Nimbys tend to get caught up in the spirit of the crusade they are pursuing, losing sight of their own limitations, and giving battle to the bitter end.

What the nimby should do

Accept that if:

  • the developer owns the land on which he proposes to build;
  • the local council has heard all objections from all interested parties;
  • the local council has granted planning consent to the developer;

then there is nothing the nimby can do to prevent the development.

What the developer should do

Instruct a chartered land surveyor who specialises in boundary demarcation and disputes to undertake a very thorough investigation and prepare a very convincing report on the boundaries of the developer's land.

 

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Car parking

Marloes Road, London W8, 200

Car parking on your own land

Generally, you may park a vehicle or vehicles wherever you want to on your own land.

The principal exception to this is that if there is a right of way (private or public) across your land then you must take care not to obstruct that right of way.

If you want to lay hard standing, erect a car port, or build a garage on your land then you should be aware that you may need to seek planning permission.

Some housing developments built in the second half of the twentieth century did not make provision for parking on one's own land but provided centralised garage and parking facilities. The ownership of an individual garage is identified in the deeds to the parent land to which it belongs, but unless the ownership of individual parking bays is also specifically identified then the parking bays are available to everyone, and their visitors, on a first come first served basis.

On someone else's land, including private roads

Parking your vehicle on someone else's land without their permission amounts to trespass.

Parking your car on a private road (unless you own the road) is trespass and also puts you at risk of obstructing the right of way of others. Do not park on a private road unless you are sure that you are not causing an obstruction by so doing.

A landowner may give you permission, whether or not he demands a fee for it, to park on his land. Such an arrangement is known as a licence. A licence is a form of contract and can therefore either reach an expiry date or be terminated. Alternatively, the landowner may expressly grant an easement to permit parking on his land. Such an easement is of course a permanent right attached to the land of the dominant tenement, and the right to park will persist after either or both of the dominant and servient tenement is/are sold to a new owner. Such a parking easement can apply either to a private road or to private land that is not a road.

If a parking easement can be expressly granted then it might follow that a parking easement might be established by prescription, ie. that by parking openly and without the owner's permission on a private road or private land for the qualifying period of twenty years an easement would be established. There may be a problem here, in that the parking of a car in the spot every day (or night) might be seen as excluding the rightful owner from the land that is parked upon, ie. it might be seen as attempting to establish adverse possession (over a twelve year period) of the land. It therefore appears that a prescriptive right of parking can be established only if the would-be dominant tenement parks in different locations within a general area (such as at various points along that part of the private road fronting one's property).

On public roads

Local authorities have powers to prohibit, restrict or control parking on the public roads (which they effectively own).

  • Prohibition is often effected by painting yellow lines along the side of the road.
  • An example of restriction is a scheme where parking spaces are reserved for permit holders (who qualify for a permit by residence in the affected street).
  • Examples of control include provision of off-street car parks (ground level, underground or multi-storey) and on-street parking in designated bays where the duration of parking is strictly limited.
  • Local authorities have power to charge parking fees.

There is no automatic right to park on a public road, even when there appears to be no prohibition, restriction or control in place. Parking (as opposed to stopping to unload) a vehicle might be seen as creating either an obstruction or a danger to other road users.

Even where on-street parking is clearly permitted or tolerated, you cannot presume to have a right to a specific parking space, such as the one in front of your own house.

 

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Other neighbour nuisance

Every landowner has a general duty of care towards his neighbours. This should prevent him from taking any actions that will damage his neighbour's interests; it is also intended t0 protect neighbours against a negligent lack of activity that would otherwise prevent foreseeable damaging events.

Examples include:

  • continuing encroachment from overhanging buildings (eaves) or tree branches or roots;
  • acts or omissions causing damage to buildings, such as damp (perhaps caused by failure to properly maintain drainage ditches) or subsidence;
  • undue interference with your enjoyment of your own land, such as smells, smoke, unreasonable noise, or interference with easements.

However, your neighbour may lawfully cause you temporary inconvenience as a result of reasonable use of his own land, for example, during building works, unless the damage or inconvenience caused to your property is very considerable.

What you should do

Most of these nuisances are covered elsewhere on this page or on other pages of this web site, with indications of the appropriate experts to turn to. In the case of acts or omissions causing damp or subsidence affecting the buildings on your land, you should consult a chartered building surveyor.

 

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