Don’t let staying at home cause a dispute

Is lockdown putting pressure on friendly relations?

Lockdown street sign

A dispute with a neighbour is particularly unpleasant at the best of times, more so as we all spend more time at home. Worse still, as well impacting your home or family life, until one of you moves, you will have to carry on living side by side.

Excessive noise, in particular at antisocial hours, is the most common cause of discord between neighbours but problems can arise in all kinds of ways – disputes about pets, parking and boundaries are not uncommon.

The current lockdown has precipitated a nationwide surge in reporting of complaints about nuisance neighbours. With so many people stuck at home, often at close quarters, and without the distractions of normal daily life, these sorts of problems are bound to come to the fore.

Not only that, people are perhaps less able to cope with additional stress at such a difficult time. Financial and health problems, bereavement and loneliness are affecting millions and, in many cases, to the detriment of their mental health.

Now more than ever it is important that we try to be tolerant and respectful of each other and there is no better place to start than at home.

In this article we set out some guidance to help you avoid neighbour disputes and what to do if you cannot.

Avoid escalation

The best way of avoiding an entrenched dispute is to raise the issue with next door face-to-face. A polite word over the garden fence can be much more effective than making a complaint to the local authority or taking legal action, particularly in the context of the long-term relationship. After all, your neighbour may not even be aware of the issue affecting you or may have grievances of their own to air.

Being able to communicate and compromise is key and that can only happen if there is a functioning relationship.

Even if you are unable to come to an agreement, there are steps you can take to try to resolve matters collaboratively. Mediation can be a particularly effective exercise. This is the process of engaging an impartial, professional third party to facilitate negotiations. Mediation has shown that it is adaptable and can be conducted virtually. It is advisable in any case for parties to a dispute to attempt alternative forms of dispute resolution, like mediation, before starting a court action.

Some useful links if you are considering mediation are:

Document the problem

Keeping an accurate log of the incidents is a good idea. Where possible collecting evidence is also recommended (sound recording, photographs).

Take advice

If you are unable to resolve matters with your neighbour direct then it may be time to contact a solicitor.

To enable us to advise you, dig out any documents relevant to your property such as title deeds or leases that could shed light as to parties’ mutual rights and obligations – for example, ownership and responsibility for boundary features or covenants in respect of nuisance or pets etc. It is always a good idea for you to provide us with a short chronology, setting out key events and dates.

We will start by providing you with comprehensive advice on the law and your options. You will then be able to make well-informed decisions and to manage risk effectively. Contact our Dispute Resolution team to find out how we can help.

More serious disputes

Remember that if a dispute has got out of hand or you are feeling intimidated, abused or personally targeted then you should consider contacting the police.

This article was written by Ben Pearson

Please note the contents contained in this article are for general guidance only and reflection the position at time of posting. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters.

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