Top tips on how to cope with neighbour disputes

Parking disputes are not unusual in a crowded city like Portsmouth - but noise is the most common complaint
Parking disputes are not unusual in a crowded city like Portsmouth - but noise is the most common complaint
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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You would be hard pressed to find anyone who has never been annoyed by their neighbours.

Disputes over land, overgrown gardens, parking spaces and pets are all too common in a crowded city like Portsmouth.

But by far the most common complaint – one that consistently leads to headaches, arguments, stress and worry – is noise.

Whether it’s parties until all hours, music booming through the walls, doors slamming or even just raised voices, second-hand noise can be intrusive and infuriating.

And what makes matters much worse, as with all neighbour disputes, is that often you can’t escape from it.

New research from Which? magazine found that 10 million people have had a problem with their neighbours in the last year – but a quarter failed to take any action at all.

In the survey three out of five people said they had been annoyed by loud music, TVs turned up too high or incessant arguing.

These problems frequently have very real negative effects on the lives of homeowners and tenants.

The survey results show 39 per cent of respondents said it left them stressed, 10 per cent admit it affected their health, and two per cent even claimed it caused them to move home.

So why do so many people keep quiet about the racket that is ruining their lives?

Well on one level it is an understandable reaction; after all, you can’t just trade in your neighbours for a new set when you get tired of them.

Quarrels between people living next door to one another can easily escalate out of control, and sometimes lead to bitter and long running feuds.

But you don’t have to suffer in silence, help is at hand.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: ‘Three in ten Brits get annoyed with their neighbours. That so many people are losing sleep, getting stressed and struggling at work because of noise from next-door shows the damage this does.

‘If trying to solve the problem with your neighbour doesn’t work or simply isn’t possible, then get in touch with your local authority who can take action for you.’

First of all, it’s unwise to follow the example of 10 per cent of those surveyed, who chose to take revenge by becoming nuisance neighbours themselves.

Fighting fire with fire is a sure way to end up in a worse position and, in the worst-case scenario, 17 per cent of respondents admitted finally calling the police to settle the dispute.

Instead, the Which? Legal Service has the following top tips for how to deal with neighbour disputes:

· Note down disturbances: Keep a diary of when noise or an incident occurs, and how long it lasts.

· Speak calmly: Talk to your neighbour about the problem to see if they will stop doing it.

· Contact the freeholder: If you live in a flat and own the leasehold, contact the freeholder who may be able to take action against the other leaseholder.

· Use your local authority: If there is no change, you can contact your local authority’s Environmental Health Department who will investigate the issue and can prosecute where necessary.

· Consider further action: If all else fails, consider legal proceedings, but these are costly and should only be considered after taking legal advice.

The most important thing is to stay calm and consider your options; it might take time and effort to settle disputes civilly, but losing your temper hardly ever solves the problem.

For more information on your rights when dealing with problem neighbours, head to whichlegalservice.co.uk/neighbours or call 01992 822 828.