How simmering neighbour disputes can boil over in summer heat
The hot summer months lead to a large rise in neighbour disputes, according to research published in the Times.
The newspaper says some law firms see an increase of up to 145% compared with other parts of the year.
Most of the disputes are over such things as noise, bad parking and overhanging trees or hedges. These issues can simmer throughout the year but tend to come to a head during the summer when the fine weather leads to more garden barbecues and parties, and vegetation starts to grow and creep across boundaries.
Most disagreements can be settled quickly with a little goodwill on both sides but sometimes it can be more difficult to find a solution, especially if the dispute is about more complicated matters such as boundary lines.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy for matters to get out of hand if people don’t remain calm and maintain a sense of perspective.
It is usually better for disputes to be settled amicably but if this is not possible then both sides should seek legal advice before attitudes begin to harden.
Clarification of the legal position may help resolve the problem right at the outset. For example, you may not want your neighbour to come on to your land to carry out repairs but he may be entitled to do so if a legal right of entry is specified in the property’s legal documents. Even if there is no automatic entitlement, he can still apply to the County Court for an access order allowing him to enter your land.
Boundary disputes can often be resolved simply by referring to the title or lease documents. If they are not clear then it may be necessary to call in a solicitor or surveyor who should be able to help you reach a sensible solution.
The same applies to shared amenities such as drains and pipes, driveways and roofs. Your right to use them and your responsibility to maintain them should be laid down in the property’s legal documents.
The situation may be more complicated if a person’s right to use a facility such as a chimney, for example, to erect an aerial, is not written down but has become established through long and continuous use. If that use has not been challenged over the years then it could become an entitlement.
If problems persist then there are still things you can do before heading for the courts. Lord Justice Mummery urged people to use mediation with the help of specialists such as solicitors. This has several advantages.
It will be far cheaper and less stressful than court action. Trained mediators can help bring both parties together to negotiate a settlement that is fair to both sides. This is very important as you may have to live alongside each other for many years to come.
If agreement still can’t be reached then litigation may become necessary. However, it is vital to ensure that the dispute doesn’t escalate to a point where the costs involved are out of proportion to the value of the claim.
Please contact Neil O'Callaghan if you would like more information about dealing with neighbour disputes.