Troublesome neighbours can seriously damage the quality of home life, but not only do you have the right to live in peace but the legal rights too.
Whether it’s head thumping bass of a stereo, persistent shrieks of an over active child or loud footsteps, the chief neighbour nuisance is noise, but neighbours can also make life hell through destructive children, ill-trained dogs, ill-kempt trees and hedges, poor rubbish management and abusive or harassing behaviour.
Whatever the incitement, if the actions of your neighbours are making your life a misery and they are not responsive to polite requests to stop then you need to be aware of what rights are available to you.
The Noise and Environmental Protection Acts
As a particularly common grievance, excessive noise falls under the control of two main pieces of legislation.
The Noise Act 1996 gives the council the powers to order neighbours to cease their noisy exploits immediately. They can also confiscate noise-making devices, such as the TV or stereo, and issue a fine. It is the council’s decision to implement any preventative action and so the grievance should be raised with them for their consideration.
If you can reliably anticipate your neighbour’s noisy pursuits then alternatively you could invite the local authority over to witness the act. If they agree then they can serve an abatement law under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Control of Pollution Act in Scotland).
You are also entitled to take out private action by applying to your local magistrates court. If you are in Scotland then you can take action through a solicitor to the Sheriff’s Court.
Environmental Protection Act for Non-Noise
The Environment Protection Act is a far-reaching law that is also a valuable piece of legislation for a host of other non-noise issues where your neighbour poses further threats to environmental well-being.
For instance, it can be used if you live next door to someone who has living habits that could be construed as being a health hazard, such as if they use their garden as a vermin-friendly rubbish heap. In such a situation you should contact your local council’s Environmental Health department.
If your neighbours are engaging in anti-social behaviour that doesn’t fall within the remit of the noise or environmental protection acts then the Housing Act 1996 might prove a valuable ally.
Under this law, you can appeal to the High Court or County Court to grant an injunction to stop neighbours from “engaging or threatening to engage in conduct causing or likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance.” This could include neighbour behaviour deemed violent, destructive or disruptive. It also can be used to curb the use of residential premises for illegal or immoral purpose, including as a drug den or brothel.
If your neighbour has trouble keeping their dog’s toilet habits under control then this becomes an issue for the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996.
Protection from Harassment Act
Neighbours that target you personally with their behaviour, such as through verbal abuse, dumping litter in your garden, deliberately causing obstruction or any other efforts intended to make your home life a misery, then this then becomes an issue for the Protection from Harassment Act 1977.
It is an offence for an individual to conduct themselves in a way that amounts to harassment of others and, if found guilty, offenders can face up to six months in jail.
Crime and Disorder Act 1998 If your neighbour’s bad behaviour, such as drunkenness, violence, damage, intimidation or verbal abuse, is not solely directed at you but affecting the neighbourhood as a whole then your rights to curtail their anti-social activities are supported by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
This act rebuts the notion that a child is incapable of crime. You can appeal to the police for a criminal behaviour order or an injunction under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. If the individual has behaved in a manner “that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress” then they can be restricted from entering a specific geographical area or banned from certain acts.