Disputes with neighbours have the reputation of escalating and becoming entrenched, with bitter arguments sometimes going on for years. The cause of a dispute can often be quite minor and it is usually worth the effort of resolving it so that both parties can move on.
Main causes of property disputes
There are numerous causes of neighbour disputes, from disagreements over ownership of land to complaints about noise and antisocial behaviour. Two main causes of falling out between neighbours are the issues of boundaries and trees and hedges.
Difficulties are commonplace when it comes to boundaries. Disagreements arise over where they are, who owns the land on which a fence or wall is situated, who should maintain the fence, wall or hedge and the condition of any boundary structure.
Title deeds rarely show boundaries accurately due to their scale. A thick line on a small plan can give two or more metres of discrepancy on the ground.
With no legal certainty contained in Land Registry records, boundary disputes are usually best settled by negotiation.
If you are able to come to an agreement with your neighbour over the issue, it is worth having a detailed plan of the determined boundary drawn up by a chartered surveyor and registering it against both your property and your neighbour’s at the Land Registry.
Trees, hedges and shrubs
Another main cause for disagreement is overhanging or poorly maintained foliage. Large trees may cause damage to your property or block the light.
You are entitled to cut back anything that is growing over your side of the boundary. By rights, anything that you remove should be returned to your neighbour. If possible, try and have a discussion before doing the work. Cutting back a tree and throwing the branches onto the neighbouring land could worsen your relationship.
If a tree is damaging your property, your neighbour will be required to pay the cost of any repairs.
Debris that falls from neighbouring foliage into your garden does not legally constitute a nuisance and so you will need to deal with this yourself.
If your light is being blocked, try and explain to your neighbour how this is affecting you. Invite them to see your property from inside if it is dark so that they can understand the problem. If they are not willing to discuss the situation, you can lodge an official complaint with the local authority. Make sure you tell your neighbours what you propose doing first, to give them a final chance to address the situation.
The rules may seem harsh if you are suffering problems from your neighbour’s trees or hedges and trying to come to some agreement is usually the best option.
Dealing with your neighbours
It is always better to try and reach an amicable solution than to end up fighting a case in court. If you and your neighbours have not been able to agree, then involving a solicitor may help. Negotiating with a legal professional may remove some of the heat from the situation and help those involved see a way through the difficulties.
Overall, try and remain calm and don’t react to a situation without thinking it through. Putting your point of view politely in a letter can be a good way of opening communications.
Mediation can also be a very valuable tool in finding a resolution that is mutually acceptable, particularly when other efforts have failed.
At Quinn Legal, we can advise you of your legal situation in respect of a boundary dispute or other property matter so that you know where you stand. We can also enter into negotiations on your behalf to try and resolve a dispute amicably.