Top 5 Tips for Avoiding a Neighbour Dispute

It is a fact of life that people fall out with each other, particularly so when those people live in close proximity to each other. It is not uncommon for neighbours to fall out over what may seem like a small issue to some, but an issue the matters to the person in question. Whether it is an argument over the position of a boundary fence, an argument over parking or a right of way or a complaint of excessive noise, these arguments can quickly deteriorate into a costly legal exercise.

Tim Watson, a Solicitor in our Dispute Resolution Team, sets out his top 5 tips for avoiding a potentially costly neighbour dispute.

1. Keep a cool head – it is important to remain calm and keep your emotions in check as much as possible. It may be that your neighbour has the ability to wind you up but shouting and screaming is unlikely to help anybody;

2. Keep the diplomatic lines open – this goes hand in hand with the first tip. Communication is key at this stage as to whether a minor issue is resolved amicably or whether it grows into something bigger (and likely more expensive). Talk to your neighbour direct (even if it is via letter, email or text) to see whether the issue can be sorted between yourselves. If it can, it is much more likely that you will maintain an amicable relationship. Remember, you may be living side by side for a number of years;

3. Consider your options – if direct communication has failed, you may need to consider something else. This could be seeking the advice of a solicitor or suggesting to your neighbour to attend a mediation appointment. The latter is almost certainly likely to be cheaper and less likely to result on a full scale falling out. Before going down the legal route, be sure that you are willing to escalate the matter and incur the cost of doing so. If the input of a solicitor is required, pick one with experience of dealing with neighbour disputes as they often require a different approach. Often the key to resolving a neighbour dispute is a practical solution rather than a legal one;

4. Keep an open mind – the difficulty with any dispute but particularly with those involving neighbours is that positions can become entrenched on both sides. This leads to a potential resolution being missed because emotions are running so high and relations so low that either or both parties refuse to budge.

5. Don’t be like these guys – the case of Durden v Aston illustrates the potential issues with going to Court in a neighbour dispute. An argument ensued over the location of the fence separating their respective boundaries. Mr Aston argued it should be moved 3 feet towards Mrs Durden’s property. Mrs Durden disagreed. The case went all the way to the High Court on appeal. The parties reportedly incurred in the region of £140,000 in legal fees. Despite the financial and emotional cost of going through the Court process, the parties agreed at the end of it to leave the fence where it was in the first place.

If you would like to discuss a dispute you are having with your neighbour please email Tim Watson on timwatson@bhrlaw.co.uk or contact him on 01271 340655.

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