NEIGHBOURS can sometimes be a challenge, especially if yours are prone to doing things that you don’t agree with.

They might put up a fence on what you think is your land, build an extension which spoils your view, or install a deck directly overlooking your garden.

But there are occasions where, even if they do something pretty annoying, you can’t do much about it.

Solicitor Vanessa Joll, who specialises in resolving disputes between neighbours, said the main cause of most rows between people living next door to one another was over where property boundaries actually are. 

“I think it’s fair to say that neighbours falling out is common anyway,” she said.

“But one of the key areas of contention is the fact that the land registry doesn’t register the exact position of boundaries between properties.”

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This means that unless there is a specific note on your title deed to say that the position of the boundary is in a particular spot, you are just working from a general position.

“This often leads to disputes because quite often the evidence on the ground suggests the boundaries are in a particular place, or people make assumptions over the years based on what they were told by the person they bought the house from, or a previous neighbour.”

However, there are situations where you simply can’t do much about your neighbour’s decisions. Here are some of them.

When something has already been built

It may be that your neighbour is building an extension which you think impinges on your light or view.

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But the time to object is early, Vanessa said.

“By the time any work has started you are in a really difficult position as a neighbour, because you have to decide whether to apply for an injunction [to stop the work] very quickly,” she said.

“That process alone is very expensive, and it kicks off a very expensive legal process if both parties become involved.

“If you don't do it, and they continue with the building work then it is very difficult to retrospectively get that part of the building changed.”

You might not even have a case, she said.

“You have to spend quite a lot of time and money to even understand where your property boundaries are before you even know whether you are right to challenge any building work.”

When they’re building something legitimately

Under permitted development rights, it’s possible to extend your house by up to four metres at the rear without having to apply for planning permission, or consult your neighbours.

So if your neighbours want to do that, they can.

Similarly, they can put up a fence up, as long as it's on their land, although it would probably be subject to a height restriction, depending on where you live and what your local council's rules are.

But Vanessa’s advice is always to try and talk to your neighbours when you think there might be a potential problem.

“Try to reach an agreement, because whatever that agreement is, even if you're not 100% happy with it, it will always be better and cheaper than having to fight about it later,” she said.

She added that even if an extension has planning permission, that doesn’t mean the planning authority which gave the permission has checked the boundaries of the property.

“That’s a common misconception,” she said.

So it's worth talking to your neighbour and finding out exactly what they are planning, and where, so there aren't any surprises at a later date.

If it’s annoying, but not illegal

You might think you can object to your neighbours putting something in their garden which will cause a nuisance to you.

“Something which comes up a lot at the moment is pizza ovens, because of all the smoke they create,” Vanessa said.

Other examples could include hot tubs, or raising decking which overlooks you.

You could try and take them to court on the grounds that their behaviour affects you negatively.

“Your remedy for that would either be applying for an injunction to have it removed, or claim for damages,” Vanessa said.

“In most cases, damages would be considered an adequate remedy by the court.”

But, she said, it probably isn’t worth pursuing it.

“Quite often the problem is that damages aren't that significant. So actually, the cost of pursuing the claim and what you get back, particularly when you take into account the fact that your costs aren’t recoverable, is not worth it.”

In all these situations, Vanessa’s advice is the same: talk to your neighbour early and try to agree on a solution which suits you both.

“My advice to people in those situations is to be very practical about the whole thing and try and look at measures to abate the nuisance yourself.

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“That might be trying to agree to put in a higher fence, or move the location of the thing that’s causing a problem,” she said.

“I think by the time you are talking to lawyers quite often it's already gone too far.”

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