One in three homeowners in Britain have argued with a neighbour after they made changes to their property without consulting them.
New research has discovered that homeowners do not understand their rights regarding objecting unwanted development of their neighbours’ house, causing thousands of disagreements every year.
The most common issues that neighbours bicker about are removing or repairing fences at 37%, boundary disputes at 33%, chopping down trees at 30% and building an extension at 18%.
10% have also argued with their neighbours about painting the outside of their property, similar to Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring from Kensington, London, who painted red stripes on her house, upsetting her neighbours.
Despite 81% stating they are not fully aware of their legal rights to object changes, just under half said they would want to complain to their council and one in ten would want to take legal action if they weren’t consulted about a change to their neighbours’ home.
Property law specialists, Slater and Gordon, conducted the survey of 2,000 homeowners, revealing the confusion surrounding how and when to consult with neighbours over planned changes and what people should do if they oppose changes.
One in ten property owners said they would not consult their neighbour before making a change.
48% of homeowners are put off confronting their neighbours because of complex property language and over half (54%) said they would not be confident about the legal process involved in challenging their neighbours.
Additionally, 47% of respondents said they would not know who to speak to if they weren’t happy with a change.
Head of Residential Property at Slater and Gordon, Samantha Blackburn, says: “I’m not surprised that so many people don’t know what to do if they are unhappy about changes their neighbours are making to their home.
“It’s always preferable to be able to resolve minor issues, such as replacing a fence or cutting down a tree, informally.
“However, when it comes to major changes to a neighbouring home, or disputes over boundaries, it may be necessary to contact your local authority and in some cases take legal advice.”
The study also found that 19% of homeowners would expect their neighbour to consult with them over a new garden structure, such as a shed, play house or tree house. Three in five expected their neighbour to notify them over plants that grow across the boundary between houses.
Homeowners are extremely concerned about their neighbours’ building plans blocking the light into their homes and gardens, with two thirds saying that their main concern is a neighbour’s extension blocking their light.
Five in eight would expect their neighbour to consult with them over any issue that could affect their boundary, such as a fence.
Furthermore, 43% said they would want to discuss access rights to their property and 40% said the noise and mess of builders causes concern.
Getting along with neighbours is a priority for most people, as 94% said they want a good relationship with the people next door.
However, just a quarter said they would consider their neighbour a friend.
Blackburn continues: “The best way to resolve issues between neighbours is to try to avoid having them in the first place so I always advise my clients to be friendly and respectful towards their neighbours.
“Of course in some cases, such as with fences, overhanging trees, shared gardens or rights of access, homeowners will need to speak to one another about how to rectify certain problems.
“In my experience as a property lawyer, I have found the best way forward in these situations is to keep the channels of communication open. However, if neighbours cannot agree on how to resolve these issues it may be necessary to take legal advice.
“Many homeowners still don’t know much about their rights when it comes to opposing local development or even their neighbours’ plans to add to or alter their homes.”
She urges: “I would advise anyone concerned about any of these issues to contact their local authority in the first instance and ask for advice from a planning perspective.
“Often it’s as simple as lodging your opposition and outlining the reasons for this. It won’t always stop the change, but you can take the opportunity to ask your local authority for further information about what is planned, timescales and whether the change will be discussed at an upcoming council meeting.
“I would also advise that they liaise with their lawyer who should be able to do some research and look at the title to the neighbouring property and see if there is anything in those title documents that means the proposed alteration needed consent from anyone before it took place.”1
The top ten reasons for arguing with a neighbour:
- Repair or removal of a fence
- Boundary dispute
- Chopping down trees or shrubs
- An extension or change that would block out light
- Access rights to the property
- Noisy and/or messy builders
- A built structure in the garden
- A change that the neighbour makes that could lower the value of your property
- Painting the outside of the home
- Putting in a new driveway