Neighbour Disputes & Anti-Social Behaviour
Anti-social behaviour is defined in law as ‘conduct that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person’.
The law also defines anti-social behaviour in housing as:
‘conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to a person in relation to [their] occupation of residential premises’
‘conduct capable of causing housing-related nuisance or annoyance to any person’.
Housing-related nuisance or annoyance signifies behaviour that affects a social landlord’s ability to manage their housing.
Noise and other statutory nuisances
An Abatement Notice
This is where steps must be taken to abate the nuisance, prevent it from occurring or prevent it from reoccurring. Anyone that fails to act on an abatement notice without giving good reason can be prosecuted as its a criminal offence.
Owner occupiers and tenants can be served with a notice. However a local authority is unable to serve a notice on themselves, therefore if the problem is a structural defect in a local authority, for example, they may serve an informal notice on their housing department, who in turn will take steps to abate the nuisance.
Ordinary domestic noise such as children playing and talking will not result in any formal action of the local authority, nor will they require improvements to be made to the sound insulation of your property. The courts have said that poor sound insulation cannot make a property ‘prejudicial to health’ under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. There is no prescribed limit at which a noise becomes a statutory nuisance however, the noise must be unreasonable.
Under the Noise Act 1996 local authorities have the power to deal with residential noise that exceeds a certain permitted level between the hours of 11pm and 7am.
Certain local authorities have 24-hour teams who deal with noise complaints, and in some instances the police may respond. Local authorities also have powers to deal with noise arising from building sites and entertainment venues for example pubs and clubs.
Trees and hedges
If a tree is hanging over your property, speak to your neighbour first, requesting they trim it back. If they don't, you are allowed to trim it back yourself (to the boundary line), but you must offer the trimmings back to your neighbour.
You can be fined for cutting back a tree in a conservation area, so seek clarification from your local authority that the tree is not subject to a tree preservation order. Trees in conservation areas are automatically protected.
The Environmental Health team (of the local authority) have powers to deal with trees on private property that are in a dangerous condition.
If you have an issue with the height of a neighbours hedge, you should attempt to discuss this direct, do not attempt to reduce the height yourself. Visit: Over the garden hedge to see the government leaflet explaining the process you must follow before complaining to the local authority. In addition their leaflet hedges: complaining to the council details when local authorities can become involved.
Responsibility for shared amenities
If your property has shared amenities for example drains, pipes, or drives the legal documents of the property should outline your responsibilities in regards to any maintenance or repairs. If the information is not conclusive speak to your neighbours to agree a course of action and to decide how to share expenses. The best course of action is to obtain a surveyor’s report and estimates from a builder for the repairs and to consult and obtain consent from all parties, before any expense is incurred.
Powers of the police
The police have responsibility for dealing with anti-social behaviour that constitutes a criminal offence, such as, vandalism, graffiti or harassment. They also have additional powers under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014:
Community Protection Notices (CPNs)
Power of arrest
Criminal behaviour orders (CBO)
These are made by the criminal courts and used when sentencing someone or discharging them conditionally, as an addition to the sentence or conditional discharge order.
The court must be satisfied, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the person has engaged in behaviour that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another person. They must also be of the view that the order will help in preventing the person from engaging in such behaviour.
Dispersal powers and closure notices
The police have the power to direct people to leave an area for up to 48 hours if their behaviour has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress. They can close premises if they believe it is necessary to prevent the nuisance or disorder from continuing, recurring or occurring.In theses situations a closure notice is issued which can last for up to 48 hours. Once a notice has been issued, an application must be made to a magistrates’ court to obtain a closure order. The application must be heard within 48 hours unless the closure notice has been cancelled. The court can prohibiting access to the premises or part of the premises lasting up to three months.
Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)
PCSOs focus on lower-level crime and are employed by the police. You should approach them if you have questions or concerns about anti-social behaviour. The PCSOs have been given a range of powers, including issuing fixed-penalty tickets and confiscating alcohol which is being consumed in public places.
It is the responsibility of all landlords to take action against anti-social behaviour, but social landlords (local authorities and housing associations) are more likely to act and they have more powers.
Social landlords can apply for injunctions, although non-local authority landlords, such as housing associations, may only apply where the behaviour directly or indirectly relates to, or affects the management of, their housing. Once an injunction is made, the landlord can apply for a warrant for the perpetrator’s arrest in situations where they think a provision has been breached. The court has the power to grant an injunction, which excludes an adult perpetrator from their home providing it is made on the application of a local authority or the social landlord that manages that property.
All social landlords are obliged to publish policies and procedures for dealing with anti-social behaviour under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003. You have the right to inspect a copy of these at reasonable times of the day and also request a copy for a reasonable fee. A summary can be provided free of charge.
A housing officer should investigate the alleged anti-social behaviour and contact the perpetrator before taking appropriate action. If the alleged perpetrator has a vulnerability, like a mental health problem, the housing officer may contact and involve other agencies such as social services.
Private landlords have the power to evict their tenants for behaving antisocially if other steps taken do not resolve the issues. They cannot apply for an injunction, however they can involve the local authority or the police.
In situations where you are at risk of violence or are afraid of retaliation you may decide that moving is the only option available.
If the situation is such that it is no longer reasonable for you to remain in your property, you may be able to make a homelessness application. For example where it is probable that remaining in the property would lead to you or a member of your household experiencing domestic or other violence. This includes threats of violence likely to be carried out. Domestic violence includes psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse.