Resolving a neighbour dispute

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Q. My neighbour has started to run a business from their home, because of this cars are parked outside my house and there is a lot of noise. What are my rights?

A. Your neighbour can run a business from their home but the correct procedures would need to be followed.

Your neighbours’ rights to conduct a business from home may be affected by planning regulations. For example, they may require permission for commercial or office use. Where planning permission is required the neighbours will always be asked for their views.

It is not necessary to have planning permission if the use is merely incidental to the enjoyment of the home. Proving this is a question of fact in each case and will also depend on whether any complaints have been received. If your neighbour is already running a business from their home, you could consult the divisional planning office to see if it has been given planning permission.

Complaints about informal business, such as the neighbour who fixes cars in the evening, are often more difficult to resolve.

Unless there are local parking restrictions giving you a right to a particular parking space, residents do not have an automatic right to the parking space in front of and near their house. If a car is actually parked across your driveway, however, you may legitimately claim right of access.

To try and resolve any issues which may have arisen the following steps can be taken:

Approach the neighbour

A complaint should first be made to the neighbour. If it seems that one or both parties will be unable to keep their temper during such a meeting, it may be advisable to write.

Try mediation

If an initial approach to the neighbour has failed, there may be local mediators who are able to help.

Mediation Northern Ireland

Mediation Northern Ireland is free and confidential. It can put neighbours in touch with a trained mediator in their area. The mediator’s role is to encourage each party to talk freely, explain their point of view, find common ground and come up with an agreed way forward.

Contact the landlord

If the offending neighbour is a tenant and refuses to co-operate when approached directly, it may be appropriate to contact the landlord.

Call the police

The police can be called if it is possible that a criminal offence is being committed.

Contact the environmental health department

In cases where neighbours may be breaching public health or pollution laws, the environmental health department can be approached.

An environmental health officer will usually contact the neighbour and attempt to resolve the matter informally. If this fails, a notice may be served on the neighbour, requiring the abatement of the nuisance. This means they are required to stop, or deal with, the nuisance.

Contact the planning department

The local planning department has the power to investigate if there has been a breach of planning control. The authority can issue an enforcement notice if the neighbour has carried out building work without permission or is using the land for an unauthorised purpose.

Consult a solicitor/take court action

A letter from a solicitor may be helpful in making a neighbour realise that you are serious about your complaint.

Taking court action

Although a particular dispute may be resolved successfully through the courts, the relationship between neighbours may be damaged. It is also an extremely expensive course of action to take unless the complainant is eligible for legal aid.

Moving home

If you really can’t get on with your neighbour, you may think that your only course of action is to move. If you own your home and you move because of neighbour problems, you must not mislead prospective buyers about the problems that you’ve had. A seller has to fill out a form containing standard questions when selling their home. These questions include one about disputes. A buyer can sue a seller who doesn’t disclose a dispute, such as a neighbour dispute.

For further help get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice at www.citizensadvice.co.uk or for further information go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland