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Why Christmas isn't always the season of goodwill among neighbours

View profile for Joanne Ellis
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Why Christmas isnt always the season of goodwill among neighbours

The Christmas and New Year period is meant to be the season of peace and goodwill, but for many warring neighbours, it can be anything but. Data from 2022 suggests that 60% of people have experienced a dispute with a neighbour or felt negatively towards them. Neighbourly relations can often be tested at specific points throughout the year, with the summer holidays and Christmas widely seen as significant pinch points.

The glare of next door’s Christmas lights waking you up at night, raucous Christmas and New Year parties, or problems with parking are all increasingly common during the festive period. Whilst most of us might be able to put up with some temporary disturbance, in extreme cases, there is the potential that a common law private nuisance has been created. Here are my tips on how to avoid Christmas fallouts and what to do if tensions overspill. 

Christmas lights

Whilst many of us will appreciate some twinkling Christmas lights, if you have a neighbour whose Christmas display would rival Blackpool Illuminations, it can cause some tension. The most common problems with Christmas lights are them being switched on long into the evening or all night. If your neighbour is consistently leaving the lights on beyond a reasonable time, then that could possibly constitute a nuisance.

The important thing to remember is that a court will assess the nuisance according to its effect on a reasonable rather than hypersensitive claimant. Cases in the court can also be very expensive and costly, so if you feel comfortable doing so, a good first step is to raise your concerns, calmly, with your neighbour directly. It may be that they can make a small adjustment that would fix the problem and allow you to enjoy the festivities.

Decorations which stray onto your land

If a neighbour’s lights or Christmas decorations have managed to find their way onto your property, so long as you don’t damage the item, you are entitled to simply return the object back. Be cautious though, this sort of activity has the potential to begin a boundary dispute that ought to be avoided at all costs.

If your neighbour owns their property it could be worth checking if there are any covenants that may assist you. It is not uncommon to have mutually beneficial restrictive covenants that ensure quiet enjoyment or prevent any activity that is a ‘nuisance or annoyance’. Most of this information would be available through the Land Registry.

If your neighbour rents their property, you can also try approaching their landlord who may or may not be able to assist. This largely would depend on the terms of their agreement and how serious they consider your concerns to be.

What else should you consider?

If at all possible, try and avoid an argument with your neighbour. If you can reach an agreement, do so, even if it is not the ideal outcome you were hoping for.

If you are being troubled by noise, keep a detailed log of the incidents, this should include dates and times. If the problem is visible, like lights glaring through your windows, try to record it in photographs or videos. If you are trying to establish a legal case based on noise or light nuisance, the court will expect you to have evidence of the level of disturbance being caused.

Finally, if you can’t face approaching your neighbour directly, consider a third party mediator. This could be another neighbour for instance. Some local authorities have a neighbour dispute/mediation service where an independent person would be able to help you reach an agreement.