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Neighbour disputes - Is it 'wheelie' worth it?

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In December 2013, a neighbour dispute escalated to the Royal Courts of Justice in relation to a wheelie bin and whether it should be allowed to be positioned on a shared driveway.

This somewhat bizarre case arose when Mr Ali (the Defendant) was taken to Court by his next-door neighbour, Mr Suleman, as Mr Ali continually blocked a shared right of way with his wheelie bin.

A right of way can de described as a ‘legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another’.

The Court found that neither party should leave their bins on the shared driveway. Additionally, no damages were awarded. However, the Court found that Mr Ali should pay Mr Suleman’s legal fees. The legal fees were initially £36,000 before an agreement on costs was reached at the figure of £15,733.

Mr Ali himself acknowledges that the dispute was “really unbelievable” and “absurd”, which begs the question as to why he insisted on blocking the shared right of way with his wheelie bin?

This case serves as a reminder of the financial implications of taking a neighbour dispute to Court, but it also highlights the Court’s approach when a neighbour blocks a right of way.

This case also acts as an example of the Court’s approach to proportionality. Although it may be frustrating that a neighbour behaves in an unreasonable manner, the law may not always have an answer to your dispute. By entering into litigation you are also putting yourself at risk of a large cost liability should you not be successful with your action. Before issuing a claim against your neighbour, legal advice should always be sought to consider the strengths of your case.

After the trial, Mr Ali spoke with journalists outside the Court. When asked if he could afford to pay his neighbour’s legal fees, Mr Ali admitted that he would probably have to re-mortgage his home. Unfortunately, this is one of the stark realities of entering into lengthy litigation with your neighbour.

By Andrew Whitehead, graduate paralegal in the neighbour disputes team