As reported recently in the national media, an independent study by the national law firm, Stephensons, has found that neighbour disputes are on the rise across the UK, with summer 2015 expected to be the worst on record.
Stephensons has seen a 145 per cent rise in the number of neighbour dispute cases over the past four years and the summer period is the busiest time, accounting for nearly half (45 per cent) of Stephensons’ annual cases. Last year, throughout the summer period, Stephensons was dealing with a new case of neighbour dispute each day.
Warmer weather over the summer months means that most of us are spending more time outdoors. Smoke and noise from barbeques, noisy children, barking dogs, lawn mowers and hedge strimmers all contribute to a deterioration in relationships between neighbours. Grievances which might have simmered behind closed doors through the autumn and winter, including overhanging trees, rogue parking, noise complaints, boundary disputes and trespass are more likely to boil over between June and September than at any other time of year.
Andrew Leakey, Head of Dispute resolution at Stephensons, said: “Over the summer period we see, on average, one new neighbour dispute per day. These can be sparked from the most miniscule of things, such as someone blocking a neighbour’s driveway or leaving their recycling bins on the curb for too long. There are of course many serous cases of harassment and often even violence occurring between neighbours.
"However, you really don’t want to be in a neighbour dispute unless you really have to. If you can, it’s best to resolve things peacefully and quickly with your neighbour. It’s worth trying everything and anything to resolve the issues out of court.
"Not only can the legal fees in such cases amount to tens and even hundreds of thousands. But there is an emotional cost as well. You have to live next to your neighbour whilst fighting them in court. It’s a long road, many years in some cases. I have seen the negative effect on people’s health over and over again”.
Andrew Roberts, a retired officer in Her Majesty’s Coast Guard, is a former Stephensons client, and knows first-hand the stress and strain a neighbour dispute can create:
“Before our neighbour even moved in, we were receiving quite aggressive emails about the boundary and when she moved in, she said that we had altered the boundary since we moved in and in-between her viewing and her purchasing. Eventually we stopped answering the emails – it seemed that whatever we did we were unable to reason with her.
“Then when had a letter from her solicitor saying that they were going to issue proceedings for trespass against us and also, without further reference to us, a fence was going to be erected which was going to annex a large chunk of our land. We were absolutely furious and couldn’t understand how this was possible.
“Two weeks later, at 8am in the morning we heard the sound of a chainsaw. We went outside, and a fence panel had been removed and our mature oak tree was being chopped down. Our neighbour was standing close to the workmen, cheering from the sidelines and waving a copy of the letter we had received.
“After a lot of confrontation and angry words, we called the police who managed to diffuse the situation to a certain extent.
Andrew Roberts - Watch Andrew's comments on our YouTube channel - My experience Andrew Roberts
“The challenge now was to get a fixed boundary that would suit her, suit us and from there we actually went onto appointing a chartered surveyor. Next door appointed their own chartered surveyor, and extensive plans were draw up, reports were made and what was incredible was they both found her claims were completely unfounded. So it was decided that the chartered surveyors meet up, hands were shaken - ‘this is how it is going to be’.
“But, four weeks later, our neighbour told us, quite categorically, that she didn’t like the new agreement and was ‘tearing it up’. She still insisted it was ‘her land’.
“It was at that point we sought legal advice, which is how the issue came to finally be resolved.
“We received a letter saying ‘I have advised my client to settle’, and the settlement was that the boundary would be as it was when we moved here, as it was when next door moved here. On top of that, as a little bonus to myself, there was compensation for my tree and next door will also have to pay a high proportion of the legal costs that had been incurred.
“It’s very difficult for anybody who hasn’t been involved in a boundary dispute to actually realise the stress and distress that it causes. A neighbour dispute, as we experienced, can take over the life of even the most laid-back, rational sort of person.
“It is all-consuming and you spend all your time talking about it, feeling anxious and worrying about what might come next.”
Stephensons is a national, full service law firm, dealing with hundreds of cases of neighbour disputes each year. Stephensons is one of the few law firms dealing with such a considerable volume of neighbour disputes and is considered a specialist in this field.
For further information, please contact Robert Davies, on 01942 774026 or Robert.Davies@Stephensons.co.uk