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Is being a bad neighbour illegal?

Roof top view of a street.

If real life was like a soap opera, we'd be arguing with our neighbours every five minutes. Thankfully, the reality of living side-by-side is usually a bit more peaceful than Albert Square, but there are still some common habits that could sour relations on your street, and even result in legal trouble.

Unless things turn nasty, the police are unlikely to get involved with these problems, so what should you do? Let's look at some of the top complaints:

Playing loud music

One person's party is another person's sleepless night. If the noise is above a certain level, the local council could step in to investigate and consider issuing an abatement order to make the noise stop. It doesn't have to be music that's causing the noise – anything from loud TVs, barking dogs, noisy hot tubs or late-night DIY could fall foul of the law. According to the Government's website, anyone in breach of a noise abatement order could be fined £5,000, or more if they're a business.

Cutting back overhanging trees

The law allows you to cut back trees and foliage that hangs over into your garden, but be careful – snipping on your neighbour's side of the fence is a no-no. If a tree has a preservation order, you shouldn't cut it at all. Don't be tempted to dump your trimmings over the fence either, as you could be charged with fly-tipping. If a tree is causing serious problems, such as damaging drains and foundations or causing a hazard, you could get help from your local Environmental Health Officer or a lawyer.

Security cameras and lighting

Your neighbour might choose to invest in a top-notch home security system, the only downside being it makes you feel like you're living next to Fort Knox. Glaring lights and CCTV cameras overlooking your home are an intrusion on your privacy and could constitute harassment or fall foul of the Human Rights Act. Seek legal help if your neighbour refuses to turn cameras and adjust automatic lighting.

Inconsiderate parking

Neighbours (or anyone else, for that matter) shouldn't park in front of the entrance to a driveway, as this is in breach of the Highway Code. However, it's not a criminal offence, but you could be committing one if you block in or damage a car that trespasses on your driveway. There's not much you can do if a neighbour chooses to park on the road space right outside your property, as the road doesn't belong to you.

Piggybacking on a neighbour's wifi connection

Using someone else's internet connection without permission is known as 'piggybacking' and is against the law. Unless you know and trust your neighbour, you shouldn't share your wifi passwords with them – you could be held liable for any illegal content they download or share using the connection.

If you've got a problem with noisy neighbours, Citizen's Advice has some good tips on the steps you can take to solve the problem, from talking to your neighbour and keeping records to escalating it to a landlord or local council.

Your home is your sanctuary and we want it to stay that way. If you need home insurance you can trust, get an online home insurance quote today.


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