When hell is next door

Edmund Tirbutt on how to cover your costs in rows with the neighbours

Summer can bring out the worst in people. The more time spent in the garden the more likely people are to find fault with their neighbours - and not just from smoky barbecues, noisy pets and raucous parties.

The area is riddled with complex minor laws that define your rights. If, for example, you are irritated by an overhanging tree, legally you have the right to trim back branches crossing your boundary line - as long as you don't damage the tree itself - but you must return any trimmings.

A bonfire can create a legal nuisance by being smoky or smelly and, if it becomes dangerous, a neighbour has the right to come on to your property to control it. In some cases bonfires are even prohibited by clauses in the title deeds of properties or local bye-laws.

By contrast, if you are not the legal owner of a boundary fence you have no right to use it without permission. Entry on to your neighbour's land in an attempt to repair it could even amount to trespassing.

Not all neighbourly disputes are resolved amicably, and an increasing number are ending up in court. One way of safeguarding against the cost of such litigation is to take out a legal expenses add-on to your household contents insurance.

Typically available for pounds 10 to pounds 20 a year, this will pay your legal costs for the majority of disputes, as long as the insurer feels you have a good chance of winning the case. It will not, however, cover you for cases the insurer thinks you will lose or for disputes that were in existence before you took out cover. Having this insurance can take much of the worry out of any case by handling the paperwork and appointing a solicitor.

Many insurers now offer customers free legal helplines. These are staffed by qualified lawyers, are available 24 hours a day, and are normally av ailable to anyone with legal expenses insurance, and in some cases to other policyholders. Helpline lawyers can't pursue a case for you but they can clarify your position and recommend alternatives.

If, for example, a vehicle is consistently blocking access to your driveway, the helpline may give you legal chapter and verse on the powers of the police or local authority to remove it under the 1984 Road Traffic Regulations Act. Similarly if you have noisy neighbours, you might be advised to ask your council to measure the noise level. Since last month, under the 1996 Noise Act, local authorities have greater powers to curb excessive night-time noise.

Some firms of solicitors offer a free initial meeting to provide similar advice. Nevertheless, helplines appeal on grounds of convenience, and some people may prefer to talk over the phone than in the formal atmosphere of a solicitor's office.

Litigation is less likely to be necessary when disputes between neighbours involve damage to property - rather than mere nuisance - because compensation may be available via insurance.

Buildings insurance policies normally cover damage to policyholders' driveways, boundary fences, windows and outbuildings, such as garages, greenhouses and sheds. Contents policies also normally include "public liability" cover of up to pounds lm against causing damage to other people's property through negligence. Whether or not the offending party is found to be negligent will depend on whether they are thought to have taken reasonable precautions against an incident occurring. For example, a homeowner who finds his window broken as a result of a cricket ball being hit by a child from the next door garden is likely to have to make a claim on his own buildings policy. The child, or his parents, are unlikely to be considered negligent unless such an incident had happened many times before.

If someone has his garage burnt down as a result of a neighbour holding a barbecue, it is more than likely that the neighbour would be considered negligent. In which case the claim is likely to be paid under the neighbour's policy. The key is to ensure you have both buildings and contents insurance. If you do you should be covered whether you are the instigator of, or sufferer from, any damage.

Any arguing about which neighbour's policy a claim should be made on will normally be confined to the insurers. The disadvantage of having a claim made against your policy rather than that of your neighbour's is that you will lose your no-claims bonus. The one area where some policyholders might find they are not covered is with furniture and machinery left in the garden or stored in outbuildings. These are covered under some contents policies but not all.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Suggested Topics
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal

I had dinner with the pensions minister Steve Webb this week. There was a wide-ranging discussion about the new pensions freedoms starting in April, and changes to the state pension. Crucially, I also got to ask Mr Webb whether he had any plans to have another look at the injustice that is frozen pensions.

Number of serially under-performing investment funds has increased by a fifth, survey reveals

The new Spot the Dog survey shows that even famous fund managers, holding billions of pounds of our money, can make mistakes

Mark Dampier: We always bring down Britain. But there's plenty in the tank

While the health of the economy is not insignificant, Mark Dampier finds it incredibly unpredictable in terms of its impact on the stock market

If you haven’t switched supplier or tariff in the last 12 months then you could almost certainly save money by doing so

There are easier ways to save hundreds on your energy bills

A new free app is aimed at the three-fifths of Brits who have never switched supplier

Worse hit are loyal customers with long-standing accounts – their loyalty is rewarded with lower interest rates than more recently-launched accounts

Savers are being let down by banks and building societies, says Financial Conduct Authority

Regulator’s investigation into the market found that around £160bn was held in easy access savings accounts that pay interest lower or equal to BoE base rate

What to do if you're facing repossession: However far you fall, you're not on your own

Helen Fisher had to become a 24-hour carer, and then she faced repossession. But going to the right places for help changed everything, writes Simon Read

Simon Read: Information is power. And it's in the wrong hands when people are cold-called by companies that know they're in debt

In debt? You're likely to be targeted by unscrupulous companies that hope to profit from your misfortune. They may try to pretend to be your friend by offering what they call "help" – but almost certainly that help will come with a cost and leave you worse off than you were before they got in touch.

Mark Dampier: So you've got pension freedom... will it end up as a cold shower?

In less than three months' time radical changes to pensions will take effect, providing investors with more freedom. Yet for those who prefer to make their own investment decisions, the choice of funds available is overwhelming. And an income drawdown account is also not particularly easy to manage.

The move marks the culmination of a long campaign by debt charities and insolvency firms and follows a call for evidence launched by the Minister last August

Bankruptcy rules to change, Business Minister announces

The minimum amount for which you can be forced into bankruptcy is being raised from £750 to £5,000

Three-quarters of parents say being unable to afford to heat their home adequately is hitting the health of their children

Family well-being and health hit by heating costs

A shock report reveals that fuel poverty is affecting desperate families – and their children

Many people have no understanding of pensions

Are you ready for pensions reforms?

Most people are too confused to know how to use their pensions for a secure income

At a rate of 7.5 per cent, the wind is blowing behind ethical investors

A new initiative has financial and ethical virtues, says Simon Read
Ticket to cry: many passengers have been penalised with exorbitant and unnecessary rises

Simon Read: Inflation is riding the slow train. So why have we been given a one-way ticket to travel on the fares express?

I struck a chord with many of you when I wrote a piece earlier this week about rising train fares. It seems there is an army of travellers who feel they've been ripped off by increased transport costs.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

    £16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...

    Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

    £30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

    Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

    Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

    £25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

    Day In a Page

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century