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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Don't count your retirement money yet: employers will stop receiving a pension rebate next year and their staff may lose out

Defined-benefit pension schemes: Rebate change in 2016 may leave you out of pocket

Employees in defined-benefit schemes are held up as the lucky ones, but the state pension scheme will be overhauled in April 2016
Labour will raise the national minimum wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019 (EPA)

Barclays new Blue Rewards hands cash to customers. What’s the catch?

Joining Barclays Blue Rewards costs £3 a month but then lets customers in for handouts of up to £15 a month

New research reveals that despite the recovering economy, four out of five low-income households have seen no sign of their financial situation improving

Hard-up families could be eligible for financial help

A charity is urging anyone struggling financially to see if they could get help from the state

When is the best time to buy foreign currency?

Video: With an election looming, a hung parliament could hit sterling

General Election 2015: Vote for the party that will boost your finances

Experts warn that the general election is unlikely to lead to stable markets. Simon Read talks to two investment managers who are advising caution

Make the most of your money in 2015-16: The end of the tax year is the beginning of the next...

The new tax year brings with it a raft of new rules and regulations

General Election 2015: Will pension reform be a major factor?

Video: Tom McPhail, head of pensions at Hargreaves Lansdown, says May's outcome could alter your pension

General election 2015: David Cameron's promise brings uncertainty to investors

Video: Simon Read talks to Fidelity's Tom Stevenson

Have you won one of the £1m Premium Bonds' jackpots?

Video: The Independent's Personal Finance Editor runs you through the key facts about Premium Bonds

Give me the money: but not all providers are ready for transfers to Junior Isas

Parents will be able to switch dormant child trust funds to more competitive Junior Isa

Millions of dormant junior savings accounts were yesterday given the go-ahead to swap to better deals as the Government agreed to allow switching. Samantha Downes reports
Hard labour: a woman bears the load in a factory. But equal treatment is causing pension problems

Women to lose benefits from contracted-out pension scheme

Workers were promised that the state would pay inflation increases on parts of their pensions. But now the DWP disagrees
The Budget, says one critic, should have done more to encourage construction of affordable homes

Help for buyers but where are the homes?

A vote-winning Budget promised less tax, greater savings flexibility, and government handouts for first-time housebuyers
  • Get to the point
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

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

    £50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

    £13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

    Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own