Disputes about damages and repairs
If you’re having a dispute with your neighbour about damages or repairs, you can:
- approach your neighbour only if you feel safe to do so
- talk to their landlord if your neighbour is a tenant
- get help from a mediation service
- contact your local authority
- get in touch with your local councillor or MSP
- call the police if your neighbour is breaking the law
- take legal action.
If your neighbour causes damage to your home
The action to take depends on whether the damage was intentional or accidental.
If the damage is intentional
If your neighbour damages your home on purpose, it could be a criminal offence. If you think they intentionally caused damage, you should contact the police even if they say they didn't mean to.
Phone 101 to get advice from a police officer and make a report. If you feel threatened or intimidated, make sure you tell the police this too.
Your landlord can take action on your behalf if you've been the victim of antisocial behaviour.
If the damage is accidental
If your property is damaged accidentally, for example their washing machine has flooded causing damage to your ceiling, there’s action you can take. You can:
submit a claim to your insurance company. If you don’t have insurance or the insurance company decides that the damage isn't covered by the policy, you can ask your neighbour to pay for the repairs
- ask your neighbour to pay for the repairs. If they refuse to pay you can take them to court for damages due to negligence. You’ll only be successful if you can prove that your neighbour didn’t take reasonable care to prevent the accident happening.
If you’re thinking of taking court action you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. An adviser can’t give legal advice, but can give information on how to find legal advice and help you to find out if you’re eligible for legal aid.
If your neighbour's home is rundown or in disrepair
Disrepair can include:
dry rot - this may spread from one property to another
a burst pipe - this may damage neighbouring homes
poor maintenance - this may lower the value of other properties in the immediate area.
The action you can take depends on whether your neighbour is a local authority or housing association tenant, a private tenant, or an owner occupier.
If your neighbour's property is in disrepair, you can:
- speak to your neighbour - backed up by a letter if necessary. Use our template letter [ 130 kb] to guide you. Keep a copy of any letter you send
- contact your neighbour's landlord - if your neighbour is a tenant and speaking to them was unsuccessful
- contact the local authority - they have specific powers to enforce repairs and maintenance of properties in multiple occupation (HMO) and have statutory powers to deal with landlords whose properties don't meet the tolerable standard. For example, when the building is no longer structurally stable or is no longer free from rising or penetrating damp
- contact the building control department - they can issue a statutory notice which means they have to do the repair within a certain time period
- contact the environmental health department - if the complaint is about dirt or waste, or could be damaging to the public’s health.
If the property is empty
If you’re concerned that a privately owned property has been empty for a long time, you can report it to Shelter Scotland's Empty Homes Advice Service.
If you can’t reach an agreement about cleaning and maintaining shared space
There may be facilities shared between two or more properties, for example:
- common stairs
- washing greens
- shared gardens
- the roof of a block of flats.
Check the title deeds for who is responsible for maintaining them and who has rights to use them. If you don’t have your title deeds you can request a copy on the Registers of Scotland website.
When neighbours can't reach an agreement about cleaning and maintenance responsibilities, the local authority environmental health department can help. They can order households to clean the stairs and prosecute if necessary. If communal land, for example, a shared drying green, is causing a problem or a danger, the environmental health department can serve a notice on the owner of the land, requiring them to take steps to maintain the land properly within a certain time. Find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot.
If there's a dispute about common repairs
A common repair is a repair to any parts of a property for which owners share the responsibility to fix and pay for. For example, in tenement flats this will usually include the common stairs, lifts and roof.
Who is responsible for repairs
The title deeds usually state an owner’s responsibility. If you don’t have your title deeds you can request a copy on the Registers of Scotland website.
If there’s nothing in the title deeds then legislation called the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004 has a set of rules that can be used to settle any arguments about who is responsible for which part of the building. The legislation applies to any shared property not just tenements. More information can be found on mygov.scot.
This can be a very complex area of law. A leaflet called 'Common Repair, Common Sense' is available on the Scottish Government's website at www.gov.scot. There is also some useful information on the Under One Roof website.
You can get help from an adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
You may also need extra help from a solicitor or, depending on what repairs are needed, an architect or surveyor. Any professionals that help will need to be paid. In some areas there may be a property factor to help you.