How to resolve a neighbour dispute
Approach your neighbour
If you feel comfortable, you should approach your neighbour to discuss the problem. However if your neighbour has acted with threats, violence or harassment you shouldn’t approach them. Instead you should contact your local authority or call the police.
To resolve a dispute you can:
Speak to your neighbour
Describe the problem and the action you’d like to be taken. If appropriate, you should also explain when you’d like them to resolve the problem by and what you’ll do to help.
Think about what you’re asking them to do. The more reasonable you are, the more likely it is that they will take action.
Remember to take a note of the time and date you spoke to them in case you need it for evidence later.
Write them a letter
If you haven’t been able to speak to your neighbour, you could write to them.
Describe the problem and what action you’d like to be taken. If appropriate, you should also explain when you’d like them to resolve the problem by, as well as what you’ll do to help.
Use our template letter [ 130 kb] to guide you. Remember to keep a copy of any letter you send.
Talk to your neighbour’s landlord if they are a tenant
If your neighbour is a tenant you can talk to their landlord. This could be the local authority or a housing association, or a private landlord.
If your neighbour is a local authority or housing association tenant
You should contact a housing officer or the housing department of the local authority or housing association. They could:
- contact your neighbour to help resolve the problem
- take steps to bring the tenancy to an end
- apply to court for an antisocial behaviour order.
If you’re also a social housing tenant, they may be able to rehouse you.
If there's antisocial behaviour
Officials should take reports of antisocial behaviour seriously. To help build your case, you can provide evidence by recording the date and times of the behaviour and the effect it has on you. For example, if you can’t sleep because of loud noise they’re making.
If you think discrimination is involved in a neighbour dispute, make sure your landlord knows. More about discrimination in housing.
If your neighbour is a private tenant
If you don’t know who their landlord is, you can find out by searching the Scottish Landlord Register.
When you write to the landlord, provide evidence of the dates and times of your neighbour’s behaviour and the effect it has on you. For example, if you can’t sleep because of loud noise they’re making.
A private landlord can:
- talk to the tenant about the problem
- take court action against a tenant who is causing the problem
- take steps to bring the tenancy to an end.
If there's antisocial behaviour
Landlords should take reports of antisocial behaviour seriously and take steps to address it.
If the landlord doesn't take action
If you've asked a private landlord to deal with antisocial behaviour in their property and they haven't taken reasonable steps to deal with the problem, you should contact your local authority.
The local authority may then serve an Antisocial Behaviour Notice (ASBN) on the landlord. An ASBN will set out steps that the landlord must take in order to tackle the antisocial behaviour. Find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot.
If the landlord doesn't take the action listed in the ASBN, they may eventually lose their landlord registration.
Get support from a residents' or tenants' association
If there's a residents' or tenants' association where you live, you could get their support. If more people complain, the conflict will be less personal and you’re more likely to be successful. To find your local residents' or tenants' association, contact your local authority. Find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot.
Get help from a mediation service
Mediators are independent and will listen to both sides to help you reach an agreement.
Scottish Mediation can give information about local mediators. Find more information on the Scottish Mediation website.
SACRO provides community mediation services. You can find out if there’s a local service on the SACRO website.
Contact your local authority
The local authority can help to solve disputes between neighbours - even if the neighbours are not living in local authority housing.
If there's antisocial behaviour
Antisocial behaviour is acting in a way that causes or is likely to cause alarm or distress. To be antisocial behaviour, the behaviour must be persistent. Antisocial behaviour can include:
- shouting, swearing and fighting
- intimidation of neighbours and others through threats or violence
- vandalism, property damage and graffiti.
Your local authority will have an antisocial behaviour strategy in place. The actions they can take include taking court action to stop the behaviour. You should contact your local authority antisocial behaviour department. Find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot.
If there's a problem with noise, pollution, rubbish or pests
You can contact your local authority environmental health department if there’s a problem with:
- noise - for example, loud music
- accumulation of rubbish - for example, piles of rubbish in a shared garden
- odours - for example, lack of cleanliness in your neighbour’s home leading to bad smells
- leaks - for example, there’s water coming through the ceiling from the property above
- insects - for example, a wasp nest in your neighbour’s garden.
An environmental health officer will usually contact your neighbour and try to reach a solution. If they agree there’s a statutory nuisance, for example its damaging to your health or disruptive to you, they can serve a notice on your neighbour. This means your neighbour must stop or prevent the problem.
The environmental health department can also enforce action to repair leaks. They can enter properties with a warrant to carry out the necessary work.
If there's a common repairs problem
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 a tenement this will usually include the common stairs, lifts and roof. In cases where one neighbour has refused to cooperate with a common repair, also called a joint maintenance responsibility, you can contact your local authority who may put you in contact with the building control department. Find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot.
After an inspection, the building control department may serve a notice on all owners responsible for that part of the property. This means they must do the repair within a certain time period. Your local authority may only carry out an inspection if they think your property is a danger. The procedure will be different for each local authority.
Some local authorities will also mediate between owners and may help with payments for missing shares. Contact your local authority for more information, use mygov.scot to find their details.
If there's a building work problem
Whether planning permission is needed will depend on the change being made. For example, you might need planning permission to build a conservatory or large extension.
It usually depends on the height of the extension and how close it will come to a boundary. If you think there’s been a breach of planning control, you can contact the local authority planning department. Find contact details for your local authority on mygov.scot.
The local authority can investigate and issue an enforcement notice if your neighbour has carried out building work without permission or is using the land for an unauthorised purpose. An enforcement notice will explain the regulations that have been broken and the steps that must be taken to fix it. This can include removing a structure that was put up without permission.
It can take some time for the planning department to complete their investigation.
PAS, an impartial and confidential planning advice service, may be able to help if you want to object to a planning proposal. There’s more information about this free service on the PAS website.
The Scottish Government has published guidance on householder permitted development rights that can be found on the Scottish Government website .
If the building work is disruptive
Each local authority has recommended times for building work. To find out when building work noise is permitted, contact your local authority, use mygov.scot to find their details.
Contact a local councillor/MSP
You can contact a local councillor or Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) if you haven’t been able to resolve your dispute by speaking to your neighbour or the council. Find out who your MSP is on the Scottish parliament website. Find out who your local councillors are on the UK Government website.
You can use this example letter [ 120 kb] to contact your local councillor or MSP. This letter can be sent in the post or can be attached to an email. Remember to keep a copy of the letter.
It may also be possible to give details of the dispute to the councillors sitting on a relevant committee, for example the planning committee, if there’s been a breach of planning regulations.
Call the police
You can call the police if a criminal offence is being committed. For example, if your neighbour is:
- being violent or harassing you - find out more about the action police can take against antisocial behaviour
- making excessive noise - the police may visit the neighbour or issue fines to people who have failed to stop the noise after being asked to do so, or they may confiscate sound producing equipment.
If you’re not sure what they’re doing is a crime, contact your local council, phone 101 or contact your local police station for advice.
Consult a lawyer
You can send a letter from a solicitor to show that you’re serious about your complaint.
A letter from a solicitor may help to explain the legal position in a dispute, for example where neighbours cannot agree about the position of a boundary.
However, it can be expensive to seek legal advice. Find out more about using a solicitor.
Take legal action
Legal action should be a last resort after you’ve tried speaking to your neighbour and taking action through the council. Going to court may resolve the dispute but damage your relationship with your neighbours. It’s also expensive unless you’re eligible for legal aid or are using the simple procedure.
For example, if you can prove that your neighbour owes you money, you may be able to take court action without using a lawyer if the debt is less than £5,000 by using the simple procedure.
If you’re thinking of taking court action for a neighbour dispute, 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.
You can get help from an adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau.