We have seen a number of cases in the news in the last 12 months in relation to neighbour disputes.
At the moment former First Minister, Jack McConnell, is in a bitter dispute with his next-door-neighbour over the ownership and usage of a coal bunker.
Neighbour disputes can take a number of different forms. They can be anything from disputes about mutual fences or walls, to annoying barking dogs or threatening and abusive conduct.
So what can you do legally if you are in a dispute with your neighbour?
If you think there is still a chance that you and your neighbours could discuss the problem and come to a solution, mediation may be the best route. This can be provided by specialised mediators who are often solicitors or other professionals. Scottish Borders Council provides a free neighbour dispute resolution service which can facilitate a successful outcome for all parties.
If is a noise-related problem, you should contact the Environmental Health Department within your Local Authority. You can report matters such as loud music, shouting, door slamming and they will contact your neighbours to discuss the issues at hand. It is also possible to make a report in relation to commercial neighbours if they are, for example, loading lorries during the night or you can hear music from bars and clubs.
If the problem is not just noise related, the best course of action is to speak to a solicitor.
There are two common legal remedies. The first is a remedy called interdict which is a court order that prohibits a neighbour from behaving in a certain way. Interdicts can be used to stop your neighbour from removing a boundary wall, trespassing on your land or blocking your driveway with his car.
If your solicitor thinks an interdict is the right legal remedy, he will most likely ask you to start keeping a log of incidents which have occurred and take pictures if the problem is visual. To be successful in an interdict action, you have to demonstrate to the court that your neighbours’ conduct is persistent and provide as much evidence as possible demonstrating your position.
Another possible option is an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO). Only the police, a local authority or a housing association can ask the court to grant an ASBO.
Much like an interdict, it can be used to stop an individual being in a certain location or acting in a particular manner. It will only be granted where there is a public need for the order and is not for use between two individuals.
If your solicitor thinks an ASBO is the right legal remedy, he will most likely recommend that you report all incidents to the police, local authority or housing association to help them demonstrate to the court that an ASBO is necessary.
At present the UK government is considering introducing a new set of anti-social behaviour orders in England and Wales. This will include a criminal behaviour order, already dubbed the “crimbo”, which would, upon conviction, ban an individual from certain activities or places. Although introducing orders of this type is not being considered by the Scottish Government at present, we may see a legislative change down the line.