If the conduct of your neighbour is annoying or amounts to a nuisance, you may have a number of legal remedies open to you. These options would not cover minor nuisances but would perhaps cover excessive noise, threatening behaviour, parking a vehicle on your driveway, dumping rubbish on your property, etc. A remedy may be available for any conduct that an innocent and reasonable neighbour should not have to tolerate.
There is a wide variety of behaviour which would come within the legal definition of a nuisance. If the conduct is criminal such as assault or breach of the peace you are entitled to report your neighbour to the Police who may bring charges. In these circumstances your neighbour may plead not guilty to the alleged offence and you may have to go to court as a witness to give evidence.
If the nuisance is not a criminal offence and the Police cannot help, it may still amount to a civil wrong and be dealt with in your local Sheriff Court.
If the nuisance amounts to a civil wrong you may be entitled to apply to the Court for an Interdict. A Solicitor will be able to help you in preparing a document called a writ, which is lodged with the court on your behalf. The writ describes in detail the misconduct of your neighbour. The writ will ask for an order to be granted by the court forcing the neighbour to stop what he or she is doing and to refrain from carrying out such actions again in the future. If the matter is extremely urgent, you may be entitled to ask the court to grant an Interim Interdict which is a temporary order which can be granted within a matter of days of the writ being lodged with the court, but only if there is sufficient evidence available and the order can be justified.
If the misconduct of your neighbour has resulted in you suffering financial losses, your Solicitor can apply to the court for payment of damages or compensation. At the same time your Solicitor can ask the court to pay your legal costs.
The assistance of the local authority’s Environmental Health Officers can be sought to deal with what is known as anti-social behaviour especially if the problem is due to excessive noise, rubbish dumping or concerns about your neighbour keeping animals. If you or your neighbour is a tenant then the landlord, such as the Council, may have the power to force the neighbour to refrain from any future conduct of this type. Under the present law local authorities (i.e. Councils) have the right to seek anti-social behaviour orders against troublesome tenants.It may be possible to stop your neighbour altering or developing their property against your interests by speaking with the local authority’s Planning Department or by asking your Solicitor to check your neighbour’s title deeds. This type of action may also amount to a civil wrong and it may be possible to apply to your local Sheriff Court to stop this kind of action. It may be that your neighbour has to obtain planning permission before carrying out any alterations or extensions to their property and the Council will take into account any valid objections lodged by interested parties in dealing with planning applications.
Legal aid may be available in the form of legal advice and assistance so your solicitor can advise you on neighbour disputes. If court action proves to be necessary civil legal aid can be applied for.
It is always better to try and sort out problems face-to-face with your neighbour if this is practical. If this proves impossible a letter from your Solicitor may resolve matters without the need to involve the court. Anderson Banks & Co are able to offer guidance and assistance in such matters.