Neighbour nuisance and anti-social behaviour

This fact sheet is aimed primarily at people who are having problems getting the council to deal with anti-social behaviour near their homes and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

My neighbours are causing me problems with anti-social behaviour, and the council doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it. Can the Ombudsman help me?

In many cases, yes. But if your neighbours are tenants of a social landlord (such as a council or a housing association) you should consider complaining to the landlord first and then, if the problem is not resolved, to the Housing Ombudsman Service. If your neighbours are not social housing tenants and you make a complaint to the council we can look at how the council responded to your reports of problems. Where complaints involve the actions of both the social landlord and the local authority, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and the Housing Ombudsman may decide to carry out a joint investigation 

Councils have duties to investigate excessive noise, anti-social behaviour, intimidation, drunkenness and petty vandalism that affect local communities, and they have powers to take action against people if their behaviour is unacceptable. 

We consider whether the council has done something wrong in the way it went about dealing with your complaints about your neighbours and whether this has caused you problems.

How do I complain? 

You should normally complain to the council first. This doesn’t just mean telling council staff about what your neighbours are doing. It means making a formal complaint about the council not taking any action even though you have asked for help. It is important to keep a note of each time you contact the council telling it about your neighbours' behaviour.

Councils often have more than one stage in their complaints procedure and you will usually have to complete all stages before we will look at your complaint.

Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter – we think 12 weeks is reasonable – you can complain to us. 

You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that the council has done something wrong.

To complain to the Ombudsman phone our helpline on 0300 061 0614 (8.30am to 5.00pm, Mondays to Fridays). You will be able to discuss your complaint with one of our advisers. You can text us on 0762 481 1595.

You can complete an online complaint form.

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for? 

Some of the issues we can look at include that the council: 

  • didn’t send anyone to visit you to find out about the problems
  • asked you to fill in diary sheets but then did nothing with them
  • gave you an out-of-hours emergency number but nobody came out to witness the nuisance
  • accepted that your neighbours were causing problems but didn't do anything to stop them, or 
  • didn't assess the level of the noise when you complained.

What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault? 

We can recommend that the council investigates the issues you are complaining about and takes action if necessary. This might involve: measuring the noise level, carrying out a proper investigation of your complaints, or reconsidering whether legal action should be taken against your neighbours.  

We can ask the council to review its practices and procedures if it is apparent that they were not followed properly. 

In some cases we might ask the council to make you a payment for the additional distress and frustration you have suffered as a result of the council's delay in taking action. 

We will not be able to recommend that the council moves your neighbours or starts legal action against them.

Example of a complaint we have considered

On a private housing estate, new neighbours moved next door to Mrs X and she began complaining to the council about noise from their property. She made regular complaints for over four months. The council failed to meet with Mrs X, and failed to take action based on Mrs X's complaints. Mrs X then sent the council details of other neighbours who had complained, but the council did not interview them for another four months. The council had procedures for dealing with such complaints, but failed to follow them. After we became involved the council agreed to pay Mrs X £200 for the delays in dealing with her complaints, to review the way it logs and monitors such complaints, and to arrange training for staff.

Other sources of information

Our fact sheet about noise nuisance may also be helpful.

You can contact the Housing Ombudsman Service at www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/ by telephone on 0300 111 3000, or by email at info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk

The Citizens Advice website explains the options you have to pursue a neighbour nuisance complaint: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/problems-where-you-live/neighbour-disputes

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman provides a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result the Ombudsman aims to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

March 2013 

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