Dealing with difficult neighbours

Dealing with difficult neighbours

Disputes with a neighbour can have a serious impact on your everyday life and cause significant stress. Disagreements occur from time to time over a wide range of issues, from where cars are parked, dividing fences and boundary issues, overhanging trees, excessive smoke, water run-off, noisy dogs or parties (or both), and various other nuisances. When disputes are not resolved in an amicable manner at an early stage, they can lead to ongoing tension and escalation in the dispute.  

Whilst taking legal action should always be a last resort as it may escalate the problem, getting some legal advice is often a practical first step. Once you know where you stand it is always best to see if the problem can then be resolved with your neighbour in a friendly manner. Actually talking to your neighbour first to try to sort out a dispute is a good first stepand it is surprising how many people have not taken that step before commencing a legal action.


As a general proposition the occupier (owner or tenant) of a property has a right to refuse to let people come onto his or her property (save for certain exemptions such as Police, government or council officers in particular circumstances), and can ask anyone who is already on the property to leave. If someone refuses to leave after they are asked to (and they do not have a lawful reason to stay), they are then trespassing. This can be reported to the Police.


As a general proposition the law also protects your right to quietly enjoy your property. This includes enjoyment without undue interference from a neighbour. Examples of interference may include permitting overhanging tree branches to interfere with your property, causing air or noise pollution, or allowing excessive water run-off onto your property. Where aninterference is so bad that it causes damage to the property, injury to health or badly affects your quality of life, you may be able to apply to court for an order in relation to the matter,and you may also be entitled to compensation.

Where to get help

Where to take your complaint will depend on the type of issue. For example, if you have concerns for your own or another person’s safety then it may be appropriate to contact the Police and/or seek a restraining order through the courts. Whereas if it is a noisy dog that barks when the neighbour goes out, then it may be more appropriate to contact your local government Ranger department.

Finally, if you have read this far and think that you need some practical advice or assistance in relation to your situation, then now is probably the time to get in touch. Austral Legal can help and we offer an initial discounted 30-minute SmartMove appointment for $80 by phone or in person at our office. Bookings can be made online through our website or simply by phoning our office on 08 9745 9550. Once we have a handle on what is required, we may well be able to offer a fixed fee for any further legal services, giving you cost certainty from the start. Austral Legal. Practical advice.