This fact sheet is aimed primarily at people having problems getting the council to deal with anti-social behaviour near their homes and who 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. Councils have a range of powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, such as vandalism and intimidation, and nuisances, such as noise or pollution. If you report an issue like this to the council, it has a duty to consider your report, and decide whether it justifies further investigation and/or enforcement.
If you do not believe it has responded properly to your report(s), you should first make a formal complaint to the council. If you remain dissatisfied after that, we may be able to investigate. Our investigation will look at whether the council has properly considered the evidence about the problems you have reported, and whether it has properly considered what its response should be.
However, by law we cannot investigate how councils have acted in their role as a social landlord. So, if you are complaining about a neighbour who is a council tenant, we can consider how the council has used its general nuisance and anti-social behaviour powers, but not whether it should (for example) evict them for a breach of their tenancy agreement.
You may instead be able to complain to the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) about how the council has considered its powers as a social landlord, but only if you are also a council tenant yourself. Under some circumstances, we have the power to carry out a joint investigation with the HOS, where a complaint is about how a council has used both its general powers, and its powers as a social landlord.
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.
For more information on how to complain, please read our step by step process to making a complaint
If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?
Some of the issues we can look at include the council:
- taking too long to respond to your reports of nuisance or anti-social behaviour
- failing to make reasonable efforts to gather evidence about the problem, such as not visiting your home, or not using recording equipment
- not properly considering the evidence it has gathered
- accepting your neighbours were causing problems but not doing anything to stop them,
- applying conditions you must meet which go beyond what the law says
- not communicating properly about action it would or would not take, orfailing to properly consider all options, including its formal and informal powers.
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 take 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 clear 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 suffered as a result of the council's delay in taking action.
We will not be able to recommend the council moves your neighbours or starts legal action against them.
Examples of complaints we have considered
When they gave the antisocial behaviour officer completed diary sheets, they were told this was not antisocial behaviour. The officer refused to look at the dozens of printouts they offered of abusive social media posts and were told this was for the police. No risk assessment of their vulnerability was done. After receiving further reports about the neighbours, the officer told Mrs X this was a difference in lifestyles.
Mrs X again contacted the Council for help when the neighbours asked others on social media to ‘deal with’ them, posting photographs of them and their house which led to threats. The officer again said this was for the police. After they suffered retaliation for making a report, the police took the neighbour to court for harassment. The court granted a two-year restraining order against the neighbour.
The antisocial behaviour officer finally carried out a risk assessment and decided their risk was low. The assessment said there was no history of intimidation or harassment, and Mrs X did not know the identity of the offender. Mrs X complained the officer failed to ask her these questions. The Council went on to warn the neighbour after a report of loud noise from late parties. It sent diary sheets for Mrs X to complete.
The neighbour moved out of the area two years after Mrs X’s first report.
We found the Council failed to:
• Accept it had a role in this case
• Investigate Mrs X’s reports
• Consider whether this was more than a simply a clash of lifestyles
• Investigate before deciding the neighbours’ acts were not antisocial behaviour
• Investigate whether the noise was a statutory nuisance
• Consider Mrs X’s evidence
• Do a risk assessment promptly and properly, as the one it eventually did had wrong information
To remedy the injustice caused, the council apologised to Mrs X and her partner, paid £300 for the missed opportunity to have their reports properly investigated, along with the lack of support provided, and the time and trouble to which they were put. It also agreed to consider all evidence provided on future cases and review the vulnerability of victims throughout cases.
Mr B complained that the council had not properly considered the evidence of antisocial behaviour and harassment by his neighbours. He sent sound recordings to the Police who found no evidence to corroborate Mr B’s allegations. Mr B then approached the council and it held a mulit-agency panel known as a community trigger review. The panel considered Mr B’s allegations, what had been done so far and what else local bodies could do. As a result of the panel, the council analysed a sample of Mr B’s recordings alongside the Police, in a technical sound facility. The council could hear various background noises such as noise from traffic and birds, as well as noise from Mr B himself, but it could not hear noise from his neighbour. The council met with Mr B to discuss his concerns and then installed its own noise monitoring equipment. However, again, the council officers could not hear the noise Mr B had reported in that time frame.
The council decided that there was no evidence of antisocial behaviour by Mr B and so it could not take any further action. Mr B disagreed with the council’s decision. We found that there was no fault in how the council had reached its decision because it had properly analysed its own evidence and that submitted by Mr B.
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 online at https://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/residents/make-a-complaint
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.