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. 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 affecting 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.
If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?
Some of the issues we can look at include the council:
- not sending anyone to visit you to find out about the problems
- asking you to fill in diary sheets but then doing nothing with them
- giving you an out-of-hours emergency number but nobody coming out to witness the nuisance
- accepting your neighbours were causing problems but not doing anything to stop them,
- not assessing the level of the noise when you complained
- 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.
Example of a complaint we have considered
Mr and Mrs X complained to the council about their neighbour’s anti-social behaviour which included shouting, banging on walls, playing their television loudly, and singing. They said at least 2 of these took place each day, although there were quiet periods.
While the Noise Team initially tried without success to call Mr and Mrs X on a couple of occasions to discuss their complaint, it then failed to try to contact them in writing for six months. The Noise Team eventually installed noise monitoring equipment in their home, nine months after their initial complaint. Most of this delay was avoidable. It also failed to share the findings of the monitoring with them for 2 months. The Noise Team found no evidence of a statutory nuisance.
Officers from the Anti-Social Behaviour Team visited the neighbours with the police and sent Mr and Mrs X diary logs to complete. There was a period of two months, when it did no work on the complaint. It went on to decide it had no evidence to justify formal action against the neighbours.
The council apologised to Mr and Mrs X for the delays, addressed procedural failings, and agreed to pay them £150 for the avoidable frustration and uncertainty caused.
Other sources of information
Our fact sheet about noise nuisance may also be helpful.
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.