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Neighbours - common problems

Neighbours - common problems

I have a problem with my neighbour. What should I do?

It is always best to see if you can work out any problems with your neighbours in a friendly way. Legal action against neighbours can cause bad relationships that cannot be repaired. Legal action should be a last resort, once all other options have been tried.

You should also get legal advice about the rights and responsibilities of both you and your neighbour.

Where can I get help to resolve any dispute?

There are mediation services that can help neighbours reach an agreement when there is a dispute. For information on these go to Mediation and dispute resolution.

What if I want to make a complaint about a public housing tenant because of disruptive behaviour?

The Department of Housing WA has set up a Disruptive Behaviour Reporting Line to report instances of disruptive behaviour in public housing. It can be reached on 1300 597 076. An online complaints line is also available. For more information on how complaints are dealt with visit the Department of Housing website.

Can I refuse to let my neighbour enter my property?

As the occupier (owner or tenant) of property, you have certain rights including the right to quiet enjoyment of your land.

Certain people are allowed by law to come on to your land (such as the owner, certain government or council officers etc). Apart from them, you can refuse to let people come on to your property, and you can ask any person who is already on your property to leave. If someone refuses to leave after you have asked them to, you may call the police.

What is a nuisance?

You are entitled to enjoy your property without interference from a neighbour. The law protects your rights to enjoy your land.

A private nuisance is where someone stops your use or enjoyment of your land or any rights you have linked to your land. It can include overhanging tree branches, air and noise pollution, and water run off from a neighbouring property.

What are my legal rights about a nuisance?

If interference is so bad that it causes damage to property, injury to health or badly affects your quality of life, you may be able to apply to court for an order making the neighbour stop. You can ask for compensation (damages). As the law in this area can be complicated and court actions can be expensive, get legal advice before starting legal action to see whether you have a good case and what damages you could claim. If you have a problem, talk to your neighbour to try to sort it out.

What can I do if smoke from my neighbour's property is a problem for me?

Smoke can be annoying and cause damage to property. It may also affect your health. Slow combustion wood heaters, garden incinerators and barbecues are usually the causes of problem smoke.

If you are finding smoke is a problem, speak to your neighbour as they may be unaware they are "smoking you out". If this doesn't solve the problem, you can complain to your local government.

Some local governments have a total ban on backyard burning of waste. Contact your local government to see if this applies in your area.

On total fire ban days it is against the law to:

  • light, maintain or use a fire in the open air, or
  • carry out an activity in the open air that causes, or is likely to cause, a fire.

You can view or download a factsheet on Total Fire Bans on the Department of Fire and Emergency Services  (DFES) website.

In some cases an exemption may be granted if it can be shown that proper steps can be taken to prevent any fire spreading and that any fire that might start can be controlled and put out. This needs to be applied for in advance.

The state government or local government may also declare other times when it is illegal to light fires in certain areas.

Contact DFES or your local government to find out about fire restrictions in your area. Any breaches should be reported to the police or your local government.

Visit the Department of Local Government and Communities for information on how to contact your local government.

What if I have a problem with animals kept by my neighbour?

Each local government has its own rules about keeping animals on residential properties. These rules are made under the Health Act 1911 (WA). Check with your local government about regulations that apply in your area. Talk to your neighbour to try to sort the problem out.

What if I have a problem with a neighbourhood dog?

See Noise problems for information on barking dogs or Responsibilities of cat and cat owners for information about dog attacks and the keeping and control of dogs.

I have noisy neighbours. What can I do?

For information see Noise problems.

What if I have a problem with where a neighbour's car or bike is parked?

Individual local governments may have rules that deal with the following issues:

  • vehicles that are incorrectly parked, noisy or starting up either early in the morning or late at night
  • vehicles parked on council verges and obscuring vision
  • work vehicles such as trucks parked in residential areas.

If you have a vehicle problem that you cannot resolve with your neighbour you can contact your local government to see if they can assist.

I have a potential problem with water run off from my property to my neighbour's property. What are my responsibilities?

You must make sure that water (other than natural run-off) is kept on your own property.

If a tap is left running, a pipe bursts or brick paving areas cause high run-off, you could be held responsible for the loss or damage to your neighbour. Claims for water damage may be covered by your home insurance policy.

If a sprinkler causes annoyance it is best to try to resolve the problem by discussion or mediation.

I have a problem with water run off from my neighbour's property. What are my rights?

Your neighbour too has an obligation to ensure water (other than natural run-off) is contained on their property. They may be liable for any financial loss or damage as indicated under the previous heading. Talk to your neighbour first as they may not be aware of the problem.

What if I have a problem about a boundary issue?

If you have a problem about a boundary issue such as:

  • a dividing fence
  • a retaining wall
  • a neighbour's building or extension, or
  • a neighbour's overhanging trees or intruding roots

see Dividing fences and other boundary issues.

Where can I get more information?

Last reviewed: 06/03/2013

Last modified: 5/11/2015 3:54 PM


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.