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This fact sheet is intended primarily for people who are having difficulty getting the council to deal with anti-social behavior near their homes and are considering filing a complaint with the Ombudsman.

My neighbors are causing me problems with anti-social behavior, and the council appears to be doing nothing to address it. Can the Ombudsman assist me?

Yes, in many cases. Councils have a wide range of powers to deal with anti-social behavior like vandalism and intimidation, as well as nuisances like noise and pollution. If you report an issue like this to the council, it is required to investigate it and decide whether it warrants further investigation and/or enforcement.  

If you believe it has not properly responded to your report(s), you should first file a formal complaint with the council. If you are still dissatisfied after that, we may be able to look into it. Our investigation will look into whether the council properly considered the evidence regarding the problems you have reported, as well as what its response should be.

However, we are not permitted by law to investigate how councils have acted in their capacity as social landlords. So, if you complain about a council tenant next door, we can look at how the council used its general nuisance and anti-social behavior powers, but not whether it should evict them for a breach of their tenancy agreement.

Instead, you may be able to lodge a complaint with the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) about how the council has exercised its powers as a social landlord, but only if you are also a council tenant. We have the authority to conduct a joint investigation with the HOS in certain circumstances, such as when a complaint is made about how a council has used both its general powers and its powers as a social landlord.

How do I file a complaint?  

Normally, you should file a complaint with the city council first. This does not simply imply informing council staff about what your neighbors are up to. It entails filing a formal complaint about the council failing to act despite your request for assistance. It is critical to keep track of every time you contact the council to complain about your neighbors' behavior.

Councils frequently have multiple stages in their complaints procedure, and you will usually be required to complete all stages before we will consider your complaint.

Then, if you are dissatisfied with the outcome or believe the council is taking too long to investigate the matter (we believe 12 weeks is reasonable), you can file a complaint with us.  

Normally, you should file a complaint with us within 12 months of discovering that the council has done something wrong.

Please read our step-by-step process for filing a complaint for more information.

What will the Ombudsman look for if you take my complaint seriously?  

The council is one of the issues we can investigate:

  • responding too slowly to your reports of nuisance or anti-social behavior
  • failing to make reasonable efforts to gather evidence about the issue, such as failing to visit your home or failing to use recording equipment
  • not properly weighing the evidence gathered
  • Accepting that your neighbors were causing problems but doing nothing to address them,
  • applying conditions that go above and beyond what the law requires
  • failing to communicate effectively about actions it would or would not take, or failing to properly consider all options, including formal and informal powers

What if the Ombudsman determines that the council was at fault?  

We can recommend that the council investigate the issues you're complaining about and, if necessary, take action. This could include things like measuring the noise level, conducting a thorough investigation into your complaints, or reconsidering whether legal action should be taken against your neighbors.   

If it is clear that the council's practices and procedures were not followed properly, we can request that they be reviewed.  

In some cases, we may request that the council compensate you for the additional stress and frustration you experienced as a result of the council's failure to act.  

We will be unable to recommend that the council relocate your neighbors or initiate legal action against them.

Complaints that we have considered

Mrs. X and her partner, both pensioners, had long complained to the Council about their neighbors' and their children's antisocial behavior. Shouting, swearing, stone throwing, verbal abuse both in person and on social media, loud music, all-day parties, and a dog barking were among the behaviors. When they handed over their completed diary sheets to the antisocial behavior officer, they were told that this was not antisocial behavior. The officer refused to look at the dozens of printouts of abusive social media posts they provided, claiming they were for the police. There was no risk assessment of their vulnerability. Following additional reports about the neighbors, the officer informed Mrs. X that this was due to a difference in lifestyles. Mrs. X contacted the Council once more for assistance after their neighbors asked others on social media to 'deal with' them, posting photographs of them and their home, which resulted in threats. The officer stated once more that this was for the police. The police took the neighbor to court for harassment after they suffered retaliation for filing a report. The neighbor was granted a two-year restraining order by the court. Finally, the antisocial behavior officer conducted a risk assessment and determined that their risk was low. According to the assessment, there was no history of intimidation or harassment, and Mrs. X had no idea who the offender was. Mrs. X claimed that the officer did not ask her these questions. Following a report of loud noise from late parties, the Council went on to warn the neighbor. Mrs. X was sent diary sheets to complete. Mrs. X's neighbor moved out of the neighborhood two years after her initial report. We discovered that the Council failed to: • accept its role in this case; • investigate Mrs. X's reports; • consider whether this was more than just a clash of lifestyles; • investigate before concluding that the neighbours' actions were not antisocial behavior; and • investigate whether the noise was excessive. • Consider Mrs. X's evidence • Conduct a risk assessment as soon as possible and properly as the one it eventually did contained incorrect information

To make amends, the Council apologized to Mrs. X and her partner and paid £300 for the missed opportunity to have their reports properly investigated, as well as for the lack of support provided and the time and trouble they were subjected to. It also agreed to consider all evidence presented in future cases and to assess victims' vulnerability throughout the course of the cases.

Mr C complained to the Council about his neighbor banging on the wall, shouting, and using foul language. Mr C reported the neighbor's behavior to the police in a similar manner. The Council contacted the neighbor's landlord and asked them to address the issues raised by Mr C, explaining the steps it would take if the issue was not resolved. On the Council's behalf, the police served a Community Protection Notice warning letter on the neighbor, warning them of the likely consequences if their behavior continued. The Council informed Mr C that the police had served the warning letter and asked him to keep track of any further anti-social behavior for the next three weeks. Mr C informed the Council of a few more isolated incidents. The Council determined that this was insufficient to warrant enforcement action or additional investigation.

We discovered that the Council had properly considered its powers. Although Mr C requested that the Council issue a Community Protection Notice, this was a decision for the Council to make, and it was free to decide that there were no grounds to do so.

Other information sources

Our noise nuisance fact sheet may also be useful.

You can reach the Housing Ombudsman Service by phone at 0300 111 3000 or online at https://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/residents/make-a-complaint.

The Citizens Advice website explains your options for filing a complaint about a nuisance neighbor: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/problems-where-you-live/neighbour-disputes

Our fact sheets provide some general information about the most common types of complaints we receive, but they cannot cover every situation. Please contact us if you are unsure whether we can investigate your complaint.

We offer a free, independent, and unbiased service. We investigate complaints about councils and other authorities' administrative actions. We cannot call into question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we discover that something went wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay, or bad advice, and that a person has suffered as a result, we aim to correct the situation by recommending a suitable remedy.

September 20, 2021

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