Article Covers:

– Forms of Harassment from your Neighbour
– What action you can take about harassment

HARASSMENT FROM YOUR NEIGHBOUR

Introduction

We’re aiming to give you a good overview of what constitutes harassment, bullying and intimidating behaviour. As well as give you a good starting basis of where you can go to find out more information about harassment, bullying and intimidation from your neighbour. We hope to give you some practical and useful information to use too.

We’ve split this help article into 9 main sections to hopefully make it easier to read and simpler to bookmark different sections.

What’s harassment got to do with my Neighbour From Hell?

Often people who are living with a Neighbour that is a nuisance are faced with other unwanted behaviours and specific problems from next door. With bullying often comes harassment, with physical abuse often comes verbal abuse, threatening behaviour and other forms of anti-social behaviour. Harassment is often experienced with these kinds of unwanted attention and seldom appears to be an isolated act or problem.

Some people who experience harassment and bullying from their neighbour may not even recognise the behaviour as it is so subtle and regular they overlook it for the harassment it could be or it simply becomes a part of everyday life.

Bullying and harassment are both major causes of ill health (both physical and mental health), stressful to experience and vastly affect your personal well-being. Whether this is happening at work or with your Neighbour From Hell, they are severely impacting issues on your personal life and will affect you holistically (e.g. in every area of your life and work).

If you are experiencing harassment and bullying you could be also suffering from a lack of sleep or raised blood pressure. You may also have a feeling of over-anxiety and/or depression, your self-confidence and self-respect may suffer and your concentration could be poorer than usual.

In the worst cases where someone is suffering with harassment, increased intakes of alcohol and/or drugs may provide some temporary relaxation and escape from the effects of bullying and harassing behaviour.

Harassment Definitions & Stalking

We often make use of the word harassment in our everyday language and will say things like, “please, don’t harass me, I’m having a bad day” – but what does harassment and the definitions of harassment actually mean?

One dictionary definition of harassment is:

“to annoy persistently” (Source: Merriam-Webster)

In a lot of cases persistent, unwanted and un-requested annoyance from your neighbour can fall straight into this description.

Harassment constitutes any form of behaviour which is unwanted – this could range differently for many people and can represent anything from unpleasant and mildly irritating behaviour, right up to actual and extreme violence which is physically based.

Harassment and Bullying can include many variances, but often people experience behaviour which is sexually based, racially orientated or harassment of a homophobic kind. Behaviour which is personally targeted and aimed at individuals is also common placed.

At Neighbours From Hell in Britain and on our forums we often learn about harassment that takes these forms and stems from an individual’s neighbours.

Harassment can also be aimed at people through their membership of different organisations (say, their Trade Union, professional body or political persuasions).

Bullying and Harassment are often both totally unpredictable and very wearing behaviour for any person to experience and live with on a regular or intermittent basis. It is totally unacceptable and a cowardly and anti-social practice.

Harassment can come in many forms. Whether these unwanted attentions come from your neighbour, in the workplace, at home, in social settings, this is unwanted behaviour and attention that can constitute racial, sexual, physical and verbal/non-verbal harassment.

Some forms of harassment and sexual assault can be classed as criminal offences and can be reportable to the Police.

Stalking

Stalking is another separate or related issue depending on particular circumstances.

When harassment also includes the perpetrator (e.g. the source of the harassment and could be your neighbour) watching you, constantly following you, making constant contact with you despite your requests not to, or you are receiving unwanted gifts/presents; the term of ‘stalking’ may be applicable and more appropriate in your case.

For more information: About Stalking.

The differences between Harassment and Bullying

We’ve already mentioned that bullying and harassment often feature together as they are closely linked areas of behaviour, but it’s important to note some of the differences between these close topics.

To explain briefly, if you are being harassed this often will include a definite physical behaviour. Harassment is often closely connected to violence of a physical nature and a person’s gender, their disability or race and perhaps even a mixture of these.

Bullying behaviour is often made up of many incidents and circumstances and sometimes what can appear to be ‘trivial’ situations, over longer periods of time. These incidents within the bullying field often include many unjustified and unnecessary acts.

For more bullying information and to also decide if you could be being bullied, take a look here.

For more differences between Harassment and Bullying.

Racial and Sexual Harassment

Within the terms of both sexual and racial harassment, it is generally understood that any behaviour that is included within these areas is often very varied and contrasting indeed. Such varied behaviours can include harassment within a verbal, non-verbal and physically orientated area. Such behaviour received from any individual is often unwanted and un-requested.

Sexual Harassment Indications

Sexual harassment is any form of behaviour that is unwanted and is attached or formed from either your gender or your sexual orientation.

Within the laws of the UK, there is no one specified law against Harassment of a Sexual nature. Action has often been taken using the different available statutes that form prevention of discrimination; therefore Sexual Harassment, in its direct legal terms is a form of sex discrimination.

Here are some examples of Sexual Harassment:
Of a Verbal Nature

A person is making comments about your appearance, your clothing and your body in general (e.g. your neighbour could be shouting these comments at you every time you leave your house).

Remarks and conversation are aimed at you directly which include indecent and abusive comments.

Unwanted questions, opinion and commenting about your sex life.

Demands and requests made of you of a sexual nature which either come from a person of the same or different sex as you.

Using your employment prospects as an excuse to request and gain favours and benefits of a sexual nature (e.g. your manager promises you a promotion if you perform a certain sexual act).

The definition of sexual harassment from the EU is as follows:

“unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of men and women at work”.

Of a Non-Verbal Nature

You find yourself being stared at constantly or on occasions; your body feels like it’s under ‘close examination’ by someone (maybe your neighbour takes every opportunity to stare at you when outside or when in your home).

Material which is sexually and adult-orientated in an explicit nature which is displayed publicly can class as a non-verbal sexual harassment (e.g. a magazine centrefold in your workplace that has images of naked individuals).

Of a Physical Nature

You are experiencing behaviour from a person who is always attempting or actually managing to physically touch you, pinch you or kiss/hug/caress you.

Assault of a Sexual Nature

Rape (an extremely serious and unwanted emotional and physical intrusion and offence).

Racial Harassment Indications

If you are experiencing harassment which is racially formed and based you could be experiencing unwelcome attention that is connected with or a combination of any of these factors:

Comments about the colour of your skin, your culture, race or background.

Threats, comments or unwanted behaviours that are formed on the basis of your religious beliefs or what someone may believe your religious origin is. Behaviours experienced here, like others, can be physical and non-physically based.

Legislation and Harassment

The sections of Law in the UK that mainly relate to harassment consist of:

The Sex Discrimination Act

The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 prevents sex discrimination in any form which is deliberate (direct) or in-deliberate (indirect) against any person in employment. The Act can apply to both women and to men and individuals can be of any age.

Types of discrimination based on a person’s sex can include harassment of a sexual nature or a situation which is unfortunately all too commonly heard of where a woman is treated less favourably or in any adverse manner because she is pregnant.

More indirect sex discrimination is a situation where a common practice or workplace condition is applicable to both men and women but could affect one sex much more than the other (e.g. height requirements within certain employment’s may affect either sex).

Race Relations Act 1976

The Race Relations Act 1976, and as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 prohibits discrimination against any person based on the issues of their race, nationality, colour, or ethnic/national origin.

This act also creates more duties upon your Local Authority to promote equality within racial issues/areas.

Harassment, abuse and violence which is physically based and incidents of a racist nature, inciting racial hatred are offences under Criminal Law – contact the Police immediately if you have experienced these for more advice and information.

The Act applies to these areas:

  • Employment and Jobs
  • Training & Education
  • Homes & Housing

The wide field of ‘provision of goods, facilities and services’ – this encompasses a huge area of where we go and what we use in every day life. From shopping, to using professionally based services, to accessing local community resources, it includes many different areas.

Disability Discrimination Act 1995

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 introduces rights for disabled people in the areas of employment; getting goods and services; buying or renting property and access to goods and services.

The 1995 Disability Discrimination Act’s main purpose is to prevent and eradicate discrimination that people who have disabilities regularly experience. Within the act, people who have a disability are given specific and certain rights within these different areas:

Access to different and many varied types of goods, facilities and services

Employment & Career

Property – In buying property or renting any land or property

This is a complex and detailed Act and one which further defines what a ‘disability’ actually is, for more information please visit gov.uk

Protection from Harassment Act 1997

This piece of legislation was brought into creation on the 21st March, 1997 and is the major and main piece of legislation that deals with harassment and harassment issues.

Within the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PFHA) two criminal offences are highlighted – these are contained within sections 2 and 4.

The PFHA ’97 also gives courts that hold civil powers the capability to instigate injunctions and award damages in all types of harassment cases. Within the Act, this is described in Section 3.

The PFHA 1997 is a ‘dynamic act’ in the sense where it can effectively cover harassment in any form whatsoever. The act sets out sections to deal with the prohibition and offence of harassment, restraining orders, the act’s limitations and civil remedies, and so on.

For example, the Act cites:

Prohibition of harassment

1. – (1) A person must not pursue a course of conduct-

(a) which amounts to harassment of another, and

(b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.

The Course of conduct is defined in s7(3) and is:

(3) A “course of conduct” must involve conduct on at least two occasions.

This basically means that the harasser needs to display the harassment on at least two occasions.

Criminal cases often and particularly in the magistrates courts manage one incident. For the offence of criminal harassment to be proved, the court (and where appropriately the Police) will have to be satisfied that the act (the ‘conduct’) of actual harassment happened on a minimum amount of two separate occasions.

Despite the fact that ‘course of conduct’ has to contain at least two incidents, there is no specification that incidents must have occurred at the same time.

e.g. Your neighbour threatened to steal your car on a particular day, but then proceeded to deliberately vandalise your garden two days later. Even though the ‘course of conduct’ is totally different in each of these circumstances it is still valid and involves the minimum of two incidents.

So, it is vital to report any instances of harassment, whether or not you have proof to your Local Police so they can consider further action if necessary and if possible. This could result in your neighbour where they are harassing you, being detained/arrested for the acts of harassment.

More information about the PFHA 1997.

Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994

This act is a complex and detailed one. It covers such areas as trespassers on land, ‘Raves’, disruptive trespassers, squatters, and within section 154 ‘Intentional Harassment, Alarm or Distress’.

Section 154 creates the offence as such:

To intentionally either (a) use ‘threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, or disorderly behaviour’; or (b) display ‘any writing, sign or visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting’; to cause someone ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.

The maximum penalty for involvement in these is 6 months in prison and/or a fine of £5000.

Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994 in full.

Criminal law of Assault

It is an offence to actually assault an individual or threaten to assault them (e.g. if the courts interpreted this as the threat would actually be carried through).

Assault consists of an act which is hostile that causes an individual to fear attack. The term ‘battery’ concerns the use of actual force where a physical assault has taken place (e.g. ‘Assault and Battery’).

Assaults which lead to Actual Bodily Harm carry a 5 year prison sentence. It’s important to remember too that the term ‘Assault’ doesn’t always mean that physical contact has been initiated or used; threatening behaviour, gestures or language can also constitute an assault.

Check with your Police Service for more information and advice.

What can you do if you’re suffering with Harassment?

Don’t ignore harassment

If you are experiencing harassment, intimidating behaviour or harassment, please don’t ignore it – most of the time it’s unlikely to go away without some kind of action. Don’t feel it’s your fault because you’re living with it either and you won’t be labelled as a ‘troublemaker’ for bringing it to the attention of others and the Police.

People who are involved in harassing behaviour often display it as a form of control and ‘superiority’ over your life, ignoring it could be seen as a sign of success by the person who is harassing you. Worst still the harasser could feel they are entitled to get away with it. Don’t let them.

If you’ve only been harassed once, that’s one time too many; don’t ever hesitate to contact someone for more help and ask the police for more advice and information.

Get help and support

Inform and ask your Local Police for help. Ask them about the Protection From Harassment Act of 1997 (PFHA ’97) and other possible legal avenues that could be open to you. Ask the Police if they are able to take action on your behalf under relevant legislation and in particular the PFHA ’97.

You could also:

  • Talk to a harassment adviser (you may have one in your workplace or organisation).
  • A counsellor where appropriate may offer guidance.
  • Get professionally qualified legal help (e.g. from a solicitor).
  • Ask a friend for support.
  • A workmate or union representative could assist you.
  • Where it happens in work, your personnel/human resources department should be there to advise.
  • Ask the person who is harassing you to stop: May be difficult, unrealistic or impossible, but could help.

Do not ever approach your neighbour or person who is harassing you if you are in any way worried that there may be actual physical danger or threatened violence. Call your Police at once if this is the case.

If you do decide to approach the person responsible for causing you harassment, take very careful actions and due care over your safety. Don’t go alone, take a friend or relative with you.

Going alone could put you in danger. By taking a witness it could be useful to have a third party account of what was said and done – the harasser then also cannot claim as you didn’t ask them to stop their harassing behaviour, they felt it was acceptable behaviour (because you didn’t object to it in the first place).

Above all – YOUR SAFETY is paramount, do not place yourself in unnecessary and un-needed danger. If in doubt, get out of the way or do not get in the way of potential problems or danger.

Collecting evidence of harassment

This is very important and can act as further evidence either to the Police or Courts at a later stage. Keep a factual note of all the incidents that are relevant with their times, places, dates and so on. Describe what happened and how/why it made you feel in a particular way. If you can back up what you’re saying in your written records with verbal evidence and that of independent witnesses who can give factual evidence, you need to do so.

You could use the Neighbours From Hell in Britain generic recording form (Word Document) for this purpose.

If you are using recording devices to record instances of verbal harassment for example, make a written note to back up these recordings as soon as you possibly can following the incident. In some cases recordings using audio equipment may not always be admissible evidence, so ask your police or solicitor for information and advice.

Make a complaint

If you are in a workplace setting and being harassed consider using your employers ‘whistle blowing policy’ or harassment/bullying policies where they exist. Write to a relevant director or head of department to formally complain about the harassment.

Ring your Local Police headquarters and ask for more information, help and advice on how to make/register a formal complaint about harassment, mention the PFHA 1997 if applicable.
Always dial 999 if you or people around you are in danger.

It’s important that you take more advice before embarking on any of these actions and we would recommend you seek information from a legally qualified professional, the Citizens Advice Bureau or your Local Authority where appropriate.

More Help & Advice?

You can also join the forum community to ask for more help and information – it’s very busy and has a lot of good information, we currently have over 32,000 registered members.

Remember: That if you are currently selling your property or plan to in the future all disputes with your neighbour that have been formally reported and/or acted upon need to be declared to potential or actual buyers. If you don’t do this, you could be legally challenged or at worst, sued!

When a dispute has been recorded or put down in writing, or where complaints to an authority (council) have been made, then this needs to be informed to any potential buyers of your property. Ask your solicitor for more information about this.