According to the new study from Halifax Home Insurance, one in five (17 per cent) home owners has experienced serious problems with neighbours this year, a peak last seen in 1997.

The most common reported problems are excessive noise (49 per cent), rude or intimidating behaviour (23 per cent) and the ‘hijacking’ of legal boundaries through illegal building or structural work (20 per cent).

Financial concerns are contributing to neighbourly strife, according to the research, with rising unemployment increasing home ‘transience’ and fracturing community cohesion. According to the latest market data, 300,000 more tenants have been created since the recession began, many of them on casual or short-term leases. As a result, areas of high rental density then experience spikes in neighbour complaints.

Damage to buildings and property often results and the insurer estimates that ‘neighbour inflicted’ problems cost Britons more than three billion pounds last year. The issue also affects the health and well-being of homeowners, with 58 per cent reporting increased stress, sleeplessness or family arguments.

For many homeowners, the problem is so acute that it drives them to try and sell their property and many opt not to reveal the problem to potential buyers. This behaviour may not be surprising, as house price data suggest that anti-social neighbours can reduce offers by as much as £31,000.

Martyn Foulds, senior claims manager at Halifax Home Insurance says: ‘It’s clear that neighbour nuisance is a real and growing problem that affects thousands of Britons. If the problem gets out of control, homeowners can resort to legal action but there are also many things you can do to try and improve relations without opting for this last resort.

‘It’s a good idea to develop a dialogue with your neighbours, so that if a problem does arise, it won’t be the first time you’ve spoken to them. And if an incident does occur, make sure you don’t react in anger. Often, it’s best to wait until the next day before you raise the matter.’