Noise nuisance is often an issue that arises between leaseholders causing much upset and, often, sleepless nights. The problem is compounded when neighbours have very different lifestyles and what noise level is reasonable for one might not be reasonable for another leading to neighbour disputes.
So, what steps can be taken if you feel your neighbour is being noisy?
In the vast majority of neighbour disputes cases, it is best to approach your neighbour in the first instance to explain how the noise is affecting you and to encourage resolution in a way that will maintain good relations.
If your attempts to deal with the matter amicably do not prove fruitful then you should ensure that persistent noise nuisance is recorded in a noise diary so that the extent of the problem and its effect on you can be ascertained.
It may also be helpful to involve the local authority, who can send an Environmental Health Officer to attend your property and assess whether the noise amounts to a ‘statutory nuisance’ to which they can serve an abatement notice upon the perpetrators. In any event, the local authority may be able to measure the noise level, which is likely to assist in demonstrating the level of the nuisance and having the nuisance witnessed by an official.
Check your lease
If the local authority cannot take matters further, you should check your lease to see what protection from noise nuisance you have. In blocks of flats, leases between tenants will usually be in standard form and contain the same covenants. They usually contain covenants against causing nuisance to neighbours.
The lease may also contain a covenant that the landlord will take direct action against noisy neighbours. If that is the case, you may wish to discuss the matter with your landlord and present to them your noise diary and any evidence you may have as to the level of the noise nuisance.
The lease may also contain covenants to take sound deadening measures, such as having carpets or rugs installed in each flat, which if breached could be a matter for your landlord to pursue.
If your lease does not contain any obligations on your landlord to take action on your behalf, then you can take direct action yourself against your neighbour.
Mediation for neighbour disputes
Prior to considering court action in neighbour disputes, you may wish to suggest to your neighbour that you engage in a form of mediation. Indeed, courts have indicated time and again that mediation should always be attempted in such cases and take a dim view of any party refusing to partake in the process. If your neighbour is amenable to the suggestion of mediation, you may find it helpful to jointly instruct an acoustic consultant to advise on noise mitigating options that will prevent further dispute.
Private nuisance claims
Of course, if all else fails, then you may need to instruct a solicitor to discuss issuing court proceedings against your neighbour in private nuisance. For the claim to be successful the nuisance must be caused by a person doing something on their own land, which they are lawfully entitled to do, but which becomes a nuisance when the consequences of their act extend to the land of their neighbour causing, for example, interference to the enjoyment of the neighbour’s land. The interference must be substantial and/or unreasonable. As such, relatively trivial matters will not be successful.
The noisy neighbour will have various defences available to them, such as claiming that the complainant is ‘abnormally sensitive’ to such noise or that they have acted reasonably in dealing with the complaint.
As can be seen above, whilst there are remedies against noisy neighbours, dealing with the matter quickly and amicably is encouraged to prevent the problem escalating.