Having noisy neighbours is a common problem, but what constitutes a nuisance noise is not always straight forward.
Nuisance noise can come in a variety of forms:
• Loud or bass-heavy music
• DIY projects
• Moving furniture
• Ball games
• Dogs barking
• Door slamming
No house or flat is completely sound proof. We all expect some noise from our neighbours. We are all affected to a degree and inflict some noise on our neighbours too.
A little give and take must be expected.
We all have a different level of tolerance and will often put up with the noise for some time before we do anything about it.
However, if the noise disturbs you, and is loud or sustained, it can have a seriously detrimental impact on your life and enjoyment of your home.
How can I deal with noise problems?
If you have a dispute with your neighbour:
• Try solving the problem informally by talking to your neighbours
• If your neighbour is a tenant, you might contact their landlord
• If an informal approach doesn’t work, a mediation service might help
• If the dispute involves a statutory nuisance (e.g. loud music or barking dogs), you can make a complaint to your local council
• Contact the police if your neighbour is breaking the law by being violent or harassing you
• As a last resort you can take legal action through the courts
Talk about it
As a first step just talking to your neighbours may help the situation.
Most people are unaware they are causing a nuisance and unless you tell them they might continue unknowingly. It is advisable to discuss the problem with your neighbour before making a formal complaint or getting others involved.
If you are worried about approaching them, write an informal letter explaining the problem clearly and state the facts. Be polite and non-confrontational.
If the problem affects other neighbours, you might wish to involve them too. It may be easier to settle a dispute if the complaint comes from a number of people. However, extra care should be taken to approach your neighbour in a friendly, non-confrontational way if doing so as a group.
If you are a member of a tenants’ association they may be able to help.
Contact the landlord
If your neighbour is a tenant, you can complain to their landlord.
Their landlord could be a housing association, the council or a private landlord. It is likely that the tenant will be in breach of their obligations under their tenancy agreement if they are causing a nuisance.
The landlord may take action to deal with the issue. This might include a threat to remove the tenant.
If you can’t resolve the problem by speaking to your neighbour, you may be able to get help from a mediation service.
Mediation sees an impartial person, trained in dealing with difficult discussions, sit between two opposing sides. They act like a referee in a dispute.
There can be a fee for mediation, but this will be cheaper than taking legal action.
Mediation services differ depending on where you live:
If you live in England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice website has details of mediation providers in your area (http://www.civilmediation.justice.gov.uk/).
Your council or housing association may also provide a mediation service
Some charities also provide a mediation service.
Talk to the council
You should try and solve the problem by talking to your neighbour or through mediation before contacting the council.
If your dispute involves an activity damaging to your health or is a nuisance, you can ask your local council for help. This is known as a ‘statutory nuisance’. This might include issues such as loud music or barking dogs.
Your local council has a duty to investigate any statutory nuisance.
Before involving your local authority, gather some evidence to present as proof of the types of disturbances you are experiencing.
You might keep notes of each disturbance, including the time, how long it lasts and the cause or nature of the noise.
For example if a dog is barking because it is locked outside at night, make a note. You could then contact your local authority or council and give them the details you have collated. They are likely to need the following details:
• a description of the noise
• name and address of the premises the noise is arising from
• details of occupier of the premises
• date and time the noise occurs, and its duration
• how the noise is affecting you
Your local council will be able to investigate your concerns, using equipment to measure the noise emitted. This is often done by an officer from the Environmental health team.
The information they find will form the basis of the evidence the local authority can use to issue a notice to prevent the nuisance.
A ‘noise abatement’ order will tell your neighbours what they must do to stop making a noise nuisance or else face further legal action.
Your neighbours will need to comply with the terms of a council notice, or may face being prosecuted.
Breaking an abatement order can see someone fined up to £5,000. If the noise is from a factory or business, the fine can be up to £20,000.
However, following an investigation into your complaint, the Council may decide the noise does not amount to a nuisance. In this case it may still be possible for you to take your own action through the courts.
Call the police
You should call the police if your neighbour:
• is violent, threatening or abusive
• is harassing you sexually, or because of your sexuality, religion or ethnic background
• is breaching the peace (being disorderly in the street or making a lot of noise)
• is breaking the law in any other way - or if you suspect this
101 is the number to call when you want to contact your local police in England and Wales when it is less urgent than a 999 call. The 101 number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Taking legal action
If you want to take your own action you can complain directly to your local magistrates’ court. This is done under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, or by taking civil action.
Taking someone to court can be expensive so it should be seen as your last resort.
Before deciding to take your complaint to a magistrates’ court it is advisable that you first seek legal advice.
You may be able to get free legal advice from a law centre, advice centre or Citizens Advice Bureau.
At Wallace Robinson & Morgan we have specialist solicitors who deal with all neighbour disputes and can often offer all the support and advice you need to resolve the issues with your neighbours.
If you do decide to take legal action you must write to the person causing the noise and notify them of your intentions. This must be done at least three days before commencing legal proceedings.
You must persuade the court that the noise amounts to statutory nuisance. To do this, ensure you keep a written record of the dates, times and duration of the noise, as well as a description of the noise and the distress it has caused.
If you are successful in your case, the court may issue an order that those responsible stop the noise nuisance. The court may also issue a fine.
Further help and support
At Wallace Robinson & Morgan our solicitors can offer all the support and advice you need to help you resolve the issues you have with your neighbours.
Please contact Daniel Zakis on 0121 705 7571 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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