Posted by Admin - 18/02/2016
I was sitting in my home last weekend and for the first time I thought to myself, I have neighbours from hell!
Unfortunately, for most of us, neighbours (good and bad) are part of life and on occasion, we all have disputes of some sort, the most common of these being noise. This can cause stress and make our home feel uninhabitable, well at least that is how I felt on Sunday!
Legal redress is available, but should be treated as a last resort, so, I thought I would talk about how to resolve or at least come to an understanding over unreasonable behaviour.
Talking…when and how?
People do not often realise they are being annoying to others. It is not necessarily that they are uncaring, just that they are simply unaware that their actions are causing any issue. So, by talking to your neighbour this may resolve the issue straight away.
Approaching someone with a complaint can be awkward at the best of times. Do not approach them whilst you are angry for the risk that you end up being the unreasonable one. Nor for example, should you approach them mid party when they are drinking and you just look like a party pooper! Wait until the next day, perhaps mention it in passing over the garden fence or in a public place. You may at least get an invite next time around! Confrontation will get you nowhere, so, be calm and reasonable at all times, this will get much better results.
Do try to have more than one example of when their noise has affected you, after all, complaining about a one off event may be a little unfair.
Explain how it affected you. Try not to accuse, for example do not say “you kept me awake” instead say “I could not sleep due to the noise”.
Have an idea about how you would like them to resolve the issue. For example, would you like them to let you know next time they are having a party in order for you to make alternative arrangements?
If you feel unsafe, approach your neighbour with a friend or family member.
Involving the Council…
If talking to your neighbour has not resulted in a mutual understanding and an improvement of the situation you can involve the local authority. This can cause extra tension as your neighbour will receive a letter explaining a complaint has been made (not stating by whom) and you should also be aware that your neighbour could end up in court. Noisy neighbour reports do go on file and this can make it harder to sell your property in future so think carefully before taking this step.
The council will ask you to make a diary of events, dates, times and where the noise is coming from. Most importantly they will want to know how these events are affecting you. this diary will be used to establish their investigation method. This may involve the use of equipment or a person to attend and monitor the noise.
The council will issue a warning to the neighbour and if the noise continues they will suggest the following:
This is a good choice if you have completely fallen out with your neighbours or if you are in other disputes with them. A professionally trained mediator will set up a meeting with you and your neighbour and it will often be at a neutral location. The aim is to help your neighbour understand your point of view, and vice versa, they will suggest specific compromises and ways to remedy the problem. Mediation is government funded but does not involve the law, it is free and often extremely successful, however, it is voluntary, so your neighbour will have to want to go along.
If the council agrees with you, and the noise is a deemed a “statutory nuisance (under law), they can issue an “abatement notice” which tells your neighbour that unless they stop they will be prosecuted and might end up with a fine of £5,000 for domestic premises and £20,000 for industrial or commercial premises. This process will take some weeks, because the council has to establish how much of a nuisance your neighbours are being without living with you all the time.
Involving the Courts…
If the council decide not to intervene you can take your neighbours to court, however, you must be able to show you have tried alternative ways of resolving the issues and if this is a path you wish to pursue, ensure that you seek legal advice from a lawyer.
If the neighbour is a leaseholder then they may well be in breach of a clause in their lease about not disturbing neighbours with noise. If you are in a flat, and it is the floorboards that are the problem, check the lease because there may be a clause that says that suitable floor covering must be in place. Some leases say that the leaseholders must not make noise audible outside their property at certain times (such as between 11pm and 7am) Some leases also ban pets (if it is a barking dog that is the problem), and musical instruments
If you complain to the freeholder (from whom the leaseholder leases the property), they can issue a warning or start legal proceedings against the leaseholder for breaching their lease. Because they could potentially lose their property, this can be a very effective way of making your neighbours take noise seriously and address the issues amicably.