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noisy neighbours

How should I deal with noisy neighbours?

Unless you live in splendid rural isolation, neighbours are part of life in this crowded isle. People are more likely to have disputes with their neighbours than anyone else, and of those disputes the most common cause is noise. Noisy neighbours can make many people’s homes feel uninhabitable. Legal redress is available, but should be treated as a last resort.

Do you have noisy neighbours? Become a member of HomeOwners Alliance and speak to our friendly HomeHelpline for guidance on the next steps

Talk to your neighbours

It sounds like a cliché, but it’s usually good to talk to your neighbours. One in three people have found that this has solved any problems immediately. Surprisingly often, people do not even realise they are being annoying and few people are totally uncaring about those around them; most are just unaware.

When?

It’s all about timing. For example, it may well be counterproductive to approach them in the middle of a party when they are drunk. It might be better to catch them in a public area and talking to them there, or over the garden fence, instead of awkwardly knocking on their door.

How?

  • With most people, being calm and reasonable gets better results than being confrontational. You have the moral high ground; make sure you keep it.
  • When you approach them, it is a good idea to have three examples of when they were excessively noisy to hand, complete with dates. Tell them too how the noise affected you, but don’t be accusatory. Rather than saying, “you kept me awake”, tell them, “I could not sleep because of the noise that night.”
  • You should also specifically tell them how you would like the problem solved. For example, you might ask them not to practice on their drums after 10pm, or you might ask that next time they have a big party they give you some forewarning so you can make other plans accordingly
  • If you feel unsafe you should approach your neighbours with a friend or family member

Get the council involved

  • If you have talked to your neighbour and they are still making noise you might consider getting the local authority involved. Be aware that getting the council involved will raise tensions and the dispute might get out of proportion because your neighbours could ultimately end up in court. You should also be aware that any official noisy neighbour complaints will go on record and may make it harder for you to sell your house
  • After you complain the council will send your neighbour a letter telling them that people have complained. They will not say who has complained.
  • At the same time, you will be asked to fill out a “noise diary” which logs the time and place you heard the noise and from where it came. Most importantly, the council wants to see how the noise is affecting you. The council will use your noise diary to establish a method of investigating. This might depend on you phoning somebody up who will come round to hear the noise or they might install noise monitoring equipment
  • If the noise does not stop after they have warned your neighbours, then the council might suggest mediation (see below). If that does not work, or if the council decides mediation is not a constructive route forward, they might take other, official, action
  • If the council agrees with you, and the noise is a deemed a “statutory nuisance” (ie that it is a 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. If the council follows this process, it can take some time, because the council has to establish how much of a nuisance your neighbours are being without living with you all the time

Taking part in mediation

Why?

If you have already talked to your neighbours and nothing you say seems to work, the council might recommend mediation. Mediation might also be a good choice if you have completely fallen out with your neighbours or if you are in other disputes with them

What?

  • A professionally trained mediator will set up a meeting with you and your neighbour
  • The meeting will often be at a neutral location
  • The aim is to help your neighbour understand your point of view, and vice versa
  • Mediators will also suggest specific compromises and ways to remedy the problem
  • Mediation is government funded but does not involve the law
  • Mediation is free, and is often successful
  • However, it is voluntary so your neighbour will have to want to go

Taking your neighbour to court

  • If the council decides not to intervene you can take your neighbours to court
  • You must have tried to deal with the problem in all other ways before doing this
  • If you decide you would like to take your neighbours to court you should seek legal advice from a lawyer
  • Become a member of the HomeOwners Alliance and speak our legal advice line about your noisy neighbour problem

Leaseholders

If the neighbour is a leaseholder, 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). Leases sometimes 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

For tailored answers to your questions or if you would like legal advice, become a member of the HomeOwners Alliance today


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2 Comments

  1. Yes we seem to have an impossible situation with our neighbours too. We moved into our house in 2009 and have had a constant battle with them to keep the noise down during the night. Pretty soon after moving into our terraced house we were hearing the noise from all night parties. We had no wish to conflict over it but it was unbearable. We approached the neighbour and let her know that we work hard and when we’re off work we like to relax and have peace and quiet at night. She agreed and said that she didn’t make a lot of noise (Yeah right!). As she wasn’t working she seemed to have people around all night at least 3 times a week. We found out that she was renting and reported the problem to her letting agency. They wrote to her with little affect. We decided to up the ante and report it to the council. A game ensued where they’d open an investigation and she was quiet. As soon as the investigation closed the all night noise started again. A boyfriend moved in and decided it would be clever to start harassing us to stop us complaining. Firstly our house was broken into while we were on holiday but nothing was damaged or taken. The police attended and said they thought it was more an act of antisocial behaviour more than a break in. They said to call them next time there was significant noise. It wasn’t long before we were sitting up at 3 O’clock in the morning listening to music and people shouting and screaming. We got the Police out and they went in and asked the neighbours to keep the noise down (That’s as much as they can do). The neighbours ignored them and continued until 10 O’clock. Just before they decided to go to bed the boyfriend thumped our door and screamed threats through the letter box. We got the Police out again and they advised us not to escalate the situation. The next few weeks the harassment got worse and there was spitting at us and thumping walls amongst other things. The Police went and warned him and it stopped. The noise stopped too for a few months and then started up again. We called the Police on 101 in the early hours and they told us to go to environmental protection at our local council. We’d been there before with little success. On two occasions the night noise team came out and listened. They said the noise was very clear but as it was only loud talking and shouting they couldn’t really do anything. they recommended that we should get insulation (which isn’t cheap). Basically unless there is booming music they don’t seem interested. Anyway it seems the only way to get out of this nightmare is to move house. I think in hindsight we should have hit them hard immediately. Initially there was loud music and we could have had a case but now as it’s shouting and loud talking through the night it’s much more difficult. Of course we didn’t want all this and didn’t want to hit them hard from the off.

    Comment by N.Weeks — January 5, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

  2. I am going through similar problem only that our houses are not lease hold and the council is probably unable take meaningful action against deliberate noise made to look like activities of daily living. Lockbird.blogspot.com.

    Comment by Bimi bol — January 1, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

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