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.
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.
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.
- 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
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
- 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
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.