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How should I deal with noisy neighbours?

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. Here's how to deal with noisy neighbours.

noisy neighbours

Here are the steps you can take if you are having issues with noisy neighbours.

Talk to your neighbours about noise disturbance

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 noise 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.

How should you raise the noise issue with your neighbour?

It’s all about timing. For example, it may well be counterproductive to approach them in the middle of a party. It might be better to catch them in a public area and talk 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.
  • Only talk to your neighbour if you feel safe and comfortable.

Get the council involved

If you have tried talking to your neighbour and they are still making noise you might consider getting the local authority involved.

What to bear in mind when you make a noise complaint to the council

  • Getting the council involved could raise tensions with your neighbour and the dispute might escalate —  your neighbours could ultimately end up in court.
  • You should also be aware that any official noisy neighbour complaints will go on record and could make it harder for you to sell your house.

What happens when you make a noise complaint to the council?

  • 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). When a warning doesn’t work, or if the council decides mediation is not a constructive route forward, they might take other, official, action.
  • In the instance 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. When 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.

How to sound proof your rooms and home

Here are a few options to help you reduce the amount of outside noise coming through into your home:

  • Check your doors. Check your internal doors are solid rather than hollow as this can be a great barrier to sound. Draught proof your front door, as well as internal doors to stop sound coming through.
  • Fix holes and gaps in walls. Fill any holes or gaps around window frames, ventilation grates, and electrical sockets.
  • Updating to double glazing. An expensive option but one which can make a huge difference to how much external noise enters your home.
  • Dampen sounds with fabric. Heavy curtains can make a significant difference to how much sound travels into you home particularly at night. Double glazed windows, lined with plantation shutters and dressed with thick curtains is the ideal. Thick carpet and rugs will help limit sound travelling up from downstairs and also muffle your footsteps for your neighbours.
  • Insulate your walls with sound proofing. Depending on where the main source of external noise is coming from you may consider soundproofing the party wall (the wall adjoining you and your neighbours home) or whole rooms including walls, floors and ceilings.

Find a domestic sound proofing firm near you to discuss possible solutions and costs using our tool powered by Checkatrade. Enter “sound proofing” and postcode to find someone you can talk to about sound proofing your home.

Noisy neighbours — taking part in mediation

Sound proofing aside, if you have talked to your neighbours about noise problems and nothing you say seems to work, another route the council might recommend is mediation. Mediation can be a particularly good choice if you have completely fallen out with your neighbours or if you are in other disputes with them.

Mediation involves the following:

  • 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.

Noise disputes – expert legal help

If the council decides not to intervene, your next step should be to seek the help of a legal expert.

You must show that you have tried to deal with the problem in all other ways before doing this.

A legal service provider may be able to contact the neighbour on your behalf and arrange mediation. If this fails and a settlement cannot be agreed, you may need to consider taking court action. Your legal service provider will advise on the best options available to you.

Find a legal service provider with our partners at the Law Superstore.  They will match you with legal professionals who can advise on your situation.

Leaseholders – noisy neighbours

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. 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.

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