What a racket – Noise nuisance and the law
All-night parties do not generally encourage amicable and cordial neighbourly relations.
A selfish and inconsiderate neighbour can be stressful and upsetting, and often as a result, long-suffering residents do not know which way to turn.
Most forms of neighbourly unpleasantness fall into the category of private nuisance. “Nuisance” is another category of “tort”, or civil wrong, and it covers a range of matters which interfere with an owner’s use and enjoyment of his or her property, without necessarily involving physical damage or physical encroachment. Nuisance covers matters such as noise, smells, dust, and vibration. A neighbouring owner who suffers from these has a right of action either for damages or for an injunction preventing continuation of the nuisance.
Private nuisance is generally caused by someone doing something on their property, but the consequences of their act extending adversely to their neighbour’s home – like, for example, loud music or an incessant barking dog.
If you live in a flat, leases typically contain regulations such as not making noise audible outside their property at certain times, often between 11 pm and 7 am. Leases often also prohibit pets, or require the consent of the landlord, and insist that suitable floor covering is put in place.
When a neighbour is kept awake well into the early hours, his or her immediate concern is stopping the distressing actions. With noise complaints continually on the rise, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea now offer a dedicated Noise and Nuisance Service which aims to help residents suffering from these types of disturbances. This type of service aims to resolve noise complaints before the dispute intensifies. Unfortunately, most local authorities may only intervene if a resident is able to demonstrate that the noise counts as a statutory nuisance, i.e. that which unreasonably and substantially interferes with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises.
Injunctions are also available as remedies for a nuisance, and in all, but the most extreme examples the granting of an injunction should be enough for the objectionable action to stop.
Homeowners are also often worried about the impact of any trouble of this type on the value of their home. Even if the actual property itself remains untouched, any formal dispute between neighbours must be disclosed in replies to enquiries. The existence of a dispute with a nuisance neighbour may well put off a purchaser, affect the value of the home or put the brakes on the transaction whilst the purchaser investigates the nature and extent of the dispute.
Even if you obtain an injunction, a purchaser might worry that your nuisance neighbour will continue nevertheless. Injunctions will usually be personal to the claimant, so if the neighbour does continue with the nuisance after the sale, the purchaser would have to apply for a fresh injunction, with the accompanying costs and stress.
The best advice of course is to develop an amicable relationship with all of your neighbours. Where that is not possible, the environmental services department of your local authority may be able to intervene. If all else fails, applying for an injunction is the remedy of last resort, coupled where appropriate with a claim for damages.
This article was first published in News on the Block on 3 July 2017.