Lack of sleep can lead to either an angry tirade over the garden fence or the decision to move house immediately. Don’t lose heart; there are less extreme and more successful ways to tackle noisy neighbours.
Remember, you’re not alone when it comes to dealing with noisy neighbours. Living so closely together, it’s not surprising tensions flare. Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to draw the line when it comes to noise. Ultimately, if it’s loud and persistent, causing you undue stress and disturbing your way of life, then you have every right to complain.
Excessive noise can be caused by:
- A TV and music system played too loud
- House parties
- Heated arguments
- Moving furniture around
- Smoke alarms going off
- Pet noise, such as dogs barking
- Ball games / children playing
- Doors slamming
- Wooden floors and stomping feet
Likely effects of nuisance noise
- It can violate your feeling of personal space making you irritable, nervous or anxious.
- The noise can be distracting, stopping you from relaxing in your own home, being able to read a book or watch your favourite TV program.
- Loud noise can cause chronic sleep deprivation if it continues night after night, impacting all elements of your life, including your physical and mental health.
What can you do about it?
Although there are laws governing noise levels in residential areas, your neighbours will not necessarily be automatically breaking the law from the outset. Given that you have to live next door regardless of the outcome, it’s often best to try and resolve the issue amicably rather than involving the authorities.
1. Try talking things through
Despite emotions running high, approach your neighbour in a calm, friendly manner and ask them politely to reduce the noise levels. It’s best to do this after the event rather than during the disturbance so you don’t show your agitation. Often people are unaware that they are causing an issue to begin with. Most will be apologetic and respond positively. This way the problem will resolve itself and you’ll get to remain on good terms with your neighbour.
According to Home Owners Alliance, one in three people have found their problem is resolved immediately by simply communicating their concern. When you speak to your neighbour, don’t be defensive or verbally attack them as this could escalate the problem rather than resolve it.
Go prepared with a potential solution to the issue so you can try and come to some form of compromise.
If you don’t know the individual or are concerned about speaking to them face to face, you can write a polite note asking them to turn the noise down. If you’re worried about their response, you can always send it anonymously.
Consider your safety
- Approach your neighbour with a friend or family member if you don’t want to face them alone.
- If you have any reason to believe that approaching your neighbour to settle a dispute would put you or your family in danger, don’t do it. Let the authorities handle the issue.
- If you find yourself in a position where you are subject to anti-social or aggressive behaviour, distance yourself immediately and contact the police.
2. Keep a diary to support your complaint
Write down what’s causing the disturbance as well as the time, date and duration of each event. This can then be used as evidence if you later choose to approach your County Council for help.
Writing a letter to follow up a failed verbal request is a good way of evidencing your effort to resolve the matter amicably. If this too fails, then it acts as further evidence to support your claim.
3. Seek help from your local authority
Your local council will have a department that deals with noise disputes, including a team of environmental officers trained in resolving noise related complaints. They can provide free mediation if required and have the power to issue both warnings and on the spot fines to individuals if required. Failure to pay these fines can lead to prosecution and a further £1000 penalty. Details can normally be found on your local council website.
The Law concerning nuisance noise
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 clearly states County Councils are responsible for investigating complaints relating to nuisance noise within their community. Certain factors are normally taken into account, such as:
- What type of noise it is and where it’s coming from
- What time the noise occurs and for how long
- Whether the reason behind the noise is creating a source of income
If your case is proven and the noise is classed as a ‘statutory nuisance’, an abatement notice can be served on the offending individual or the occupants of the property in question. The notice can demand the noise stop immediately or be restricted to certain times of the day. Failure to comply with the notice is deemed a criminal offence and a fine of £5,000 can be imposed for residential and £20,000 for commercial premises.
The term ‘nuisance’ noise in England and Wales varies to that of Scotland. In the former, legally you have to demonstrate that the noise is both unreasonable and interferes with your enjoyment and use of your property. For those in Scotland, you have to prove the behaviour is both unreasonable and causes discomfort before action can be taken.
There is no official noise limit to comply with. Each case is dealt with on it’s own merits. The outcome will depend on the judgement of the assessor, which is why it’s important to evidence your claim.
It’s worth noting that by making an official complaint via your local authority, it will go on record and may make it harder to sell your property.
4. Soundproof your home
Soundproofing can contain or block out noise completely. Soundproofing could be a potential way forward to help reduce noise levels. It’s relatively inexpensive to perform and can make a huge difference to the sound that escapes as well as blocking noise coming in. Soundproofing falls into two categories:
- Slim line stick-on solutions that take up little wall space.
- Stud walls that provide greater protection but take up more room.
Prices differ depending on the cost of materials used and the size of walls.
5. Legal redress – a last resort
If intervention from the local authority is denied, or you choose not to call on their help, you can take your case to the Magistrates’ Court. (This would be the Sheriff’s Court in Scotland). In order to do this, you would need to demonstrate that you have tried to resolve the matter amicably first.
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