I had problems with the neighbours having parties before lockdown and while this has ceased temporarily they have remained very loud even without guests.
I am worried the parties and noise will step up again once restrictions are lifted. What can I do?
If an initial polite request for the noise to stop goes unheard, you can approach your local or district council for help
MailOnline Property expert Myra Butterworth replies: I’m sorry to hear about the disruption to your daily life. But there are steps you can take.
If an initial polite request for the noise to stop goes unheard, you can approach your local or district council, which has a dedicated team to help with such circumstances.
It can ultimately take action, such as physically remove any offending equipment if there is a case to do so.
In the meantime, keep a written record of what is happening and when, including any responses from your neighbours.
Amanda Hamilton, chief executive of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals, replies: The good news is, there is something that can be done.
Every local or district council has an environmental health department. These teams are known as ‘noise or nuisance teams’.
There are certain things that noise teams are unable to deal with such as noise relating to traffic, planes, trains and some domestic noises such as footsteps, crying babies, kitchen appliances and doors opening or closing.
Everything else is actionable. For example, neighbours playing loud music at all hours of the night. Once this has been reported to the department, they instruct a team that then contacts you to enquire whether the noise is still going on. If it is, they come round and experience the noise from your home. If they believe that the noise is excessive, they can initially talk to the neighbours to ask them to refrain and give them a warning.
Once the first visit has taken place, a letter gets sent to the neighbours confirming the noise team’s visit and explaining that, if the team is requested to visit again, a second warning will be given. On a third visit, the team has the right to serve a notice threatening prosecution and/or seizure of equipment.
For example, take a Victorian terraced house divided into two leasehold flats: A one bedroom with a garden on the ground floor and a two bedroom on the upper two floors.
The owners of the ground floor flat also own the freehold of the house, meaning that they could collect ground rent and service charges from the owners of the upper flat.
They did not ‘own’ the upper flat, as the couple that did own it had a 99 year lease. That meant that they had a right to quiet enjoyment and the right not to be disturbed in their own home.
The owners of the downstairs flat are a married couple. They assumed that they ‘owned’ the whole house and could do what they liked. They left their doors and windows open and played heavy rock music at all hours of the day and night.
Neighbours in the houses on both sides frequently complained to the top floor flat owners about how noisy the couple were, but not one of them confronted them downstairs.
The owners of the top flat were repeatedly woken in the early hours of the morning by such loud music that the building vibrated. They tried to use diplomatic means to reason with the neighbours downstairs but often found them to be so drunk that they were ignored.
After two years of trying this solution, they realised that their lives were being totally disrupted by the behaviour of the neighbours downstairs. So much so, that they had to relocate their bedroom to a room on the top floor, and quite often could not watch TV, as their front room was directly above the neighbours’ sitting room. They reverted to escape this by virtually living in the top floor bedroom.
In an effort to stop this disruption, they contacted the police who informed them that they could not do anything as it was a civil matter. However, they did mention the environmental health team of the local council, and in one fell swoop, their life changed. They were now in control of the situation.
During a period of six months, they called the team out three times, and on the third visit, the noise team called the police as it was clear that the neighbours downstairs were inebriated and became quite aggressive. They were arrested and their music equipment was taken away.
If you have a nuisance or noisy neighbour start by trying to reason with them. Let them know that their actions are impacting your life and ask if they are able to stop. Sometimes people are simply not aware of the impact of their actions.
If reasoning fails, and the neighbours refuse to change their behaviour, then don’t be tempted to threaten them or resort to retaliation tactics, call the ‘noise team’ of your local council.
It will help a lot if you have been able to keep a diary of the dates, times and type of disruption. The noise team needs to hear the noise or witness the disruption for themselves, so if you can determine a pattern, this will help them visit at the appropriate time and can move the process forward much quicker. Also keep a log of your conversations with your neighbour about the disruption, and their responses.
If you still have trouble, or the noise team haven’t provided the remedy you’re seeking, you could always apply to the court for an injunction. This is an order from the court, that can have a power of arrest attached, which forces the neighbour to cease the noise.
This is where a paralegal can help. A paralegal is trained and educated to assist consumers to make applications to courts and give advice. They are not solicitors and so their fees may be lower.