Neighbours can be wonderful friends, but not everyone is lucky to have respectful neighbours. Where neighbours disagree or do not get along, this can cause serious distress and annoyance, which can have a detrimental impact on your right to quiet enjoyment of your home.

Loud music during the night, a dog constantly barking or howling, children running around in the flat above you, are all issues that, over time, can have a negative effect on your mental health. In this article, our disputes resolution partner Annabel Clark explains how you can seek to handle this situation and avoid going to court to resolve the dispute, which should always be the option of last resort.

Addressing the problem

If possible, the first step to take is to talk to your neighbour either face to face or in writing and explain why what they are doing (or allowing to be done) is unreasonable and how it is affecting your health and well-being. By addressing the problem directly, you may be able to resolve the situation before additional measures need to be taken. Your neighbour may be unaware how noisy and annoying they are being, and a conversation may be all that is required to solve the problem.

However, if that doesn’t work, you should keep a record of the noise disturbance(s), what caused the disturbance, when, and for how long it lasted. A written record or recording will ensure that if the issue progresses to court, or indeed mediation, you will have evidence demonstrating the nature and extent of the disturbance.

The matter can also be reported to the local authority, council, housing providers/landlord or the police. The local authority should be the first port of call as they may have information on a particular individual’s noisy or abusive behaviour. The Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 allows the authorities to obtain a civil injunction to prevent antisocial behaviour and the perpetrator can be fined and get a criminal record.

Mediation is always an option to resolve any dispute. It is flexible, confidential and much quicker and cheaper than the court process.

Is the noise unreasonable?

The key question will always be reasonableness between neighbours and it’s often a question of degree and circumstances including, for example, the character of the neighbourhood. In an area that is close to a university and is mainly occupied by students, a higher level of noise may be expected. What is considered reasonable here will be different to what is considered reasonable in, for example, a small development with an older demographic of residents.

Noise after 11pm and before 7am is considered to be an interference with quiet enjoyment and constitutes a common-law nuisance, for which ultimately, if the other options detailed above have not worked, you can seek damages through the court and injunctive relief. There would need to be substantial interference, although it can, depending on the nature of the interference, be a single incident or an ongoing situation. It can also be an action or omission, such as leaving a dog locked in a house or flat regularly to bark.

A reasonable person should be willing to change their behaviour to reduce the level of noise; however, when this isn’t the case, there are options available to protect your health and well-being in your home.

If you are being impacted by a noisy neighbour and would like to discuss your legal options, please contact Annabel Clark.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.