Noise can be an enormous problem in blocks of flats or where houses are converted into flats.
The question is what do you do about it?
However difficult your neighbour is, the best thing to try first is talking to your neighbour. Sometimes people do not realise that they are causing a problem to others and raising the issue with them may resolve things.
If this does not get you anywhere, then check your lease (and ideally check your neighbour’s lease as well, as occasionally, they are different). The lease will contain covenants, these are promises made by the leaseholder to the landlord (the freehold owner). If it is clear that your neighbour is breaching the covenants, inform the freeholder. The advantage of involving the landlord is that the landlord will have to spend the time and costs of resolving the issue.
Often, there is a covenant in the lease which obliges the leaseholder not to cause a nuisance to his neighbours. Noise is an example of nuisance. Another example is where a lease provides that floors must be carpeted but a flat owner has laid wooden floors. In these circumstances, the leaseholder who is making the noise/ has laid the wooden floor may well be in breach of his leasehold covenant. The ultimate remedy for breach of a leasehold covenant is forfeiture of the lease, so the leaseholder who is causing the noise has to take the landlord’s complaints seriously.
If the noise is taking place at night ie 11pm to 7am, then Council have special powers under the Noise Act 1996 and you should make contact with them. The Council has the power to serve an abatement notice to stop the noise. The difficulty is often in getting the council’s environmental health officer interested in your noise problem as they may be inundated with requests to take action.
A further option is to pursue your neighbour through the civil courts. Noise is a private nuisance at law. To succeed, you must demonstrate that the noise is substantial or unreasonable. A claim can arise from a single incident or a "state of affairs". It can be caused by omission as well as by some positive activity. The court has the power to award damages to compensate for loss or can grant an injunction to require the defendant to stop the making the noise.
In all instances of noise problems, you should keep a diary which records the nature of the noise nuisance and the time it occurs. Evidence is key. Any problems with neighbours, including noise, should be disclosed on a sale so they could affect the ability to sell a flat.
Angela Gregson is a Partner in the property disputes team at RWK Goodman.