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Dealing with a noise nuisance

Disputes between neighbours are commonplace and range from complaints about excessive noise to overhanging trees. When a dispute arises between neighbours, there are a number of practical steps that can be taken in order to resolve it.

Talk to the neighbour

In the first instance, an informal discussion should be had with the offending neighbour. Alternatively, it may be preferable to write to the neighbour raising the concerns.

Contact the neighbour's landlord

If the neighbour rents their property, the complaint should be addressed to their landlord who can take the form of a local authority, housing association or private landlord.

Use a mediation service

Mediation services are on hand to assist neighbourly disputes.

Mediation involves a trained professional liaising with the opposing neighbours in order to reach a conclusion that is acceptable to both parties.

A professional mediation service normally attracts a fee (although some charities, such as LawWorks, operate on a voluntary basis). However, this is typically considerably cheaper than recruiting a solicitor to initiate legal proceedings.

Local councils and housing associations also provide mediation services.

Contact the local council

If the dispute between neighbours relates to an activity that is legally considered to be a nuisance ('statutory nuisance') or is otherwise damaging to health, the local council is duty-bound to investigate.

Examples of statutory nuisance include:

  • noise (such as loud music, barking dogs)
  • smell, dust, steam or insects coming from business premises
  • an accumulation of harmful waste.

If the council finds a neighbour is responsible for causing statutory noise nuisance, for example, they will issue a 'noise abatement' order, which instructs the offending neighbour to cease and desist from making a noise nuisance or else face further legal action.

Breach of a noise abatement order in a residential setting can result in a fine of up to £5,000 whilst a similar breach in a business environment attracts a penalty of up to £20,000.

Call the police

The police should be involved if one or more of the following circumstances exist in connection with the offending neighbour's behaviour:

  • violence, threats or abuse
  • harassment on the grounds of race, sex, religion or sexuality
  • breach of the peace
  • actual or suspected illegal activity.

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