Can we sue over neighbour's noise?

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Question: We recently bought a second-floor flat in a three-storey block. The seller insisted there were no noise-related issues to concern us, and on a form he said there had been no noise complaints.

However, noise from the upstairs flat, mostly squeaky floorboards and thudding, is driving us mad. We've now discovered there were problems in the past, and that the previous owner of our flat even persuaded the people upstairs to lay carpet. We have no written proof but at least two people have confirmed the previous owner complained about noise. Do we sue him? Or do we concentrate on getting our upstairs neighbour to sort out the problems?

Answer: You may have a claim for misrepresentation against your seller if you can prove he complained about the noise. You need more evidence of what he did about the problem. Will the two people you mention make written statements? The lease of the flat above may contain an obligation not to cause noise nuisance, which you can in principle enforce through the county court. You may be able to require your freeholder/head landlord to take action against the upstairs flat owner if the lease provides for that.

Whatever the lease says, you have rights under the law of nuisance. If the problem stems from a normal use of the flat, and the noise transference is down to a quirk in the structure of the building, you may have difficulty proving your case. Even if successful, you will probably only get compensation, when the best outcome would be to fix the problem. Would the upstairs flat owner lay sound insulation below the floorboards, if you meet the cost? Notify the seller of your claim for misrepresentation and suggest he pays. The cost of the work is likely to be less than that of taking court action with an uncertain outcome.


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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a partner in the residential property, farms and estates team at Withy King LLP (

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor. 

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