What can we do about our noisy neighbours?

The noise from the flat upstairs is terrible, what can we do about it?

Question:  As soon as we moved into our new, recently converted ground-floor flat we knew we had made a mistake. The noise from upstairs is terrible. We can hear them talking, walking, their television and their baby playing with her toys on the wooden flooring.

The freeholder says that the lease for upstairs mentions nothing about floors having to be carpeted and therefore he can't do anything. I have tried speaking to the people above, inviting them down to listen to the noise, which they did, yet they haven't done anything. The noise is endless. What can we do? 

Answer: Because the flat is newly converted, it would be worthwhile looking at the planning consent for the conversion to see if soundproofing was a condition of planning. If it was, speak to the freeholder. Even if soundproofing was installed when the flats were constructed, perhaps the specification was not good enough.

Even if there is no covenant regarding carpets there is likely to be a covenant in the lease that lessees do not allow noise between certain hours, or cause nuisance, and you can ask the freeholder to enforce it.

You may also have a private nuisance claim against your neighbour. It is tricky to decide when noise constitutes nuisance and the courts will consider reasonable use. You could ask the local environmental health department to investigate whether the noise is at nuisance levels. If you win a claim for nuisance the court may order the neighbours to stop the nuisance and/or award you damages. Finally, you could consider soundproofing your flat, which may need the freeholder's consent.

Fiona McNulty is legal director in the real estate group of Foot Anstey LLP, Exeter.

What's your problem?
If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk 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. 

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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