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Noisy neighbours: what can I do?

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An Ipswich couple has recently made headlines for installing an ‘anti-child device’ to deter their neighbour’s children from screaming loudly in the garden. The couple say they have put up with four years of unreasonable noise from the children next door, and it is more than simple play in the garden causing them misery in their own home.

The device emits a frequency heard only by young adults, and the couple switch it on when the children are being noisy, sending them fleeing back into the house. The move has caused controversy. The homeowners say they did not have any choice as the noise was making them flee their garden. However, they were charged by the police for harassment, and although acquitted in the criminal courts, the local authority has now stepped in and warned they could face further civil action and a fine under powers in the Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. The case has even prompted a segment on ITV’s This Morning about noisy neighbours, with Stephensons’ Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution, Andrew Leakey, answering phone in questions. 

Noisy neighbours are clearly a wide-spread problem affecting households all over the country. Whilst few people might take the steps described in the case above, it is clear that frustration can build, detrimentally affecting all parties’ enjoyment of their homes.

Noise nuisance claims are difficult to prove because noise is subjective. What one person may consider to be excessive noise might be perfectly acceptable to someone else. Parties also need to be realistic, the law is unlikely to intervene where noise is created by children. The law can assist if the level of noise amounts to a legal nuisance. To prove the claim, independent, objective evidence of the type, volume and frequency of the noise should be collated. Your local authority may be able to assist you by installing noise recording equipment to capture the types of noise. Whilst local authorities may not be able to take action themselves unless the nuisance is prejudicial to health (statutory nuisance), the recordings could still be used to assess a potential private nuisance claim. You should also keep diary logs of the dates and times of the noise, and what sort of noise is heard.

You have to prove that the noise being created is unreasonable and goes beyond the volume or frequency of noise to be expected, given the character of the neighbourhood where the property sits. What might be a noise nuisance in rural areas may not be on a residential street in a town for example.

Before launching into litigation or collating evidence, the first step should be to speak to your neighbours. Many neighbour disputes arise simply from the lack of communication or someone not realising there is an issue. Mediation is also worthwhile considering as it can prompt discussion between parties with the assistance of an independent third party.

If you are experiencing problems with noisy neighbours, it is beneficial to take early advice so you know your rights and the evidence you need before the relationship with your neighbours deteriorates for good. We have a team of solicitors who specialise in dealing with neighbour disputes. We can chat through your query in a half an hour appointment and then either work with you to try to resolve the problem, or point you in the right direction for your next steps.

If you would like to speak to a member of our neighbour disputes team to discuss your situation call us on 0175 321 6399.

By neighbour disputes solicitor, Amy Johnston

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