Am I right to complain about noise?

unsure - help with noise

Have I Got a Noise Problem?

Or are you just being overly sensitive? You may think it is a problem but will anyone else? What may be a nuisance to you may not be unreasonable to the average person or a “nuisance” in the legal sense of the word. Nuisance law is based on years of case law running back hundreds of years and there is no simple definition or measurement which enables us to pin-point when noise crosses the threshold for action.

Ultimately, what we are talking about when we talk about “nuisance” neighbours here are people who act unreasonably to an extent that their actions (or failure to act appropriately) could be classed as criminal or anti-social.

What you need to be sure of is whether the average person would be, say, mildly irritated by the problem or whether they would be regularly annoyed and inconvenienced. Obviously something which causes regular distress has more of a potential to be a nuisance than something which causes occasional annoyance. One of the key judgments used in nuisance law is based upon whether the problem “materially affects the enjoyment of one’s property”. If you can show that the peaceful enjoyment of your home is being affected by the problem you’re halfway there.

Remember though that the law allows the occasional disturbance and should weigh up the rights of your neighbour alongside your own. Some degree of noise is an inevitable consequence of life.

Key Questions

To be sure that there really is a problem ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it happening often enough?
  • Very often one-off problems are seen as acceptable (within reason).
  • How severe is the problem?
  • Does the noise penetrate into your home?
  • How long does it last?
  • Does the noise go-on for hours or repeat itself over-and-over?
  • What time of day does it happen?
  • If it is at night-time it will certainly be more likely to interfere.
  • What is this the norm where I live?

If you lived in a busy city area surrounded by night-clubs you would expect some degree of disturbance.

Ask for frank and honest feedback from your family members or other occupants. Do they think the noise is acceptable? Try speaking to your other neighbours as well. It could be that they have they noticed the problem and are suffering as well.

Download our comprehensive guide to noise nuisance.

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