A person’s home is their sanctuary, so having a problem neighbor can be a very stressful experience. Trying to deal with the problem can be even more stressful.
First, you should remember that your neighbour is equally in their own home too, which is why trying to deal with a neighbour that is causing disturbance can quite often escalate in the wrong way. Unless your neighbour is behaving illegally, the police will not likely get involved, leaving you feel helpless to resolve the situation.
Situations and ways to deal with a problem neighbour
1. Try to solve the problem by talking to them.
Your neighbour may be unaware that they are disturbing the peace. They may not realise the walls are thin or their wooden floors above cause a disturbance to you. Therefore the first step is to approach them to ask them if they could be mindful of you.
If you’re worried about approaching them, write a letter, explaining the problem clearly and sticking to the facts. If the problem affects other neighbours, involve them as well. It can be easier to settle a dispute if the complaint comes from a number of people.
If you live in an apartment or leasehold property, you may be able to request that the landlord or management company does this for you. See below on leaseholds.
2. If your neighbour is causing a nuisance such as loud music
A statutory nuisance is unlawful, but only civilly, meaning the police will not likely get involved. How much noise is permitted will depend on where you live and what time of night it is. If you live in a city or built up area, the permitted noise is louder than if you live in a quieter location.
Under Environmental legislation, at the date of writing the permitted nose level is 34 decibels (dBa) adjusted (or in a built up area where the underlying noise is 24 decibels adjusted, the permitted noise will be 10 decibels adjusted above whatever the underlying noise is).
To put into context, 34 dBa is about the level of a person’s whisper. 80 dBa is about the sound of a lawn mower, and 100 dBa is about the sound inside a loud nightclub. This does not mean your neighbour cannot be louder than a whisper – the measurement is taken from your property, meaning the noise emitted from the neighbour may be 100 dBa in their own home, but in your home the travelling sound that you can hear should not be more than 34 dBA (or 10 dBA above underlying noise in a built up environment).
Where this is taking place you should complain to your council who must look into it and if they agree can serve an abatement notice on your neighbour to stop. You should have evidence of repeat offences, by asking your neighbours to write letters too or record the nuisance on video when it is happening.
3. If your neighbour is using its property as an Air BnB
You may be able to prevent this depending on where you live.
In case of unruly guests, AirBnB itself has a residence complaints procedure and will contact the landlord about any complaints to resolve them. They can also fine the landlord and/or guests. However, this can take time and relates to an isolated incident. Where your neighbour repeatedly causes disturbance, there are legal options .
- If your neighbour owns a leasehold property where the lease requires the property to be used as a private residence, your lease may entitle you to require your landlord to take steps to enforce compliance by your neighbour with the terms of the lease.
- Your neighbour may require Planning Permission. In London, Planning Permission is required for any short term lettings where these are to be in excess of 90 days in any year and it can be refused if, for example, such lettings are likely to cause nuisance or security issues or will effect the sense of community of the building/neighbourhood.
- Such use is causing a nuisance. There have been many instances of neighbours being disturbed by noisy parties. Nuisance can be restrained by civil proceedings for an injunction or action by the Local Authority under statute. Civil proceedings can be expensive but the threat of such action, and the likely liability for costs, may be effective in itself to ensure your neighbour ceases such nuisance.
4. Violent or harrassing behaviour
If your neighbour is being threatening or harrassing, you should call the police who should attend the property to speak with your neighbour. They will likely also speak with you.
5. Leasehold Properties
If you live in an apartment block or estate of leasehold houses, you will have more options available to you. The lease contains tenants covenants, which tenants must comply with. A failure to comply constitutes a breach of lease and can result in proceedings or in grave cases even forfeiture. It is common for tenant covenants to include things such as “be respectful to neighbours”, and “only use your premises for a residential dwelling”. Even better, some leases contain a landlord covenant so that each tenant has a right through the landlord to enforce the covenants against one another. You should contact your landlord or management association who should deal with the breaches, or a solicitor who can consider legal action on your behalf.
6. Legal Action
In cases of repeat nuisance or breach of covenants, legal action is available to you. You can seek an injunction by court order prohibiting the neighbour from continuing the disturbance. Ignoring this can result in penalties and even contempt of court punishable by prison if somebody does not comply. It may not get this far, but the fact it is possible means that often a letter before action from a solicitors to the neighbour can be enough to resolve the dispute.
If you seek to take legal action, then it iimportant to have evidence of the alleged wrongdoing. For this reason, it is a good idea to document all instances of unruly behaviour, ask your neighbours to do the same, and when an incident happens if talking cannot resolve the issue, lodge a complaint with your local council and/or police depending so you have a log. After several logs, you may find the police will attend the property to talk to the neighbour which can be enough to fix the problem.
If you have a problem tenant, you can take action under your lease. Remedies can include taking back possession through possession proceedings or, in cases of disturbances obtaining injunctive relief which can be quicker. Please see more information here.
If you need to take advice or if you are a landlord seeking to recover possession or deal with an unruly tenant, we deal in real estate disputes and can advise you and act on your behalf to resolve the issue. Contact us today to speak to a dispute resolution lawyer.