Legal Q&A: As an occupier, what rights do I have as a tenant or an owner when it comes to dealing with noisy neighbours?

 
John Stephenson
No Peace
Source: Getty

There will rarely be a direct claim against your landlord for noise coming from an adjoining flat. One myth is that this nuisance constitutes a breach of your landlord’s covenant for “quiet enjoyment”, whether in your tenancy agreement or (if you are an owner) lease.

But this does not mean “peace and quiet” – it simply means that you are allowed to physically occupy the flat without any interference from your landlord.

But if you are an owner with a long lease, your lease and the leases of the other flats should contain a covenant against causing a nuisance or disturbance to adjoining occupiers.

A well drawn lease will also contain an obligation on the landlord (often now a tenants’ management company) to enforce those covenants against an offending flat owner at the request of the affected owner.

If you live in the flat, as an owner or tenant, you can take direct action against the noisy occupier.

But note that the complaining owner will need to indemnify the landlord for the costs of the enforcement process, and may be required to provide security for costs. If you’re subletting, you are responsible for the acts of your subtenant, and may be well advised, if the adjoining owner seems to have a good claim, to terminate the tenancy, usually for breach of a similar covenant in most tenancy agreements to not use the flat to cause nuisance to other occupiers.

If you live in the flat, as an owner or tenant, you can take direct action against the noisy occupier. But for an action to succeed, the disturbance must be significant and sustained over a period – a one-off loud party does not constitute nuisance.

Such a claim is not easy to prosecute, however, and most tenants choose to terminate their tenancy and find somewhere else to live, leaving their former landlord with the issue.

Read more: Can I let a leasehold flat in a mansion block?

Local authority environmental health officers will often take an interest in noise nuisance issues, too, especially where they are caused by Airbnb type lettings, which have led to a spike in this sort of complaint in the last few years.

Many freeholders of blocks are keen to restrict or prevent these short term lets, such is the level of disquiet (in every sense) on the part of their neighbours.

So while there will always be some sound transmission between flats (and newly built blocks can often be quite poor in this respect) there are remedies available for excessive disturbance from your neighbours.

Bircham Dyson Bell is a multi-disciplinary UK law firm advising private companies, public sector bodies, not-for-profit organisations and individuals since 1834. Visit bdb-law.co.uk to find out more

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