Dealing with complaints of noise nuisance
31st May 2018
31st May 2018
Whether dealing with leasehold or tenanted properties, complaints of noise nuisance from neighbours present a number of difficulties for landlords, management companies and their agents. As well as the evidential burden to prove a breach of the lease or tenancy agreement has occurred, consideration needs to be given to the legal costs of taking such action, in particular who will pay such costs.
The below summarises the key considerations and tips for dealing with noise nuisance complaints :-
Accurate records are essential
Neighbours must be encouraged to make contemporaneous records of the complaints, including the date, time and exact nature of the complaint, e.g. exactly what has occurred. The more information, the better. Neighbours should also record the impact such behaviour has had on them, as well as the factual circumstances of the complaint.
Neighbours must be encouraged to record all complaints to the landlord or the agent, and should encourage other affected neighbours to do the same. The more complaints made, the better position the landlord is in to take any enforcement action.
Complaints ideally should be made in writing with accurate records of all incidents. Where complaints are made verbally, accurate records should be made by the landlord or agent, giving the complainant the opportunity to review and confirm the records made.
Anonymous complaints carry far less weight by the Courts and in some cases cannot be relied upon at all. Complainants must be prepared to be identified and, where legal action is taken, attend Court to give evidence.
Neighbours may also wish to report complaints to the Local Authority or the police, who may be able to take more immediate action to abate the nuisance.
The landlord’s response will always depend on the nature and severity of the complaint.Repeat, low-level nuisance can in some cases be treated as seriously as a one-off, severe nuisance incident.
Depending on the nature and severity of the complaint, the landlord may carry out further investigations including interviews with other neighbours, reviewing any CCTV footage etc.
The tenant should be notified in writing of the nature of the complaint, including the date, time and what is alleged to have occurred.
The tenant should be reminded of the terms of the lease or tenancy agreement alleged to have been breached, and whether or not the landlord intends to take any further action as a result of the complaint.
The landlord may also invite the tenant to respond to the allegations and offer an opportunity to put their version of events across.
The landlord should keep the complainant updated on action being taken in response to the complaint.
Potential legal remedies
Injunction - to prevent further noise nuisance.
Possession action - in the case of a long lease, a determination that there has been a breach is required before possession action can be commenced.
Remember, it is not always necessary or appropriate for any legal action to be taken. Generally, the freeholder is not responsible for the nuisance behaviour of its leaseholders and is not obliged to take legal action, although this depends on the terms of the lease. Nuisance behaviour caused by leaseholders does not of itself amount to a breach of the landlord’s obligations of quiet enjoyment - this is a covenant that has nothing to do with noise.
Before legal action is taken
Careful consideration needs to be given to the terms of the lease or tenancy agreement to establish whether or not the allegations amount to a breach.
The strength of the evidence will need to be assessed in each case.
Legal advice should be sought before enforcement action is taken.
Consideration needs to be given to the likely costs involved in taking any legal action, and whether such costs could be recovered from the tenant under the terms of the lease or tenancy agreement. In the case of a long lease, the landlord needs to check whether any costs not recovered from the tenant, and any costs the landlord may be liable to pay if such action is not successful, could be recovered via the service charge.
The landlord may decide only to take legal action, where the neighbours are also tenants of the landlord, on the basis that the neighbours affected provide an indemnity for the landlord’s costs, provided that the lease or tenancy agreement makes such provision.
The landlord needs to be satisfied that the complainants are committed to the process, that they are prepared to give evidence in Court and are credible witnesses.
For more information, please contact Kevin Lever at Kevin.Lever@kdllaw.com or on 01435 897297.
This legal update is provided free of charge for information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of KDL Law or by KDL Law as a whole.
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