Tackling persistently noisy neighbours

Noisy neighbours – when New Year’s Eve party noise levels go too far.

New Years Eve may be a joyful time of the year, but things may be less joyful if your festive cheer-filled neighbours are partying throughout the holiday season and beyond and disturbing your peace.

Cathal Murray Solicitor, of James McNulty & Co Solicitors, outlines your right to quieten noisy neighbours and explains how best you can go about enforcing these rights.

The police deal with breaches of the criminal law. Noise levels are a civil issue so there is no benefit in calling the police to complain about noisy neighbours. The law expects us to put up with some irritation and inconvenience in our daily lives. Generally, if noise from neighbours is getting out of hand, a friendly chat might sort out the problem. It may also be possible to resolve the matter informally through mediation by engaging the services of a trained mediator. This demonstrates to a court you have acted reasonably if later you need to take legal action.

Statutory nuisance

If your neighbours’ noise – “unreasonably and substantially interferes with the use or enjoyment of your home” or is “likely to injure health” – this could amount to a statutory nuisance and councils have a duty to look into your complaint. If they agree a statutory nuisance is occurring or will occur, councils may serve an abatement notice which would require your neighbours to stop or turn down the noise.

They may send an Environmental Health Officer out to assess if the noise level, as measured from your home, is above limits permitted between 11pm to 7am; if it is, they may issue a warning notice requiring your neighbours to reduce the noise levels.

If your neighbours don’t comply with a warning or abatement notice without a reasonable excuse, councils can:

  • issue a fixed penalty notice
  • prosecute them with a possible fine being imposed by the Court; or
  • seize and remove noise-making equipment such as loudspeakers

Private nuisance

Where someone’s behaviour amounts to a continuous, unlawful and indirect interference with the use or enjoyment of your property, their conduct may also amount to a private nuisance and if your complaints fall on deaf ears at the council you could bring a civil claim against them. This would allow you to seek an injunction against the perpetrator in the civil courts, requiring them to stop the continuing nuisance, as well as possible damages for your loss of enjoyment of your property rights.

You can only bring a claim for private nuisance if you have an interest in the affected property i.e., you are the home-owner or a tenant. A visitor would not be eligible to pursue such a case.

When deciding if conduct amounts to private nuisance, the courts will look at:

  • the location – what may amount to a nuisance in one area may not in another
  • the time of the offending behaviour – night-time noise would be considered more unreasonable than day-time noise; and
  • the frequency – the more often it happens, the more likely it will be considered a nuisance.

They will also consider the extent and intensity of the harm, if malice was involved and any hypersensitivity you may have.

How a solicitor can help

A solicitor can explain what sort of evidence you need to succeed in such a case and then guide you through the Court process. They might even be able to help you avoid court altogether by first sending a ‘cease and desist’ letter to your neighbours which may encourage them into quietening down without the need for further legal action.

If you are plagued by noisy neighbours, it is a good idea to keep a diary note of each of the noisy incidents, explaining when and where they happened, how they affected you and what you have done to try to resolve the matter. If the noise affects others, ask them to keep a diary as well. If the noise is emanating from your neighbours’ garden, take photographs and video recordings. This could provide useful evidence in any future civil court proceedings.

For further information, please contact Cathal Murray on 8224 2177 or alternatively, see our contact page..

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.