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Family ordered to pay over £100,000 to downstairs neighbour for noise nuisance

View profile for Jon Mahony
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Noisy neighbours are a common and often frustrating issue for home owners, and in 2018, one particular case reminded us that, beyond being merely irritating, noise nuisance can quickly become serious disputes resulting in lengthy and costly court litigation.

Sarah and Ahmed El Karrami and their family company, Darout Ltd (which owns the leasehold to their flat) were ordered by the court to pay over £100,000 to their downstairs neighbour, Sarvenaz Fouladi, for excessive noise over 7 years. The carpets had been removed in 2010 just before the El Karramis moved in immediately increasing noise transmission between the flats. The family was also ordered to carry out work on the flat to prevent the nuisance from continuing. 

The judge ruled that the family company had breached a covenant in their lease which forbade changes being made without the permission of the freeholder. In fact, Fouladi also brought a claim against the landlord, however, it failed on the basis that they had not authorised the work.

Although the El Karramis argued that they were not parties to the lease as the leaseholder was Darout Ltd, the judge held that it was the El Karramis who chose to remove the carpets, rendering them liable for the nuisance alongside the family company.

What is noise nuisance?

Nuisance is a civil wrong which recognises that an individual has the right to enjoy their land or property without being affected by the actions or inaction of their neighbours. This includes excessive noise which may seriously impede a person’s ability to live peacefully.

Noise nuisance can arise from a variety of sources, including:

  • Construction or demolition work
  • Traffic
  • Night time noise, even if it’s only ongoing for one night
  • Cockerels
  • Dog barking
  • Shouting

When can someone make a claim for noise nuisance?

For the nuisance claim to succeed, it must be “substantial” or “unreasonable”. Significant factors which affect whether someone can successfully claim for nuisance include:

  • The locality of the area – for example, a cockerel might amount to nuisance in an urban area, but possibly not in a rural one.
  • Frequency and duration – the more persistent the noise is, the more likely it is unreasonable.
  • Time of day – noise which occurs at night is usually more likely to be nuisance than daytime noise.
  • Intention or malice – if the perpetrator maliciously makes noise to disturb their neighbour, it is more likely to be nuisance.
  • Obtaining planning permission is not a defence to causing nuisance.
  • It doesn’t matter if someone ‘comes to’ the nuisance. For example, if someone moves into the house next door to a construction site, it’s not a defence that the construction site was there first.
  • If the perpetrator has been carrying out the activities responsible for the noise for over 20 years, they can raise a defence against any nuisance claims.

What remedies are available for noise nuisance?

There are a number of remedies available for successful nuisance claims:

  • The most common remedy is an injunction to prevent the activity causing the noise continuing.
  • Like in the El Karrami case, the court can award damages, for example, for distress caused or any reduction in value to the claimant’s property.
  • The court can also order the perpetrator to take steps to remove the nuisance. For example, in the El Karrami case, the family was ordered to undertake work on the flat which is likely to include laying carpets to reduce noise transmission.

Do you need advice about a noise nuisance dispute?

Are you a home owner or occupier who is involved in a dispute with your neighbour? Our specialist dispute resolution solicitors have a wide range of experience helping clients resolve neighbour disputes, including matters involving boundaries, rights of way, trees, hedges, dogs, and noise nuisance.

As highly skilled negotiators, our primary goal is to help our clients resolve their disputes amicably through amicable discussion and compromise, avoiding the time, stress, and expense of court wherever possible. We’re experienced in utilising methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution, such as mediation and arbitration, and have an enviable success rate for settling matters positively in our clients’ favour.

For further information about our dispute resolution and litigation services, get in touch with your local branch in Harrow or West End.