My neighbour’s noise is a nuisance

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So it’s the third night this week you can’t sleep because your new neighbour seems to enjoy playing loud rock music with his band late at night. Normally you wouldn’t mind. However, being kept up till 2am every morning is affecting your productivity at work. You talk with your neighbour, but he doesn’t seem to see a problem. What now?

If a neighbour has a birthday party or is celebrating the festive season, then their behaviour would be considered reasonable. However, if the behaviour of a neighbour has become disruptive or abnormal to the extent that it affects your ability to enjoy your property, then the law supports your concern.

What does the law say about loud neighbours?

There are Noise Control Regulations under the Environment Conservation Act (Act 73 1989). These regulations clearly state that no person (including your neighbour) is allowed to:

Operate or play a radio, television, drum, musical instrument, sound amplifier, loud speaker system or similar device that produces, reproduces or amplifies sound, or allow it to be operated or played so as to cause a noise nuisance.

The regulations also give local authorities (i.e. your municipality) the ability to enter premises without prior notice, on condition it’s at a reasonable time of the day. This would be to inspect the premises and take any action if necessary.

However, before you run off to sue your neighbour it must first be considered whether or not the noise they are producing is reasonable or unreasonable. If you live in a congested city, for instance, noise pollution is common, but a residential area is expected to be quieter.

What makes your neighbour a nuisance?

There are several factors that determine if a neighbour is a “nuisance”. Some of them include:

  1. Excessive loud noise.
  2. Bad odours.
  3. Constant movement of inhabitants.
  4. Smoke, gas or fumes.

However, as mentioned earlier, it’s important to recognise the circumstance of the noise or disruption. Living in a residential area with rowdy neighbours hosting consistently late parties could be considered a nuisance. When judging the actions of your neighbour you should consider the following:

  1. Whether it is temporary or over a long period.
  2. Where the property is situated.

If it’s the festive season, then a lot of festive music and many guests is considered normal. In circumstances such as that it may just be better for you to let it go and wait for the festive season to pass. Being overly sensitive and irritable is not a reason to sue someone.

What can you do?

The first step of any neighbourly dispute should be to approach your neighbour and ask them to stop what’s causing the nuisance, such as telling them to turn down the music. Matters that can’t be resolved peacefully can be brought to a court and an interdict can be obtained against the neighbour. Legal advice is always beneficial when pursuing legal action so as to determine whether your complaint is valid or whether you’re just too sensitive.

An interdict is a court order that will command the neighbour to stop doing whatever is the cause of the nuisance. The nuisance causing neighbour can also be sued for any damages caused from the nuisance, such as broken property or health problems.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

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