My neighbours have recently renovated their property and installed a roof terrace. They have been barbecuing constantly since the start of the summer, and I have had to deal with the excessive noise because the terrace is right by my bedroom window. I have spoken to them about their behaviour but they have been unresponsive. What are my options? Is it worth me taking them to court? How long is the process likely to take?
The first thing you should do is visit the planning section of your local council’s website to see if your neighbours applied for planning permission for the roof terrace. If they did, you should check the decision notice and plans to see if there were any conditions imposed on your neighbours at the time. If your neighbours are breaching any of these conditions, or if they failed to get permission at all, the council’s planning enforcement team could take action.
My neighbours appear to have obtained planning permission. What next?
If talking to your neighbours has not worked, then you may need to consider alternatives. If your neighbours’ behaviour is unreasonably interfering with your enjoyment of your property, then they may be causing a nuisance in law. You should keep a diary — ideally with audio recordings — as evidence of the noise levels and frequency of disturbance. If it is having an effect on your family’s health or wellbeing, you could report the matter to your local council who may take action by serving a noise abatement order on your neighbours. If they do not, you may need to take action yourself.
What would court action achieve?
In an ideal world, you would obtain an injunction preventing your neighbours from using the roof terrace at all, or at least in a way that interferes with your enjoyment of your property. If your neighbours have obtained planning permission for the terrace, this is not, itself, a defence to a nuisance claim. There will be occasions when the terms of a planning permission could be relevant in a nuisance case. You will probably need to involve an expert to report on noise levels.
Court action sounds expensive
It is. It could also take many months to get a hearing date. If you are unsuccessful at trial, it is likely that you would be ordered by the court to pay your neighbours’ costs in addition to your own — and your neighbours will still be using their roof terrace. You will also need to disclose the existence of any dispute with your neighbours when you come to sell your property, which may have a negative effect on the sale or the sale price. In short, court action should be the last resort.
Mark Steggles is a partner in Property Dispute Resolution at Thomson Snell & Passmore
First published in the Financial Times here; https://www.ft.com/content/80346554-b3b6-11e9-8cb2-799a3a8cf37b?FTCamp=engage%2FCAPI%2Falert%2FChannel_signal%2F%2FB2B