You can take your noisy neighbour to court – but you must prove it has affected your quality of life
- Your loud neighbour may be drive you crazy, but there is a difference between a noise disturbance and a noise nuisance.
- While barking dogs, loud music, arguing or shouting are part of having neighbours in close proximity, you do have legal recourse for persistent noise levels.
- You have to prove that it has negatively affected your quality of life, though.
- For more stories visit Business Insider South Africa.
Barking dogs, loud music, arguing or shouting are part of having neighbours in close proximity, but there is a difference between a disturbance and nuisance – the latter is illegal.
According to Roy Bregman, director at Bregman Moodley attorneys, South African law distinguishes between ‘disturbing noise’ – which is “objective and is defined as a scientifically measurable noise level,” and ‘noise nuisance’ – which is a subjective measure and is defined as “any noise that disturbs or impairs or may disturb or impair the convenience or peace of any person”.
Disturbing noises, such as loud music played into the early hours, are governed by municipal bylaws that focus on how loud, rather than how long the noise is made.
Noise nuisance usually happens over a longer period and is defined as noise that “disturbs or impairs or may disturb or impair the convenience or peace of any person”. It is always illegal and includes the following:
- dogs that bark incessantly;
- playing a musical instrument or operating a television set loudly;
- operating machinery or power tools;
- shouting and talking loudly;
- operating a vehicle that causes a noise;
- driving a vehicle on a public road in a manner that causes a noise nuisance; and
- the discharge of fireworks in a residential area causing noise nuisance.
The most practical and cost-effective way to deal with a noise nuisance would be to approach your neighbour directly and try and resolve the issue, or appoint a mediator to facilitate the dispute, says Bregman.
Here’s what to do if a neighbourly approach doesn’t work:
- You can file a written complaint with your local authority and law enforcement officials will investigate the problem to assess the severity. If necessary, they can instruct the reduction of the noise and if the offenders don’t comply, they can issue a fine, and in extreme cases even confiscate the equipment causing the noise nuisance.
- If the above fails, you can get a lawyer to issue a desist letter.
- If the offence still persists, your lawyer can approach the court for an interdict.
The court will consider the type of noise, the degree of persistence, where the noise occurs, the times when the noise is made, and all efforts made to resolve the matter, says Bregman.
You must satisfy the judge that the noise has negatively affected your quality of life, your health, your comfort and your general well-being, Bregman says.
If an interdict is issued and the noise persists, the neighbour may be found guilty of contempt of court, in which a fine or, alternatively, imprisonment in serious cases, may be imposed.
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