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Dealing with noisy neighbours

Living in a sectional title property often involves sharing walls with your neighbours and having people living above you, below you or even both. Noise nuisance is one of the most common problems in sectional title and the usual suspects include:

 – Music being played too loud
 – Loud voices and shouting (especially prevalent whilst drinking)
 – Dogs barking
 – Noisy wooden flooring (stomping around and furniture being dragged)
 – Children crying
 – Doors slamming
 – Renovations

You, as an owner or tenant in a sectional title scheme, are entitled not to have the use and enjoyment of your unit unreasonably interfered with by other owners and tenants. This means that everyone living in a sectional title scheme should be considerate by keeping their (and their guests) noise levels down when going about their lives at the scheme. However, it doesn’t mean that other owners and tenants are not entitled to make a peep! You also must be reasonable and are expected to handle a reasonable level of noise during ordinary waking hours and on national holidays known for higher noise levels such as new year’s eve.

noisy neighbours

That said, what if your neighbour is completely unreasonable and making your life a living hell?

How to deal with a noisy neighbour:

1. Talk NICELY to them first
If you are fuming during or after you have been disturbed, wait until you’ve cooled down before approaching the source of your anger. If you approach them in a temper your problem may escalate from a neighbour who is annoying you to a neighbour you’ve had a fight with. Remember you have to live next to this person. So be polite.
Similarly, if you suspect the noise is a result of boozing – wait until the next day so you have more chance of dealing with them in a sober state.
Politely explain your position to them face-to-face and ask them to please ensure that this doesn’t happen again in the future.

2. Keep a record of the nuisance
If it continues after you’ve asked them nicely to stop making a noise, keep a record or a ‘noise diary’. This includes recording the times, dates, level of noise (these days you can record the disturbance on your cell phone), and any conversations or correspondence you have had with them. These records are vital if you eventually go down the route of mediation or arbitration.

3. Fill in an official complaint form and ask the trustees or your managing agent to get involved
Once you’ve completed a complaint form the trustees or managing agent can issue the person concerned with a breach notice and if that is unsuccessful, a final breach notice.

4. Internal dispute resolution session
After the final breach notice the next step is for the trustees and managing agent to call a meeting with both parties (yourself and the noisy neighbour) and to try and resolve the issue internally.

5. Outside professional intervention
If all else fails, mediation or arbitration are the dispute resolution mechanisms to follow. Ask the trustees or managing agent for advice if you want to go initiate these proceedings.

6. Absolute last resorts
You can try contact your local authority for assistance, but unfortunately it generally has more important problems to deal with than to police residential noise nuisances… For information on interdicts, criminal court orders and other legal options have a look at this article written by Bregmans Attorneys.

Remember that if at any time you feel physically threatened by a neighbour during your interactions with them – remove yourself from the situation and if you have to, call the police. The trustees and managing agents are not policemen and cannot physically control another person’s behaviour.

Jennifer Paddock – Paddocks Blog – http://www.paddocks.co.za/paddocks-press-newsletter

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