My partner and I live in the ground floor flat of a period conversion. Our new upstairs neighbor has decided to carry out a large-scale renovation.
This has included removing all the carpeting and replacing the old flooring with what we suspect is laminate or wood.
The noise was not very good before, but now it is unbearable. Every step can be heard loud and clear. It’s like being inside a battery.
We have reviewed our lease and it says that the floors must be carpeted. Is this likely to be the same in your lease?
Noisy Neighbors: Our reader thinks your neighbor may be breaking their lease by removing carpet from the floors. (File Image)
We have told them that now the noise is unbearable but they shrugged as if it was not their problem.
Either they need to fix what they have done or we will be forced to sell and move on. The latter does not seem fair.
How can we challenge them on this? If they tampered with the floor, shouldn’t they have had to install soundproofing? Via email.
Ed Magnus of This is Money responds: Noise disputes like these are a common problem. Unfortunately, for those who live in flat conversions, the chances of being at the mercy of non-existent soundproofing or noisy neighbors are all but a given.
Approaching your neighbor and discussing the issue diplomatically should always be the first step.
That might mean discussing the possibility of installing soundproofing between floors and splitting the cost.
If that fails, then it may be time to explore more extreme avenues.
To help provide advice to our reader, we spoke with paula higginsfounder of the HomeOwners Alliance and Gary Rycroftattorney and partner at the law firm of Joseph A. Jones & Co.
We also talk to phil lyons senior technical advisor at the Soundproofing Store and anna thompsonHead of Stakeholder Control of Local Authority Buildings in England and Wales.
Diplomacy: Your first course of action should always be to try to settle the matter amicably with your neighbors.
What should they do first?
Paula Higgins: The first port of call is to check the lease of the neighbors. If you have a clause that states that the floors must be carpeted, your neighbor probably has the same obligation.
You can start by getting them to hear the noise first hand and pointing out that they are in breach of your lease.
I don’t know if you own the property outright with your neighbors or if there is an independent owner. If there is an absolute owner, you can alert the absolute owner of the situation.
The landlord can issue a warning or initiate legal proceedings against your neighbors for breaching your lease.
If you share freehold property with your neighbors, you might consider taking them to First Property Court.
But this should be seen as a last resort, as disputes with neighbors can be stressful and turn unpleasant.
What if the neighbor is breaking the lease?
Gary Rycroft replies: It is very unfair that you feel that you may have to sell due to the selfish behavior of your neighbors.
I would also call it illegal behavior in the sense that you have the benefit of a lease that has an express agreement that the floor be carpeted.
Such an agreement in a lease is a legally binding promise to do or not do a certain thing.
In this case, the requirement that the floors in your building be carpeted will be a deliberate decision made at the time the leases were established to protect the enjoyment of the building for all occupants.
The question is how to enforce the pact. The answer to that is that the freehold owner often has the right to take action against any tenant who violates any covenant in the lease.
You don’t say who owns you. In a converted period building, each of the individual flats may own a part of the freehold. Or your leases can be set up so that you, as a neighboring apartment, can enforce the agreements in the leases of the other apartments.
The ultimate penalty for breaching the covenants in a lease is often the violator losing the lease, which means losing their apartment.
That should make them sit up and take this seriously. Try a friendly but firm approach to explain all of this first, before resorting to the big guns of a specialist lawyer to write a claim letter.
What happens if someone loses their lease?
Gary Rycroft replies: It is a long procedure that leads to confiscation because the point is that the tenant loses the lease with without payment.
So it’s a proper sanction with teeth, but in 25 years I’ve never seen it come to that as lessees see the point before putting such a large asset at risk.
Has your neighbor ignored the building regulations?
Anna Thompson responds: For existing apartments there are no relevant building regulations or requirements when flooring is replaced.
As a last resort, you may also want to consider installing remedial soundproofing which can be expensive but is highly successful as long as it is designed and installed by acousticians.
If you sold, you’d have to declare the problem to the neighbors, so it’s probably best to fix the problem and stay put.
Good vibes: Adding a layer of soundproofing to your floor can help reduce impact noise caused by footsteps from above.
How does the soundproofing work?
Phil Lyons responds: Unfortunately, this is a common problem with today’s fashion trends that promote hard floors more than carpets.
The harder the floor surface, the more shock vibrations are created through things like footsteps, dragged furniture, etc. That vibration can easily spread through the structure to your side.
If you can force your neighbor to install sound insulation, you want to use a product that adds mass to the floor to reduce the airborne portion of sound, but also resiliency to cushion the impact on the floor and reduce the force of impact. thus minimizing vibration.
If you need to solve the problem on your end, you can greatly increase the sound reduction of your ceiling by installing a resilient suspended acoustic ceiling.
This will again add extra mass to the structure to block the airborne part of the sound, but instead of being rigidly attached to the structure, allowing vibration to travel through it, it is decoupled from the structure, allowing the ceiling to become damp. and absorb vibration.
Are there other alternatives to soundproofing?
Ed Magnus of This is Money responds: One potential avenue worth considering is if you could take legal action against the developer or builder and potentially force them to pay for the improvements.
Soundproofing standards for residential homes came into effect in July 2003 and also cover flat conversions. They establish certain requirements in the separation of walls, floors and ceilings between different properties.
If you think your home is in violation of these rules, you could take legal action against the developer or builder and potentially force them to pay for the improvements.
This would require you to perform a sound test to prove that the noise was at an unacceptable level.
However, the rules do not apply retrospectively, so if your apartment was converted before 2003, no legal action can be taken against the developer or builder.
Nuisance: If your neighbor makes anti-social noises, such as a barking dog or late-night parties, the local council may investigate the matter.
If the noise above is becoming anti-social, such as late-night parties, loud music or barking dogs, you may be able to report it as a nuisance to your local council.
However, if the noise is coming from normal day-to-day life rather than anti-social activities, the complaint to the council will almost certainly be unsuccessful.
In this case, your neighbor just walking around the property probably wouldn’t be considered antisocial.
Therefore, in all probability, the best solution will be to try to reach an amicable solution with your neighbor.
It may also be worth investigating the practicality and cost of soundproofing.
And in the worst case (if your neighbor’s lease is the same as yours), you can sue them for breaking the terms of your lease by removing the rug.
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