Noisy neighbours are something many of us have had to endure at one point or another. The tension created by such a situation can have a ripple effect across the entire community. In addition, the inability to sleep or study can have disastrous mental health effects, whether it is as a result of a dog's incessant barking or music being played too loudly. However, there are several steps you can take in order to ameliorate the situation and to address the nuisance in an assertive and effective manner.
In a situation such as this, it is certainly preferable that the situation be resolved informally. If you have bought your home and envisage yourself residing there for many years to come, then it would obviously be advantageous to keep civil relations between you and your neighbours. Therefore, the initial step should include an informal discussion with the neighbour in question, whereby you inform them of your grievances and how you would like the situation to be rectified. This can be an effective first step, if you make your complaint in a calm and assertive fashion. It is not advisable to call the Gardai as the first step in addressing the problem, as all they can do is request that the music be turned down. This could lead to further tension and animosity.
If the noise continues after you have discussed the issue with your neighbours, the next step is to write a succinct letter clearly stating your grievances. This should serve as an obvious indication that you now wish to elevate things to a more formal setting. In your letter, it would be wise to outline the steps you have already taken to resolve the issue and the response you received.
If having done the above, you feel that the situation has not been resolved to your satisfaction, you may have no option but to take legal action. Under Irish law, you are entitled to bring complaints about specific noise in the community to the District Court. The current Statute governing this is Section 108 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 and the Environmental Protection Agency Act (Noise) Regulations 1992.
Just because you can hear your neighbours, or they occasionally play music, does not offend the regulations. You will have to show that the noise was "so loud, so continuous, so repeated, of such duration or pitch or occurring at such times that it gives you reasonable cause for annoyance".
A log of the incidents of noise and copies of correspondence will help you to prove that this was the case. You can take noise readings and these will be significant, but you do not have to.
The court, if it agrees with you, has power to order the offending party to abate the noise or cease it. The court can apply penalties, including fines, for non-compliance.
The courts always tell neighbours that they should do their best to get on with each other and settle their differences amicably. This is good advice but, in relation to noise, you are not required to suffer in silence.
Thomas Nelan B.C.L., B.B.S., is an Attorney-at-Law with Mannix & Company, Solicitors, 12 Castle Street, Tralee & Church Street, Castleisland. www.mannixj.com Tel: 066 7125011 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org