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Oct, 2014

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  1. #1

    Default Soundproofing Aaargh!

    I'm really hoping that somebody here can give me some good advice as I have now reached the end of my tether. This is a bit long-winded, so please bear with me.

    I own and live in my flat, which is one of a block of four in a converted Victorian building. All flat-owners own an equal share of the freehold, administered through a limited company of which we are all directors.

    Two of the flats are rented out through lettings agents, and the flat above mine has been let for over a decade now. The owner lives in the North and I don't think she has visited the property since moving away.

    Back in 2005, I alerted the owner to the fact that the quality of the floorboards in her flat - particularly in the bedroom above mine - had deteriorated to a point where they were creaking and cracking so loudly that I would be awoken in the night if her tenants came in late or went to the loo, even when I was wearing earplugs. I asked that something be done. She prevaricated, said she would get her agent onto it. The agent did nothing. When I followed this up, she abdicated all responsibility, stating that it had nothing to do with her any more. A string of emails back and forth resulted in her agent organising the laying of hardboard across the floorboards and new carpet. This made absolutely no difference as the floorboards themselves had not been repaired. At this point, I gave up, spent a fortune on earplugs and resigned myself to disrupted sleep patterns.

    I went away to work abroad for 18 months (and caught up on my sleep), renting out my own flat in the meantime. I returned regularly to check the property and confirm with the neighbours that my tenants were not causing any problems. I moved back into my flat earlier this year and was informed by the tenants in the flat above me that they were moving out. Apparently the flat was to be fully refurbished so that a better rental rate could be achieved. This was my opportunity! I contacted the owner and told her the same old problems still existed and that I would be prepared to subsidise, organise and take care of sound-proofing of her floorboards, particularly in the bedroom area, which is only 10x11ft. I could live with the rest. She told me to liaise with her agent. He had already got quotes from the builders he was using, and I also obtained quotes from a specialist sound-proofing company. We met, we verbally agreed my subsidy. I followed this up with an email asking that we confirm this in writing and also asking for permission to inspect the works to make sure they were done correctly. I received no response.

    The renovation works lasted over two months and there were a number of quite serious problems with damage to the building, which our company secretary addressed in formal letters to the agent. After quite a long time of radio silence on the soundproofing front, I went up to talk to one of the workers, and was told - and I quote almost verbatim: "We've been instructed not to talk to any of you otherwise we won't get paid." Wow. I kept my anger under control and emailed the owner with a polite request to please update me on the status of the flooring. Finally she wrote confirming that there would be soundproofing AND carpet.

    The new tenant moved in on Sunday. It is blatantly obvious that there has been absolutely no soundproofing work. The same old floorboards are making the same old racket. There's a nice new set of creaky floorboards in the living room where the plumber has pulled them up and put them back badly. The carpet is clearly cheap and thin. Seven years of trying and we're back to square one.

    Although I have not actually been charged for these non-existent works, I have a couple of queries. Is there ANY legal redress regarding this situation? As owners, we are still all bound by the terms of our lease, which allows the Lessor upon written notice to examine the state of repair to the property and to require the Lessee to make good defects. Is this something that we could enforce? We also have a clause that states “not to do anything that will annoy the occupiers of the property” and I wonder if that could be used too. I don’t want to waste time and money on legal action if it’s going to backfire.

    My only other hope is to put in a false ceiling in my bedroom, and I have had a quote for this. I know that it will reduce impact noise, but does anyone know if it will dampen the tremendous sound of the cracking floorboards?

    I’m dealing with an owner who is disinterested and whose past actions and responses have been nothing less than thoroughly passive aggressive – and an agent who is a lying snake.

    Failing all that, I shall have to resort to black magic.

    Help and advice gratefully received.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Windowsill Bay
    Posts
    1,552

    Default

    I think you need to repost this in Leasehold Questions.

    If you rented the property out for 18 months, would you not have had complaints from your tenants if it is as bad as you say? How did they cope?

    It's not that hard to remove a ceiling and put soundproofing up yourself. You wouldn't need to create a new ceiling.

    I live in a Victorian house - at the moment I'm literally having trouble sleeping and I'm downstairs but I can here my partner turning over in bed. It doesn't bother me as I can switch off to noises. But the trouble with lots of conversions is that they don't put sound proofing in and if you can't switch off you've got problems.

    A friend of mine lives in a 'purpose built maisonette' and she can hear 'everything' that goes on in the property above and adjacent!

    Good luck, hope you can find a solution.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Posts
    210

    Default

    When I lived temporarily in my ground floor flat to renovate both it and the one immediately above it, the top floor was occupied by a Polish couple - his voice on the phone carried all the way down through two floors and ceilings to me - could hear every word - just not understand them! Thankfully, either my tenants are deaf, or used to it. Or the Pole's have moved out...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Stevenage
    Posts
    1,447

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Claymore View Post
    I think you need to repost this in Leasehold Questions.

    Please don't ask people to re-post threads, they can't, all they can do is create a second thread and if the two threads eventually need merging we end up with a bit of a mess.

    It's much easier to either report the post requesting a move, or ask the OP to do so.
    I also post as Mars_Mug when not moderating

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Foundation trench for New Shed@ Ham on Rye
    Posts
    15,051

    Default

    It might be that the boards simply need screwing or nailing down and little talc in the joints.

    If it is a matter of disrepair, ie that the boards are old and worn out, then the freeholders acting in unison or as a majority require that they repair them in accordance with the lease.

    That is far cheaper than sound proofing!

    Nuisance is simply a tool which underpins the need for repair.

    As for a board meeting to be convened to discuss this.

    Look to see if the lease requires carpeting as bare boards as attractive as they are may be a breach without carpet.
    Based on the information posted, I offer my thoughts.Any action you then take is your liability. While commending individual effort, there is no substitute for a thorough review of documents and facts by paid for professional advisers. More ramblings atleaseholdpropertymanager.blogspot.com

  6. #6

    Default

    We have a similar problem in reverse - our downstairs neighbour claims we are breaching the lease by not installing soundproofing - even though we changed to thicker carpets and put down sound-reducing underlay when we moved in. The property is 90 years old and was converted 30 years ago. There is no provision in the lease for soundproofing, just that the living areas are carpeted. I'd imagine your lease would state similar to this.

    Before you go the court route, you should really contact your local council for advice. We were told that although current sound insulation may be considered to be inadequate to someone who is sensitive to noise, it was done within regulations at the time. Although the laws may have changed for new builds, older properties do not have to be altered to conform to modern regulations.

    If you can get the council to measure the noise levels to ascertain if they're excessive, then you might have some leverage with regards to your upstairs neighbour carrying out the work. However, if they are not breaching the lease you may well be batting on a sticky wicket.

    You could try the soundproofing from your side - but even then there has been enough anecdotal evidence that this would not neccessarily be 100% succesful regardless of what method or material you use.

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