Neighbour Nuisance – My tenants live in a first floor flat with their two children. All went well until 3 young men moved into the flat below owned by another landlord. It seems they are heavy smokers and play loud music late into the night. My tenants are now complaining that their flat reeks of tobacco fumes and their sleep is being disturbed. What can I do?
Disturbances between flats / apartments is not uncommon but can be particularly difficult to deal with for a landlord.
There are two aspects to this: (1) behavioural and (2) material or structural.
Where the tenant’s behaviour is excessive in some way then ultimately there may be legal redress as the nuisance deprives the occupants of the enjoyment of the property.
However, this sort of response is both time consuming and expensive and there is no guarantee of total success. A judge will strike a balance between the rights of both parties and of course there is no law against smoking in your own home.
The first move should be a polite request to the occupants below to curb their disturbances – they may be unaware of the effect they are having on your tenants. Secondly you could follow this up with a letter to their landlord.
Check the lease on your flat and the one below to see if there are any restrictions regarding noise and smoking – some leases ban smoking altogether. Speak to the managing agents / landlord if this is the case.
This can be followed up with a call to the local environmental health officers. Tell your tenants to keep a diary record of excessive disturbances and request a visit from the officer – they have the ability to record and monitor, and powers of enforcement.
Insulation and noise separation between flats can be minimal or non-existent, particularly in older buildings and conversions. Typically the only separation is old floor boards with wide gaps between (tongue and groove was unheard of 100 years ago) and a thin ceiling below that.
This can be expensive, and disturbing to your tenants, but ultimately you may need to up-grade the standard of insulation between these flats to modern standards. Several specialist firms now exist that can advise and provide effective remedial action in these situations. One such company which springs to mind is www.soundreduction.co.uk
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