My neighbour is a nuisance

It is the third night this week you cannot sleep, because your new neighbour enjoys playing loud rock music late at night. Being kept up till 2 am every morning is affecting your productivity at work. You talk with your neighbour, but he doesn’t seem to see a problem. What now?

Occasional loud noise, if the neighbours have a birthday party, for example, may be considered reasonable. However, if the behaviour of neighbours is repetitively disruptive to the extent that it affects your ability to enjoy your property, then the law supports your concern.

What does the law say about loud neighbours?

There are Noise Control Regulations under the Environment Conservation Act (Act 73 1989). These regulations state that no person (including your neighbour) is allowed to:

Operate or play a radio, television, drum, musical instrument, sound amplifier, loud speaker system or similar device that produces, reproduces or amplifies sound, or allow it to be operated or played so as to cause a noise nuisance.

The regulations also give local authorities (i.e. your municipality) the right to enter premises without prior notice, on condition it’s at a reasonable time of the day. This would be to inspect the premises and take any action if necessary.

What makes your neighbour a nuisance?

The basic question is whether the noise is unreasonable in the circumstances. In a busy city area, for instance, noise pollution is common, but in a residential area life can be expected to be quieter.

Noise is not the only neighbourly “nuisance”. Some other causes of nuisance include:

  1. Bad odours.
  2. Excessive movement of vehicles or people.
  3. Smoke, gas or fumes.

Before reacting to the conduct of your neighbour you should consider the following:

  1. The area affected.
  2. The extent of the disturbance.
  3. The time, duration and frequency of the disturbance.

What can you do?

The first step of any neighbourly dispute should be to approach your neighbour and ask them to stop what’s causing the nuisance, such as telling them to turn down the music. If matters cannot be resolved reasonably and interventions by your local authority or by calling the police produce no results, you should get legal advice on obtaining a court order (interdict), directing the neighbour to stop causing the nuisance.

 Reference:

Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)