Neighbourly disputes

Living in a city means you’re in close quarters with your neighbours, and occasional disturbances are inevitable. For leasehold properties, the lease will usually stipulate that the owner or occupant mustn’t make noise or play musical instruments during prescribed hours, usually between 11pm and 7am. Some leases and tenancy agreements even specify that the washing machine can’t be used between certain hours – I’ve even seen reference to gramophones not being allowed to be used, too!

While efforts are made to enable neighbours to live in harmony, unfortunately this is not always possible when building works are being carried out. The hours that builders can work are outlined by the local council and these are strictly enforced, but it can still cause disruption.

We had an investor client withdraw from a house purchase in Fulham late last year because the neighbour was about to embark on a basement conversion. Our client was concerned that tenants wouldn’t rent the property, especially as it was a family house and children would be at home during the day. Another of our clients owns a property in Chelsea which we manage for him, and the neighbour downstairs has embarked on a full refurbishment which has created a lot of noise and dust. Although our tenant isn’t overly pleased, there’s nothing that can be done as the builders are working within the hours and the site is kept neat and tidy.

If you’re a tenant, you may be sufficiently far enough into your tenancy agreement that you can move out and escape the disturbance. If you’re an owner, you don’t have this option, but hopefully the neighbouring works might smarten up your building or street, and you could gain financially once the works are completed.

If you are contending with neighbouring works, the best thing to do is to keep up communication with the owner, which goes a long way. We see too many neighbours complain only once they’ve reached the end of their tether, giving the person carrying out the works little chance to rectify or minimise the disruption, and at that point there tends to be very little goodwill left.

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email or tweet her @joeccles.