Q: I have lived in my flat for eight years. The owner upstairs recently refurbished their flat and I think they have laid wood flooring – now I can hear their every movement and conversation. What can I do?
A: With any neighbourly issue, the more amicable you can keep it, the better. My first piece of advice would be to let them know so that they are aware of the problem.
It would be worth having a look at the flat as they may have made changes as part of the refurbishment such as replacing carpet with wood flooring. If that is the case, check your property’s ownership lease to see whether there are any restrictions on having wood flooring, as some leases don’t permit it. Obviously, every building is different but in many cases, if wood flooring has been put down, permission may be required from the managing agent, if there is one in place. Check whether this has happened.
With permission for wood flooring it often requires additional sound proofing to be laid as part of the works, so see if this was the case and ask the owner upstairs to check with their builder whether this happened. If they are claiming that the works were all done properly, you could let the managing agent know you are having issues to verify whether the proper permissions were granted.
One option would be to commission an acoustic test, as that will determine whether an unreasonable amount of sound is travelling between your properties. This will require the sound engineer to have access to both flats, and this is where an amicable approach with your neighbour will be important – you want them to be as cooperative as possible.
If the acoustic test shows that an unreasonable amount of sound is passing through the floor, the engineer will be able to make recommendations on how to improve the sound insulation. If sound proofing was due to be laid as part of the works, this may suggest that the builder cut corners, and therefore, the owner of the flat above should approach the builders and ask them to rectify the matter. Or, your managing agent or freeholder may be able step in and impose restrictions on the owner, for example, if wood flooring is not permitted in the lease, forcing him to cover it.
As with any dispute, try to keep it as civilised as possible, before you go down the legal route as in many cases, things can be resolved or improved via a good working relationship and sensible solutions.
If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email Jo.firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet her @joeccles.