Got Noisy Neighbours? Know Your Rights

We’ve all been there, wide eyed at 1am listening to a thumping beat making its way from your neighbour’s house party into your bedroom. Inconsiderate neighbours are unfortunately something that most people living in estates and complexes have to deal with nowadays. And with so many more people working from home and avoiding social situations, the parties, DIY projects, and screaming kids are certainly becoming a new norm. 

But do you have any rights on the matter? Or do you just have to hope your neighbours come to their senses, or move out. 

Well, we’ve got some good news! Dealing with noisy neighbours is actually easier than you might think. 

South African law makes a distinction between ‘Disturbing Noise” and “Noise Nuisance”. Disturbing noise is objective and is defined as a scientifically measurable noise level, like loud music. Noise nuisance, on the other hand, is a subjective measure and is defined as any noise that disturbs or impairs or may disturb the convenience or peace of any person, like persistent loud talking or a barking dog. Other examples of noise nuisance include:

  • Playing a musical instrument or operating a television set loudly;
  • Operating machinery or power tools;
  • Operating a vehicle that causes a noise;
  • Driving a vehicle on a public road in a manner that causes a noise nuisance;
  • The discharge of fireworks in a residential area causing noise nuisance.

Both are illegal in terms of the Environment Conservation Act (73 of 1989) and the Noise Control Regulations. 

So how do you deal with the problem? 

As the first step, we recommend that you try and resolve the issue with your neighbour in a friendly and amicable way. Raise your concerns and frustrations politely and try to find a solution for the problem without the need for external input. 

If this doesn’t work and the problem persists, here’s what to do next: 

  1. Start by submitting a written complaint to your local authority. They will investigate the issue and will then decide whether or not to instruct the neighbours to reduce the noise, issue a fine, or they might even confiscate equipment.
  2. If this doesn’t work, and the noise persists, the next step would be to contact your lawyer about this issue. Your lawyer would then ask your neighbour to stop, and if this also fails, they will approach the court for an interdict to stop the noise disturbance. If you do succeed in obtaining an interdict, but your neighbour persists, they may be found guilty of contempt of court, in which case the court may impose a fine or imprisonment in serious cases.

However, bear in mind that the court will consider several factors when determining if the noise disturbance is in fact unlawful:

  1. The type of noise
  2. The degree of persistence
  3. Where the noise occurs
  4. The times when the noise is made
  5. All efforts made to resolve the matter

If you wish to take the matter this far, you will need to satisfy the judge that the noise has negatively affected your quality of life, your health, your comfort and your general well-being.

If you need any more help or advice on the topic, please feel free to contact us.