This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Noise nuisance is disturbing my patients

Barristers Michael Salter and Chris Bryden advise on the increasingly common problem of noise pollution

Barristers Michael Salter and Chris Bryden advise on the increasingly common problem of noise pollution

THE SITUATION

My surgery is situated below residential flats. I do not own the building but lease the space.

Recently the new tenants of the flat immediately above have started playing extremely loud music at all times of the day, which is very disturbing when I am consulting with patients. What can I do?

THE ADVICE

Noise pollution is a sad reality in the modern world.

Studies show that the average noise pollution has steadily increased both in volume and penetration in almost all areas.

Noise from traffic passing by, aircraft in some areas, dogs barking, car or burglar alarms are now common backdrops at all times of day and night.

Such intermittent or background noise nuisances can rarely be prevented or combated.

Many businesses or residences simply have to make the best of the situation by fitting double glazing or other noise insulation, or otherwise simply becoming resigned to the ongoing noise.

However direct noise pollution from a neighbouring flat, by way of loud music penetration, is a type of noise about which something may be done.

It does not matter whether it is a business such as the surgery that is being affected or a private residence, so long as the level of penetration is enough to be constituted a nuisance.

However before considering any legal action, it should be remembered that it is far more likely that informal steps that the surgery can take will result in an appreciable diminution of the noise irritation.

The first step is to contact the tenant, either directly or by way of a polite letter.

It may well be that they are unaware that they are causing such a disturbance and they may well agree to reduce the volume of their music, re-site their speakers, or use headphones.

This may particularly be the case if they wish to be taken on as a patient.

If such contact does not work, it may be worthwhile contacting the landlord, if you know who they are.

It is likely to be an express or implied term of the tenant's lease that they are not to allow noise penetration, or only reasonable noise penetration. It is also likely to be an express or implied term in the surgery's own lease that there is an entitlement to quiet enjoyment.

It is essential when contemplating any legal steps, if such informal approaches do not work, to keep a detailed diary of noise pollution.

If, for example, loud music begins at 9am and continues for two hours every day, this should be recorded, as should an indictor of just how loud the music is.

If, for example, it is so loud that the doctor is unable to hear the patient, this should be recorded.

In such severe cases it may well be that legal action is the only way forward.

In those circumstances the local council should be able to take steps to require the tenant to keep the music at an acceptable volume, by issuing a Noise Abatement Notice, and, if necessary, beginning a prosecution.

However minor music penetration during the day is unlikely to be enough to allow the Council to mount a criminal prosecution.

In most cases an initial letter following a complaint is enough to resolve the situation.

But where the tenant is in effect deliberately continuing to cause a significant nuisance, a criminal prosecution is a step that can be taken by the local authority.

Similarly, if the problem is severe and continues, there are a number of private remedies that the surgery can take.

These include issuing a claim for nuisance and asking the court to grant an injunction requiring that the music be kept to a reasonable level.

As always when considering such action, recourse should be had to specific legal advice.

Michael Salter and Chris Bryden are barristers at 2 Gray's Inn Square Chambers: www.2gis.co.uk Michael Salter is also able to accept instructions directly from readrs of Pulse. Please visit www.michaelsalter.net for guidance on how to instruct him. Legal points are provided for discussion only and are given without obligation. For specific legal advice consult your solicitor or contact Michael Salter via his website

Rate this article 

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Have your say