Our neighbors have removed their carpets, so what do we do about the noise?

My partner and I live in a ground floor apartment for a period conversion. Our new neighbor above decided to do a total renovation.

This included removing all the carpeting and replacing the old floors with what we suspect was either laminate or wood.

The noise wasn’t great before but now it’s unbearable. Every step can be heard loud and clear. It’s like being inside a drum kit.

We checked our lease and it said the floors had to be carpeted. Is this likely to be the same in the lease?

Noisy Neighbors: A reader thinks their neighbor may have violated their lease by removing carpet from their floors. (stock photo)

We told them the noise was now unbearable but they shrugged as if it wasn’t their problem.

Either they need to fix what they did or we will have to sell and move on. The latter does not seem fair to us.

How can we challenge them on this? If they mess with the floor, don’t they have to install soundproofing? By email.

Ed Magnus of This is Money replies: Noise disputes like this are a common problem. Unfortunately, for those who live in flat conversions, the chances of being at the mercy of non-existent soundproofing or noisy neighbors are almost for granted.

The first step should always be to approach your neighbor and discuss the issue in a diplomatic manner.

This may include discussing the possibility of installing soundproofing between apartments and splitting the cost.

If that fails, it may be time to explore more extreme methods.

To help advise the reader we spoke to Paula Higginsfounder of the HomeOwners Alliance and Gary Rycroftand attorney and partner in the law firm of Joseph A. Jones & Co.

We also talked to Phil Lyons Senior Technical Consultant in Soundproofing Shop F Anna ThompsonHead of Liaison for the Local Building Control Authority in England and Wales.

Diplomacy: The first course of action should always be to try to solve the problem amicably with your neighbors.

Diplomacy: The first course of action should always be to try to solve the problem amicably with your neighbors.

What should they do first?

Paula Higgins: The first port of call is to check the neighbors’ lease. If you have a provision that says floors must be carpeted, chances are your neighbor will have the same obligation.

You can start by making them hear the noise directly and pointing out that they are in breach of the lease.

I don’t know if you own the freehold with your neighbors or if there is a separate freehold. If there is a freeholder, you can alert the freelancer to the situation.

A freelancer can issue a warning or initiate legal action against your neighbors for breach of the lease.

If you hold a share of the freehold with your neighbours, you may consider taking them to First Title Court.

But this should be seen as a last resort because quarrels with neighbors can be stressful and turn nasty.

What if the neighbor breaches the lease?

Gary Rycroft replies: It is very unfair to feel that you may have to sell because of the selfish behavior of your neighbors.

I would also call it illegal behavior in that you have the advantage of a lease that includes an express undertaking that the floor will be carpeted.

A covenant of this kind in a lease is a legally binding promise to either do or not do a particular thing.

In this case, the requirement that the floors in your building be carpeted, would be a deliberate decision made at the time the leases were drawn up to protect the enjoyment of the building for all residents.

The question is how to enforce the covenant. The answer to that is often the freehold landlord has the right to take action against any tenant who breaches any covenant in the lease.

You don’t say who your free owner is. In a building that has been converted from one period to another, each individual flat may have a share of the freehold. Or your leases may be set up so that you as a neighboring flat can carry out the undertakings in the leases of other flats.

Often the final penalty for breach of covenants in the lease is the offender’s relinquishment of the lease meaning the loss of their apartment.

That should make them sit up and take it seriously. Try a friendly but firm approach first to explain all of this, before you draft in the big guns for a professional attorney to write a letter of claim.

What happens if someone loses their lease?

Gary Rycroft replies: It is a long loss-making procedure because the point is that the tenant loses the lease no push.

So it’s a fitting penalty in the teeth, but in 25 years I haven’t seen it get this far as tenants make sense before they put such a large asset at risk.

Did their neighbor ignore building regulations?

Anna Thompson answers: For existing apartments, there are no relevant building regulations or requirements where the floors are to be replaced.

As a last resort, you may also want to consider installing remedial acoustic insulation which can be expensive but very successful provided it is designed and installed by acoustic experts.

If you do sell, you’ll have to declare the problem with the neighbors, so it’s probably best to fix the problem and stay where it is.

Good Vibration: Adding a soundproofing layer to floors can help reduce noise from feet falling from above.

Good Vibration: Adding a soundproofing layer to floors can help reduce noise from feet falling from above.

How does sound insulation work?

Phil Lyons replies: Unfortunately, this is a common problem with current fashion trends promoting hardwood floors more than carpets.

The more solid the floor surface, the greater the vibration caused by impact through things like falling, dragging furniture, etc. This vibration can easily propagate through the structure to your side.

If you can force your neighbor to install soundproofing, you’ll want to use a product that adds both mass to the floor to reduce the airborne part of the sound, but also the flexibility to cushion the impact on the floor and reduce the force of the impact, thus reducing vibration.

If you need to solve the problem on your end, you can significantly increase the sound reduction in the ceiling by installing a suspended, flexible and acoustic ceiling.

This would again add extra mass to the structure to prevent the airborne portion from sounding, but instead of being rigidly attached to the structure, allowing vibration to travel through it, it is detached from the structure, allowing the roof to dampen and absorb vibration.

Are there other alternatives to sound insulation?

Ed Magnus of This is Money replies: One potential avenue worth considering is whether you can take legal action against the developer or builder and possibly force them to pay for the improvements.

The Soundproofing for Residential Homes Regulations came into effect in July 2003 and they also cover flat conversions. They place certain requirements on the separation of walls, floors and ceilings between different properties.

If you feel your home is breaking these rules, you can take legal action against the developer or builder and possibly force them to pay for the improvements.

This will require you to perform an acoustic test to prove that the noise was at an unacceptable level.

However, the regulations do not apply retroactively – so if your apartment was converted prior to 2003, there is no legal action to be taken against the developer or builder.

Nuisance: If your neighbor is making antisocial noises such as a dog constantly barking or partying late at night, the local council may investigate.

Nuisance: If your neighbor is making antisocial noises such as a dog constantly barking or partying late at night, the local council may investigate.

If the above noises become antisocial – such as night parties, loud music or barking dogs, you may be able to report this as a nuisance to your local council.

However, if the noise is occurring from normal daily life rather than anti-social activities, a complaint to the council will almost certainly not succeed.

In this case, simply walking your neighbor around the property may not be considered antisocial.

Therefore, in all likelihood, the best solution is to try to reach an amicable solution with your neighbor.

It may also be worth checking out the practicality and cost of sound insulation.

And if the worst comes to the worst (if your neighbor’s lease is the same as theirs), you can challenge them for breaching the terms of the lease by removing the rug.

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