Noisy neighbours nettle owner

This week the Property Poser panel helps a reader who is at his wits’ end with noisy neighbours.

He writes that the owner of the next-door property rents it out to eight students, who often hold loud parties until the early hours.

He has had meetings with the owner, who has undertaken to do something about the noise. However, instead of improving the situation, it has worsened.

Rian du Toit - DTS Attorneys

Rian du Toit – DTS Attorneys

The reader has contacted the police who have warned the tenants, but this remedy never lasts. He would like to know who can be held responsible for this intolerable situation and whether he could get the university involved.

If the landlord were intent on taking action, he could examine his lease agreement for a clause dealing with the reasonable use and enjoyment of the property, says Rian du Toit from DTS Attorneys in Port Elizabeth.

“This could lead to the potential cancellation of the lease and ejectment of the tenants.”

As much as the owner or his tenants have the right to use and enjoyment of the property, Du Toit says it is a basic principle that your rights cannot infringe on those of your neighbours.

“Should a neighbour act in an offensive and unreasonable manner, he or she is said to cause a nuisance and legal steps can be taken against the offender.”

Du Toit says the measure applied to determine whether a particular use of property is unreasonable or not, is the standard of a reasonable person of sound tastes and habits.

“Where appropriate, you could obtain a court interdict, but this can be a costly, slow-moving and complicated affair.”

To qualify for this type of relief, the interference with one’s right of enjoyment of one’s own property must be substantial and continuous, says Du Toit.

According to Charlotte Vermaak from Chas Everitt in PE an interdict is a so-called civil remedy, where one private party acts against another. “A more cost-effective alternative would be to institute criminal action.”

Vermaak advises the reader to contact the relevant local authority to find out what municipal by-laws apply in his area.

“He should also determine whether the owner is contravening the zoning limitations by renting out his property as a student house.”

If so, Vermaak says the municipality must address the situation in accordance with the relevant municipal legislation.

Charlotte Vermaak - Chas Everitt

Charlotte Vermaak – Chas Everitt

“Alternatively, Section 384 of the Criminal Procedures Act pertains to instances of noise nuisance and binds individuals to keep the peace.”

The threat of criminal sanction may be more of a deterrent, says Vermaak, but only if charges were actually brought against the students, since warnings from the police have fallen on deaf ears.

“The tertiary institution on the other hand cannot be held accountable for the off-campus actions of its students. It is however not a bad option to explore as a reprimand from them may influence the students sufficiently to change their behaviour.”

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