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When your neighbour’s building work is ruining your life

Noise, dust, skips, scaffolding, nowhere to park your car – a neighbour’s building work can bring misery and disruption.

Extensive periods of construction can be especially invasive and stressful if you do shift work, and need to sleep during the day, or work from home.

Invasive and extensive

The problem is particularly well illustrated in London where a growing trend for developing huge basements in subterranean excavation projects lasting months on end has become increasingly controversial.

The work is usually so invasive that the homeowners themselves move out to escape while their neighbours are left to endure, noise, drilling, dust, vibration, builders vans blocking parking spaces and traffic congestion.

Queen guitarist Brian May says these so-called ‘mega-basements’ have turned Kensington, where he lives, into a “hell-hole”.

“Home life literally destroyed”

He said: “I have seen some of our neighbours suffer nervous breakdowns, and even death, due to continuous stress caused by these appalling intrusions on their private life. Their home life is literally destroyed.”

And while this may sound extreme, there is no doubt that one house owner’s home improvements – be they DIY or undertaken by a contractor – can cause significant problems for those living nearby.

So where do you stand legally?

It is generally accepted that building work is permissible between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 1pm on a Saturday and generally, no noisy work at all on a Sunday unless it’s an emergency. But this is a code, rather than the law, and not always easy to enforce.

Although it is recommended that you first try to resolve any problems by talking the issue through with your neighbour, or by using mediation, your local council has a duty to investigate noise from a building project if it is deemed to be damaging to health or a nuisance, known as a statutory nuisance.

If the council decides someone is causing a statutory noise nuisance they must issue a ‘noise abatement’ order. This tells the person what they must do to stop making a noise nuisance or else face further legal action.

If someone breaks an abatement order about noise from their home, they can be fined up to £5,000.

Otherwise, the only way forward is to look at the remedy for private nuisance and apply for an injunction to stop that nuisance and prevent it from reoccurring.

For further help, please contact Wards Solicitors’ building disputes specialist James Murray

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