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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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We have a flat within a 1930's converted house. One neighbour

Customer Question

We have a flat within a 1930's converted house. One neighbour keeps complaining about the noise from our flat, even during the day, when a 'normal person' could be expected to be at work. We can hear the same noise from the flat above which we have put down to the fact that this is a conversion and not purpose built.
Environmental health came and agreed that the sound proofing is inadequate and cited that they apply the environmental protection act and disreagard the noise act. I have undertaken steps to reduce the problem by buying a sound system room, so when I'm in the kitchen I don't need to let sound travel. I don't play loud music but since even loud conversations can be heard does that mean I must wear earphones at all times? RBKC says they cannot force my landlord, Notting Hill Housing Trust, to provide sound insulation and they have refused to do that in writing, too. Instead RBKC are going to serve me with an noise abatement notice with regards ***** ***** music. The conversion was done in 1972 and has not been updated since then. it has 'wafer-thin' walls which meant I can hear every sound - 'and I mean every sound' - coming from his neighbours' homes and the communal areas of the block.
Researching my rights online I found this: http://www.lgcplus.com/landmark-noise-challenge-fails/519729.article
The exact situation I am in. Does that mean that my tri-borough will get the same ruling, if it goes to court? How can I protect myself, since the tri-borough does not provide clear guidelines, hasn't responded to my FOI request from 9 July 2014 to see my file and hasn't answered any queries of mine , my local councillor, my MP and my housing officer other than with a standard letter. I have been informed that this is a criminal matter and even though it is to the environmental health officers subjective view, since no guidelines about dbl levels exists, good training will ensure that officer A will come to some decision that officer B or C will come to, if called upon.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.

.

Thank you question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.

What exactly do you want to know about this?

Is there any kind of covenant in the lease which says that you have to carpet the flat (extremely common) and not have wood or laminate flooring? Have you complied with that?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Jo. Nice to talk to you again. No - there is nothing like that. I rented the flat in 1991 without furnishings. I am on the ground floor - the complainant is above me. She just chose to move her bedroom from above my bedroom (which is always quiet) to above my living room (which never is). When she started complaining (she is ex-Jugoslavian has been claiming asylum) saying my bass reminds her of being bombed in Sarajevo, I went to my housing trust straight away to ask their advice. I purchased a stereo room, so if I cook I listen to the kitchen one, if I relax, to the one in the lounge etc. The housing trust never spent a penny on the upkeep of the flat - I spent about 16k of my own money, as it is assured tennancy. I had to submit plans drawn by architects, which were then approved by them and had to immediately sign over all furnishings that are covered by building insurance (Dolphin bathroom and Moben kitchen) over to them. This was necessary as my then partner has Multiple Sclerosis and he was unable to use either rooms and the adaptations approved by Notting Hill Housing were 2 handrails in the bathroom (he couldn't use as the rim of the bath was too high to lift his feet without help and the toilet was not in a place were we could fit levey pulleys. The kitchen needed to be re-done because it wasn't disabled friendly and could not be used from a wheel chair - all this was suggested by occupational health but ignored by Notting Hill and after fighting 3 years - even pointing out that their own guidelines say that the life time of the kitchen and the bathroom provided had expired and are due , I gave up and paid myself. I didn't even get a grant from them of this-. I am also asking years already glazed windows, as everybody has them apart from me - as I am the longest resident and they replace the windows only when nobody is in residence. Double glazing with a preplex frame would reduce sound transmission up to 50% - normal double glazing by 25% - as it stands I have single sahs windows, which are conductors travelling.

Now I am being served with a cessestation order by RBKenChel - the precurser ASBO due to causing a noise nuisance. Bla, bla, bla, amplified music.... I know all that doesn't apply to conversions made in 1973 and that have not been upgraded. Notting Hill refuses to put soundproofing up and when they re-did upstairs, due to a leaking roof, NHHG had attended a 'sound test' by RBKensington & Chelsea that didn't even need measuring devices, as normal conversations could be heard upstairs and they were recommended to soundproof from upstairs, since they are re-doing the flooring. 'Budget constraints' prevented thast from happening. The borough refrains from ordering these improvements on principle. Therefore her complaints keep coming and since the borough must investigate each and every one of them I am getting regular letters to cease and desist.

Things got worse 12 months ago when I had to leave my full time job due to health issues. I am on DLA (support group) and now I am in during the day. So she doesn't have the 10 hour window of quiet anymore. I am getting letters saying that at 3.30pm my music could be heard upstairs bla, bla, bla. I then invested into high end speakers as these produce a crystal clear sound at low levels. Since no guidelines exist on noise nuicance and the tri-borough is unable to say in writing which parts of the environmental health act / noise act they have opted out of,I am in limbo. I have the police involved, as this is now treated as a criminal matter. I am not too concerned, since a FOI revealed that Hammersmith and Fulham (my part) had 16.000 complaints last years and 2 succesful prosecutions - both pleaded guilty and 'no contest'.

Since the case I mentioned reflects exactly my position and I am preparing to contest the ASBO and NHHG isn't providing sound proofing, it has been suggested by Ken&Chel (the tri borough has environmental health by them) that I could soundproof my ground floor lounge at my own expense. I looked into it and that would cost me another 5k plus architects fees etc and I don't see why I should pay that.

They conceded that the sound proofing is extremly poor, since I can hear footfall upstairs, too but that even playing 1 CD is a statutory nuisence and if I do not cease my equipment may be ceased and I can claim this back from the courts ( I am insured), which can take 6 months. I have a professional decibel meter but they say they don't go by this. I am aware of night time 11pm-7am and I don't play music constantly. Maybe 2 CD's per day.

NHHG recomended me using headphones only when I do. My other 4 neighbours say that -yes- music can be heard at times but it isn't causing them stress or nuisance and since they do the same and we are in central London they are unwilling to join her complain. That's why I haven't been served with something serious, as it needs more than 1 complainant to be legal to serve me with an noise abatement notice.

I asked weteher or not environmental health letters could class as harassment but I am assured they are not, as the complaints have a genuine cause, though I cannot alleviate it. My right to a home life is the same as hers - so we're clashing. And since she moved her bedroom deliberately over my lounge they said that is her choice as the flats do not come pre-planned and tennants are free to chose which room to sleep in.

Mediation attempts were made (3 alltogether) and agreed by both parties and then these were deliberately broken by her upstairs. The response to that by environmental health is that mediation isn't binding and if it hasn't worked then the only option is ceasing equipment and to let a court decide. Letters I sent with questions have not been answered and my FOI request from 9 July 2014 has still not been actioned. I asked to see my file. LBHF has been fined 1m GBP record keeping, so I think these files no longer exist. The FOI officer refuses to take my calls or see me in person at the town hall. So I am f***ed. Yes- I am loud (sometimes) and I do have arguments with my boyfriends but not more than anybody else.

I sent her a letter in which I told her to decist from approaching me or my house guests (she would wait until they leave - then rush out to tell them to ask me on her behalf to turn the music down as "I have no walls') personally, since our relationship has broken down and all requests should either be made via our shared housing officer (his idea) or in writing. We keep to that.

I want to avoid being a criminal. I want to avoid having my equipment ceased or to get a fine. They are very quick with handing out the 100 Pound notice, a FOI reveals.

I know how to contest section 80 of the environmental health act. The question is if the high court has made this ruling, which says that even though the noise is caused by me, their view is that Notting Hill is at fault in principal (but cannot be ordered to put it right). The case would be heard by magistrates ( I would apply pre-trial hearing to prepare) if I could refer to that ruling and then expect to be exonorated or even use it as defense in fighting a possible ASBO? Obviously as long as the noise emitted is due to 'normal living'. The 'normal person' thing is constantly thrown at me and the tri-borough does not agree that a 'normal person' should be at work between 9am -5pm Mon - Fri, as a normal person could also be sick or unemployed (which she is / alone / no friends/prayes and disaproves about everything going on in the street - disregarding 'cultural differences' and 'urban living vs city life').

They say: to be considerate, especially since I now know that her bedroom is above my lounge. Unfortunately we are unable to take action to require Landlords, Housing Associations, Council Housing Departments or Builders to improve sound insulation. This follows recent case law.
New properties built before 1990, or, properties converted before 1992, are not subject to the same standards as if they were built or converted today.

She is unable to move, because she is so far behind with her rent that the housing trust won't allow it and I paid s***h**e in the most undesirable place in town in 1991 to be turned into a palace and now this part is the most expensive part to buy in London. My flat, self contained in a victorian house, built 1903) was worth 85k in 1991 - now it's close to 300k - if only I would leave).

I pay my rent on time - when the housing inspector comes every 3 years - I get full marks upkeep of the place and what needs doing and complimented that this is one of the nicest houses they have inspected in a long time). I got the flat due to my being HIV+ and I now have AIDS, as defined by the WHO, though I am doing fine and intend to hang around while - hence the question. She, in turn suffers with 'depression due to lack of sleep' and stopped working the minute she got her British Citizenship approved. She is an IT manager, and never listens to music but wants complete silence - in central LONDON and complains about everything, doing nothing herself. (I even take her bins out, as otherwise rats would get hers, clean the communal areas and keep up the front and the garden - a shared responsibilty I am happy to do as long as she stays out of my garden - a bargain I made and accept)

Expert:  Nicola-mod replied 1 year ago.
,
It seems the professional has left this conversation. This happens occasionally, and it's usually because the professional thinks that someone else might be a better match question. I've been working hard to find a new professional to assist you with your question, but sometimes finding the right professional can take a little longer than expected.
I wonder whether you're OK with continuing to wait answer. If you are, please let me know and I will continue my search. If not, feel free to let me know and I will cancel this question .
Thank you!
Nicola
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

yes, I can wait

Expert:  Nicola-mod replied 1 year ago.
,
We will continue to look Professional to assist you.
Thank you patience,
Nicola
Expert:  Nicola-mod replied 1 year ago.
,
I apologise as we have not yet been able to find a Professional to assist you. Do you wish to continue to search to assist you or would you like to close your question at this time?
Thank you patience,
Nicola
Expert:  Nicola-mod replied 1 year ago.
,
Please understand it is rare not to be able to find the right Professional to assist our customers. We can close this question and return your good faith deposit to the original funding source on request.
Please let me know how you wish to proceed and again I apologize inconvenience this may have caused.
I hope you will give JustAnswer a try again in the future,
Nicola
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Please keep trying. Today this came:

Attachment: 2015-01-13_223047_150113_7_glenrosa_street_mr_kruger-1.pdf

.

I would answer that as follows:

Expert:  Nicola-mod replied 1 year ago.
,
We will continue to look Professional to assist you.
Thank you patience,
Nicola
Expert:  Nicola-mod replied 1 year ago.
,
Please understand it is rare not to be able to find the right Professional to assist our customers. We can close this question and return your good faith deposit to the original funding source on request.
Please let me know how you wish to proceed and again I apologize inconvenience this may have caused.
I hope you will give JustAnswer a try again in the future,
Nicola
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

thanks . I will have to try and get an answer elsewhere. Can you refund the money unanswered question, please? Many thanks

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