House split into flats; who's responsible to remedy noise?

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    House split into flats; who's responsible to remedy noise?

    We own a leasehold for a downstairs flat. The freeholder owns the other flat in this building and lets it to a family. It was originally built as one house but was split into two flats in the 70s. Little or no work/improvements have been done over the years.

    Our ceiling / the floor upstairs is in very thin (since it wasn't meant as a flat divider) and we can hear everything they do up there (including actually hearing them talk when they're in their kitchen which is above our bedroom). Our neighbours are not noisy youngsters - they are just leading a normal un-noisy life! - so it's not them that is the problem; it is the ceiling / floor.

    We have contacted the freeholder about this issue. We offered to pay half for the improvement work (which would be done when the current tenants move out at the end of this month to avoid any delay of the re-letting of the flat). We are under the impression that it actually is the freeholder's responsibility to pay and do the work as we as leaseholders are entitled to the "quite environment" of our flat, but we still offered to pay half as it would just make everyone's life easier (we get a quiet environment and the freeholder gets an improved flat to let to someone).

    The freeholder has now said that we have to pay for everything ourselves. We would actually be willing to pay for everything ourselves as it's just us who really suffers from this problem and we would be willing to pay for just getting rid of it. The thing is, the freeholder is a very difficult person to deal with (never responds when we try to contact her, refuses to send us the copy of the insurance policy we pay half for, doesn't want to repaint the house despite it being in desperate need, etc, etc), and she has despite several emails from us still not approved that we can do this work to the upstairs flat. We initially contacted the freeholder three months ago! She uses a managment agent, which makes it all even more difficult as we can't contact her directly. We are so frustrated with her lack of cooporation that we want to have some legal meat on our bones for our final email (basically saying: make this happen (but we'll pay) or else!).

    So. Can anyone help us with our legal rights here?:
    - Does the freeholder have any responsibility to sort out the noise problem?
    - Does the freeholder have to pay for this or should it be split?
    - If the freeholder has no responsibility for the lack of noise isolation, is our only option to complain about the neighbours (and not the flat!) to the council?
    - Does the freeholder have a legal obligation to send us the copy of the insurance policy when we pay half of the insurance?

    Thank you anyone who can help out!

    1. Start with the lease covenants imposed on each lessee. Neighbour (N) is presumably in breach.
    2. Turn to L's covenants. Does L covenant to enforce all lessees' covenants?
    3. If so, you complain (formally and in writing) to L; it must enforce against N.
    JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
    1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
    2. Telephone advice: see
    3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
    4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).


      If you have already decided that you are going to pay, and the freeholder will let you do the work, why threaten anything?

      I live in a flat with the same situation (i.e. my bedroom is under the kitchen of the flat above). If I had the opportunity to rectify it, even if it would cost a few thousand pounds, I would jump at the chance.

      Although there may be a way of forcing the freeholder to pay, this is likely to be a drawn out process that will probably ruin any relationship you currently have.

      Also, properly research how to stop the sound travel. You need to think about impact as well as airborne sound. Any reasonably priced solution will not fix your problem, but it should make it better.

      Research it, do it once and do it right!


        We really are happy to pay for it as long as we get a quieter flat. The problem is that the freeholder never gets back to us with the permission to go ahead. And we obviously can't do anything without her permission. So in order to "force" her to act (ie give us the permission since it's obviously a fantastic deal for her) we are trying to make her understand the seriousness in the situation of not getting back to us. Ie if she doesn't say "sure go ahead" we will have to take legal actions about noise pollution. Surely she'd rather just have us pay for it???


          Ahh – I see your point.

          I realise my opinion below is slightly off topic, but it may assist you:

          The problem is, she could well perceive this ‘deal’ to be far from perfect. What work are you proposing? New rubber / foam underlay on the floor – to stop impact sound? New insulation between the joists – to stop airborne noise?

          This takes time as well as money to install – and will be a hassle for her, not a benefit – she just will not be able to hear you snoring when making her toast in the mornings!

          Make sure you know that the solution you are proposing will work as well as it can. In addition, tell her the cost and the time it will take for a professional to install. That way she has all the fact to hand rather than just responding with questions.


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