Planning & Enforcement / Noisy Neighbour Combo

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    Planning & Enforcement / Noisy Neighbour Combo

    OK, so first up I really do appreciate any time taken to read through or respond to this, my girlfriend and I are in a bit of a pickle with this one, and losing the plot slightly. Admittedly there are parts of this that we could've handled better, but we are where we are... !

    We have two main issues, one surrounding planning & enforcement and also a noisy neighbour issue. They're both linked and we were hoping that resolution of the P&E issues would help resolve our other issue.

    I can clarify any details if needed, but to try and keep the whole piece as succinct as possible, I've not strung out any of the info.

    Back in 2007 - two flats are built on side of commercial property, one ground and one first floor. Ground property is rented out to a chap who I'll refer to as the "noisy neighbour", first floor is sold in 2008 to my girlfriend. Sometime after this, the landlady later sells the commercial property.

    To add background to these people, the Landlady is best described as a loose cannon, she is currently not contactable, has had a business appear on "rogue trader" style tv shows and is generally a real pain.

    Few months after girlfriend moves in she has some harassment from ground floor tenant. We were generally reluctant to raise issue with council / police due to worries about future sale of property. The neighbour is simply not someone you can talk to, attempts were met with him standing behind is door laughing, followed by a night of abuse, loud stereo etc. Tried to get landlady involved but she's of no use, tenant himself is scum of the earth but I suppose the finer details of our issues with him aren't relevant, simply put he's a nightmare.

    Mid 2010 I move in and have first hand experience of the neighbour problems and also those of the flat. We moved out (Feb 2012) having unresolved the issue, rented the flat to a string of tenants who all complained and stayed six months or less. Over time this has resulted in lower monthly rent income and slight increase of management fee. It is still rented out as of today, to a couple who are aware of the issue, hence paying reduced rent.

    This year we also thought that there may be insufficient or zero soundproofing in between flats/walls etc, amplifying the neighbour issue. We spoke to a few soundproofers who started talking about regulations and followed that with a trip to the solicitor. They discovered about the ground flat not being *classed* as a flat when it was built, but as a staff room to the commercial property that the landlady managed in the past. Letters were sent to landlady, tenant, council and mortgage holder about the situation.

    We think because of how the application/registrations was handled by landlady (staff room application, rather than flat), there weren't any checks done on soundproofing, and this is a large part of the problem we've had with the neighbour. However talks with the local council have ended with them saying, because he's been living there for 4+ years, they can't do anything.

    While they may be the rules, it doesn't feel right that there's nothing more they can do - you wouldn't necessarily find out about the application error within 4 years for starters. And we just seem to be getting bounced around from P&E in the council to the Noise Pollution team, no one wants to help us, and it's costing the girlfriend money and creating a large amount of stress - partly because of the lack of soundproofing, and also because we have an utter git in the flat below.

    Argh!

    #2
    Just to add, this is a separate letter we sent to the council this year:

    "There is a flat situated below my flat, xxx xxxxxxxx Road. This flat does not have planning permission for a residential home and there is no sound proofing between my flat and the flat below which is making my flat unliveable. Every time I get a tenant in my flat they move out due to the lack of privacy as you are able to hear all noise and conversation between the flats.

    I have had tenants keep noise diaries but the council cannot do anything as the sound reported should not be heard if there was the correct level of sound proofing and suggested I contact planning.

    I have spoken to xxx xxx at Building control and he confirmed as the planning permission for the space was for a stock room for the shop downstairs no sound proofing checks between the upper and lower floors would have been carried out as the shop would not be in use in the evening/Night.

    My solicitor sent the attached letter to you on 15th March. Today I phoned Planning to ask for an update and was told there is no record of this on the systems and suggested I send this e mail so they can get someone to visit the property and investigate.

    I really need this issue resolved as it is costing money on lost rent and setting up new tenant costs with the Estate agent and I am worried if this continues too much longer I will not be able to afford to pay my mortgage."

    Comment


      #3
      Regardless of what the lower flat is classed as [under Planning] as your flat is a separate and unconnected unit the there should be sufficient compartmentation between the two to separate them properly. This should have been done under the Building Regulations not Planning. As part of your purchase searches was a Building Regulation Certificate included?

      The Planning Department can't do anything due to the time lapse.

      Other than sueing the Landandy you could always retro fit some sound insulation to your floor.
      There is always scope for misinterpretation.

      If my posts can be interpreted in two ways, one that makes you feel angry and one that doesn't, I meant the latter.

      Everyday is an opportunity to learn something new.

      Comment


        #4
        Thanks for the reply MK.

        We weren't sure who exactly should've been enforcing what, to be honest. We thought it was a breach of planning control originally, as it's effectively a ground floor office / stock room etc being used as residential premises, and therefore no soundproofing tests took place - hence us following up with that department. Our letter from the solicitor to the council basically said "the council advised upon inspection that there was inadequate soundproofing and if it was going to continue to be used as a residential premises, that tests are undertaken and requirements are enforced."

        On that basis, it doesn't feel right for us to have to shell out even more money to bring the place up to spec, when it wasn't done properly in the first place, and this has been confirmed by the council themselves. Of all the people to have to pay for soundproofing, it feels like we're least responsible. It might be that there's nothing we can do about it, but it doesn't feel right and I've no idea about the law, regulations and other loopholes.

        I'll ask the other half about the Building Regulation Certificate.

        A mate of mine who works in planning in another council nearby suggested in the first instance the issue was with planning enforcement, and since there was a clear breech causing us a nuisance, a Planning Contravention letter should've been sent out. Is the situation so black and white that, simply because the issue hasn't been noticed for 4 years, there is nothing they can do?

        Thanks again for your time.

        Comment


          #5
          Just in case... in Scotland a landlord can be forced to take action against anti-social tenant activities, including stopping landlord getting rent which always brings them out of the woodwork.. Come on Engerland, catch up!!
          I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

          Comment


            #6
            If only!

            No one seems to want to deal with these sort of issues down here - the noise pollution team said it was a soundproofing issue so they couldn't do anything, the building regs team passed us onto planning, and planning say they can't do anything about it. The police also have no interest in the issue, regarding harassment / neighbourly disputes.

            I suppose we could try (again) to get our tenants to complete a "noise diary" if the problems arise again, I mean they're already getting a rent discount for being aware of the neighbour issue, so they might be helpful. Might!

            Comment


              #7
              OK, a bit more info, this is the response we got from the council Building Control office:

              "I have managed to review the application at *** ******* *****. It appears that sound testing was not carried out on the seperating floors as the shop below was already occupied so was unpractical to do so. We had previously been provided with guidance from the government stating that if access cannot be granted into a property it would be reasonable not to enforce testing. However, i can confirm the building control officer at the time was satisfied that the floor and wall constructions achieved the minimum standards of the building regulations at that time."

              I think we're screwed. Solicitor advised it would cost us £15k to sue the landlady and it wasn't worth it against the value of the flat.

              So - to confirm above:
              > Noise pollution people say it's a soundproofing issue, therefore they can't do anything, speak to Building Control
              > Building Control said the above, it wasn't tested but "it looked OK"
              > Planning can't do anything due to length of time of problem tenant

              Ombudsmen here I come... last chance I guess.

              Comment


                #8
                Stew: Remove adress & any other identify info... Unwise & probably against forum rules...
                I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

                Comment


                  #9
                  Damn, I screened the last two letters i put on here, but forgot that one. Thanks for pointing it out.

                  I can't edit the post for some reason though??

                  Mods, please can you either delete the offending post (#7) or remove the address?

                  Edit: looks like a time limit on editing posts. Have reported the post and emailed forum admin. Sorry for the trouble.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    You should go back to Building Control, ask them what evidence they have that sound proofing was done?. We had a similar issue during a conversion, we were unable to test. But we were asked for architect drawings detailing the sound proofing solution. It was an extensive examination.

                    However, since both upper flat and lower flat (or staff room) were in control of the original owners, then I can't see any excuse for not having Sound Testing carried out. It seems to me the council were very sloppy. (unless I have misunderstood the situation).

                    The issue is, even if a property is sound proofed, it can fail 'sound testing' if it was not done properly. (there are two aspects - sound proofing and sound testing). If it fails 'sound testing' then the builders have to figure out where they have gone wrong. Since there are no sound results, you can't tell where it has gone wrong....

                    Sound proofing can be done in two ways, either you raise your floor (e.g. on first floor) or create a new ceiling (e.g. on ground floor). If they have put sound proofing on first floor, see if you can correct it / improve it.


                    (From a Landlord "maintenance" perspective, lowering the ceiling is better then raising the floor. Then it is easy to access pipes etc.. )

                    Comment

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