You have moved into the house of your dreams only to realise that your neighbour operates loud machinery at odd hours of the day, has a mad barking dog, and he has parties till early hours of the morning on weekends. Do you tolerate this or is there some kind of recourse?
Fortunately, South African law, through the Environment Conservation Act 73 of 1989 (“the Act”) and municipal by-laws, protects recipients of intolerable noise pollution.
For the most part, people put up with the noise, but when it starts to infringe on your right to fully use and enjoy your property, victims do have recourse.
In the case of Prinsloo v Shaw 1938 AD 570 575 the court stated:
“A resident in a town, and more particularly a resident in a residential neighbourhood, is entitled to the ordinary comfort and convenience of his home, and if owing to the actions of his neighbour he is subjected to annoyance or inconvenience greater than that to which a normal person must be expected to submit in contact with his fellow men, then he has a legal remedy."
Most people believe in the myth that you can make as much noise until 10 pm on weekdays and 12 pm on weekends when in actual fact most municipalities have by-laws in place that focus on the number of decibels rendered rather than the actual time.
In the case of Laskey and Another v Showzone CC and others, the court held that there are 2 different kinds of noises, namely disturbing noise and noise nuisance.
A Disturbing Noise is a scientifically measurable noise level, whilst a Noise Nuisance is subjective and is defined as any noise that disturbs or impairs or may disturb or impair the convenience or peace of any person.
An example of disturbing noise would be loud party music that lasts after 10 pm on a weekend or week night. There are steps you will have to take and follow if this becomes a habit of your neighbour.
Noise Nuisance is totally different. This is where machinery or power tools are being operated, shouting and talking loudly, allowing an animal to become a noise nuisance, playing loud music, etc. this noise is illegal and enforceable at any time of the day.
This is where “the Act” comes into play.
In terms of Section 25 of the Act, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism is empowered to make regulations regarding noise.
The National Noise Control Regulations (“the Regulations”) will come into play here. These regulations give local authorities extensive powers to regulate noise.
The Regulations define “noise disturbance” as follows: any sound which disturbs or impairs or may disturb or impair the convenience or peace of any person and “disturbing noise” as “a noise level that exceeds the ambient sound level measured continuously at the same measuring point by 7 decibels or more.”
Firstly you can lay a complaint in writing to your local authority. Most have Noise Control Units who have certain powers to restrict noise levels. The law enforcement officers will investigate the problem. If they deem it necessary they can instruct a reduction of the noise. If offenders don’t comply they can issue a fine or in extreme cases confiscate the equipment.
If the above remedy fails to remedy the complaint, you can obtain an interdict against your neighbour or sue them for damages.
Section 9 of the Regulation states that “any person who contravenes or fails to comply with Section 4 and Section 5 will be liable to conviction of a fine not exceeding R20 000,00 or imprisonment not exceeding two years.”
If you find yourself in a situation where you have to deal with noisy neighbours, contact Van Deventer and Van Deventer Incorporated now. Our attorneys are well versed in the property law of South Africa, and will, therefore, guarantee that the peace will be restored in your neighbourhood.
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