Article by listed attorney: Fawzia Khan
Having to deal with noisy neighbours is a common complaint. The disturbances can range from a variety of sources including barking dogs, loud music, arguing and shouting, banging doors or drilling. These disturbances fall under our law of nuisance and can often become a source of animosity and friction between neighbours. The legal principal is that a man is allowed to have free use and enjoyment of his property, provided that in doing so, he does not infringe on the rights of his neighbour. The guiding principle is one of "give and take" and "live and let live". Many of our judges have adopted the view that "some discomfort, inconvenience or annoyance from the use of neighbouring property needs be endured". If your neighbour's incessant noise is driving you to distraction, the most practical and cost effective way to deal with the problem, would be to approach him directly and tactfully tell him of the problem. However if the neighbours are unable to reach an amicable solution, they should consider appointing a mediator to achieve resolution to their dispute. For obvious reasons, when it comes to disputes with one's neighbour, litigation should be the last resort. Our courts will come to the rescue of an aggrieved neighbour's complaint about noise, provided it's satisfied about what type of noise is being complained of, the degree of its persistence, the locality involved and the times when the noise is heard.
An elderly couple brought an interdict against their neighbour for the noise and disturbance they were subjected to because of Christmas lights used by their neighbour during Christmas and New Year. In a lengthy judgment delivered by the Court, the court refused to grant the interdict and held that it was incumbent on the offended neighbour to be more tolerant during the festive period. The test used by the court to assess validity of these complaints is an objective one. This means in coming to a decision, our court will consider what is reasonable in the circumstances. Our court will take into account the objections of a "reasonable man". It will not consider that individual who is a "delicate or highly sensitive person", who finds the noise to be intolerable.
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