I am often asked what a person can do about excessive noise coming from a neighbour’s property.
The term ‘nuisance’ is derived from the Latin word nocere which means ‘to harm’.
A person may sue his neighbour for damages suffered as a result of excessive noise caused by the neighbour. The person must show that that the noise has detrimentally affected his quality of life, his health, comfort or well-being. An interdict is also available in these instances and can be granted if the neighbour’s conduct is unlawful or threatens to be unlawful. The factors that are normally considered in determining whether the defendant’s conduct was unlawful include the type of noise, the degree of its persistence, the locality involved and the times when the noise is heard. No fixed standard is available to determine the unlawfulness of the defendant’s conduct, the criterion being ‘not the individual reaction of a delicate or highly sensitive person who truthfully complains that he finds the noise to be intolerable is to be decisive, but the reaction of the ‘reasonable man’, one who, according to ordinary standards of comfort and convenience, and without any peculiar sensitivity to the particular noise, would find it, if not quite intolerable, a serious impediment to the ordinary and reasonable enjoyment of his property’.
In 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’.