When my Neighbour Felt the Munchies

In this post I want to share some experiences I had while I lived at a nifty flat in the Edinburgh city centre. It was at a busy road but quiet at night, spacious, well equipped and absolutely sufficient for my needs. Unfortunately, three months into my tenancy, a new neighbour downstairs opened a take-away shop, with which I have had much conflict. The following is a letter I wrote to the City of Edinburgh Council outlining what had happened. Some friends suggested that although it is a private matter, I should share this document for anyone with similar problems.

1st May 2011

Subject: Report on the behaviour of “Munchiez” from 10th November 2010 to 16th March 2011

To whom it may concern,

the purpose of this letter is to inform you of my experiences as tenant of [address] and hence neighbour to the Company “Munchiez” underneath and to provide evidence to consider once a decision is to be reached on whether “Munchiez” should be allowed to continue its disturbing conduct. The happenings described to you in this letter eventually led to a premature termination of my lease over that property and me moving to a safer and more peaceful location.

This underneath neighbour on commercial premises at [address], who took possession of his property approximately three months after I signed my lease has continuously disturbed me with loud music as well as construction noises. These disturbances had become so severe that I could not tolerate them any longer. Unfortunately none of the steps I tried to take in order to resolve the situation had been successful. Since the purpose for which I took the flat is to give me a home while I study and since it could no longer fulfil that purpose, I was left with the option of moving out. The disturbances and my attempts to deal with them have occurred in the following order:

–  10th November 2010: My furniture was literally vibrating and my windows whirring from the pressure of my neighbour’s bass and music. Since the ground plan of my flat is almost identical to that of his property is was impossible to escape from the booming. Being disrupted in my ability to work I decided to make my neighbour aware of my discomfort by stamping three times in the kitchen. His reaction was shocking as I then heard a scream and the music turned even louder.

–  14th November 2010: Again his bass and music prevented me from working. They woke me up in the morning and I decided to talk to my neighbour about them. We agreed that a substantial reduction in his bass was in order. Happy about this arrangement I went back to work just to find roughly three hours later that the bass had again increased considerably. In the spirit of good neighbourhood I chose to ignore the noise and continue working. A decision I now regret since I was not only unproductive, but through prolonged exposure to the booming in conjunction with a headache was literally driven to want nothing but to get out of my own home on a Sunday afternoon. Later the same evening I had a friend over for dinner. She also felt that it was intolerable and because of the disturbance we decided to abandon a nice Sunday evening and went some place else..

–  15th November 2010: During the morning we again talked about bass reductions. Unfortunately about 10pm while being continuously and increasingly annoyed by both music and wall drilling I had to consult my neighbour a second time that day and despite my appeal I had to find him continuing construction works until 0:20am the next morning..

–  16th through 22nd November 2010: Although I must welcome his rare efforts to reduce sound levels after our consultations I find that they tend to rise again shortly thereafter. Every day during this time-span there were irregular intervals of loud music. Furthermore I had to endure drilling the late evening of the 18th. This did stop after talking to him that night, but I do find it irritating considering that we already discussed by then that construction works during these hours were intolerable for me. This day I also wrote a letter to my neighbour asking him to address these problems.
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–  3rd through 5th December 2010: My neighbour finished his construction works and opened his take-away. After wall-drilling and music at 10pm on the 3rd I decided to counter his noises by putting up my own speakers which however were no match for his. In retrospect I feel slightly silly about doing this but it illustrated just how futile any attempt to answer my neighbour on his grounds would be. Furthermore my neighbour started using the horn of his car to communicate with his brothers on a regular basis. For that reason I called the police the night of the 5th.
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–  Police visit on 5th December 2010, at 21:00 hrs Reference Number 801: It was established that my neighbour’s music is unreasonably loud and a nuisance.
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–  9th December 2010: The week leading up to this day was filled with music from roughly 11am to 9pm. The 9th I listened to my neighbour singing Reggae music and playing merely five songs over and over again including Day and Night and Time of my Life Remix. The morning after I went off for my winter vacation.
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–  Police visit on 10th January 2011, at 22:00 hrs Reference Number 672: No statutory nuisance could be established as my neighbour turned his sound-system off while the officers were at my home, nevertheless they were so kind as to talk to my neighbour and voice my concerns.
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–  11th January 2011: After talking to my neighbour in the morning we came to an agreement about moving the speakers from his ceiling to other positions in his property. He also informed me about his opening hours which are 8am-12midnight Mo-Fri and 8am-3am next morning Sat-Sun. It is roughly during these hours that the music is on to this day.
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–  12th January 2011: As was suggested by the police, my neighbour moved some of his five speakers to different positions and came upstairs to see whether this would make a difference which it did not. Although the sound was redistributed, it was still loud just in other places. My neighbour disagreed and claimed that he was not able to hear anything. After trying to convince him back downstairs that this level was still well above the norm and unacceptable, his brother joined the conversation. He argued that “That’s life, just deal with it.” and that in order to run the business loud booming was simply required. My neighbour also claims that he conducted research over a period of three to four days during which he toned down the music and observed that fewer customers were visiting the take-away. An explanation which I find unlikely. He also admitted that he actually has to tone the music down so that customers are able to order. His brother suggested going up to my bedroom and seeing whether He thought it was bad. An offer which I declined for two reasons. First, he would have been biased and second, I do not usually invite people I have never before met into my bedroom. Instead I proposed calling the Council to
get an impartial assessment whether the noise was reasonable. He seemed very angered by this and just ended the conversation.
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–  14th January 2011: After being more and more annoyed and stressed by the constant booming that did not give me any opportunity to enjoy the property let alone work since I returned to Scotland, I went downstairs and tried to reason again with my neighbour. During the day he put the music far beyond the level the police had asked him to and I tried to make him aware of that. He became very upset and said that I was disturbing his business. He told me that perhaps it would be a good idea for him to call the Council every-time he hears me walk or take a shower. He then threatened me that he would turn up the sensitivity of his burglar alarm so that I would suffer a £60 fine whenever my normal usage of my home would set it off. He then expelled me from his premises saying that we would call the police if I did not leave immediately. I interpret that threat in a way that my neighbour is prepared to go to unreasonable and borderline illegal lengths in order to prevent me from complaining about his noise. I am very concerned over that and take this extremely seriously to the point where I would already have involved the authorities merely because of this.
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–  Police visit on 14th January 2011, at 22:30 hrs Reference Number 816: It was again established that my neighbour’s music was unreasonably loud and a nuisance. After the officers talked to my neighbour, the music became less loud but was still well perceivable. Not being able to cope with it anymore I left to spend the night at a friend’s place.
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–  Police visit on 15th January 2011, at 17:15 hrs Reference Number 570: Unfortunately no nuisance could be established as my neighbour turned his sound-system off just by the time the officers arrived, however, they again talked to him. Regardless of the visit my neighbour continued playing music until after 23:00 to a degree that I was able to recognise the songs and even understand the lyrics. Among his repertoire were Day and Night, Mambo #5 and Because I’m Bad, as well as several other Techno pieces. I put in earplugs at 23:10 and tried to sleep but the powerful booming could be heard even through them.
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–  Police visit on 16th of January 2011, at 19:00 hrs Reference Number 367994: After an entire Sunday filled with booming I felt the only thing to do was call the police again. My neighbour turned his sound-system off Exactly when officers arrived so that no nuisance could be established. I found it curious that less than five minutes after they left the music started again to the point that my furniture vibrated. I was planning to call them then but felt so fatigued by the entire situation that I did not in the end.
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–  16th January 2011: I terminate the lease with two months notice.
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–  20th January 2011: The sound level decreased by a fair amount on the 17th but rose again to the previous unacceptable level by the 20th about 21:30. What disturbed me most about this is that for a brief period of time they turned their music very loud to the point of my furniture vibrating and whirring at 23:45 already after they had closed. Considering that “Munchiez” claim that music is only necessary to keep the business running and furthermore that I made sure they understood that it is severely disrupting my life, I am forced to wonder why they would do that knowing that it causes unnecessary suffering. They shouted at each other rudely and used the horn of their cars for minutes until finally leaving 0:10 next morning.
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–  Police visit on 24th January 2011, at 16:30 hrs Reference Number 480: It was again established that my neighbour’s music is unreasonably loud and a nuisance. The officers went downstairs and talked to my neighbour, then came back up but were still not satisfied with the reduction my neighbour was willing to make and talked to him a second time. Afterwards the music stopped.
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–  25th through 28th January 2011: The next morning the music went back up to the exact level that the police stated was unacceptable just a few hours earlier and stayed there. The music was particularly loud the 25th 15:00, 27th 16:30 and the 28th 12:00. Furthermore on the 27th during the late evening they parked their car in front of the building, opened all its doors, played electronic music and washed it. Not having the stamina to call the police again I just waited for an hour in bed until finally at midnight they left.
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–  Police visit on 29th January 2011, at 12:00 hrs Reference Number 392: It was again established that my neighbour’s music is unreasonably loud and a nuisance.
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–  Police visit on 29th January 2011, at 17:00 hrs Reference Number 661: Unfortunately no nuisance could be established as my neighbour turned his sound-system off just by the time the officers arrived. They parked their car just opposite the road but whether my neighbour had seen them and turned down the music as result is speculation.
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–  Council visit on 30th January, at 15:10 hrs Reference Number 367851: It was again established that my neighbour’s music is unreasonably loud and a nuisance. The team did not even come up since they could already hear from the staircase that the music was by far too loud.
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–  10th February through 20th February: I am on vacation.
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–  26th February 2011: The events on my last day serve to illustrate the hypocrisy of the “Munchiez“ staff. This day coincided with my birthday and hence I decided after moving out in the morning, to have a birthday celebration during the evening. About ten people were present, we played music, danced and generated a typical amount of noise as can be expected from a student party. Indeed, mindful of my circumstances, some of my guests took it upon themselves to celebrate in a carelessly unrestrained manner. The reaction of “Munchiez” was striking, as very shortly after we started playing music, my neighbour became extremely violent and intimidating. He shouted, was furious and kicked against my flat’s front door. We did not open. He also turned off the electricity to the entire building in order to stop us from having a good time. The police arrived at my neighbour request and we talked to the officers. In order not to provoke the already tense “Munchiez” staff, we agreed that we should continue my party at my new flat, so not to be disturbed. On our way out, my neighbour started yelling at and insulting my friends and finally shouted at me “You’re gonna get slashed you fucking dafty!” We left quickly. In essence, my neighbour was not able to tolerate for five minutes anything like what I have tried to deal with for four months with neither violence nor intimidation.
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Since my neighbour took possession of his property long after I moved in and since it is conceivable that if the music had been there during my viewing I would not have taken the flat, I submitted that this represents a material change in circumstances through a supervening event. This change may perhaps be regarded as breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment contained in Section 8 of my lease at the time. Furthermore Robert Purvis Plant Hire Ltd v Brewster [2009] CSOH 28 lays out that if such an event exists a tenant should be free to be relieved of his or her obligations under a lease. I hence terminated my lease over the property at [address]giving two months notice as recommended in the lease under Section 31.
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The nuisances outlined above were particularly problematic since my former neighbour’s floor- plan was essentially identical to mine. This made all sorts of things like a nap, reading, cooking, inviting friends, studying, even going to the toilet burdensome tasks. It also made it difficult to listen to my own music even with headphones since his powerful sound system predominated anything that could be heard at my property.

I feel I was very patient, tolerant, polite and well-mannered dealing with the situation. For four months I have been trying to reason with my neighbour, explain the situation, write to him, call my landlord, call the Council, call the police, conduct extensive research into what I can do to defend myself and in general spent a disproportionate amount of resources attempting to resolve the situation. Unfortunately I reached a point where I could not tolerate any more disturbance for the by then significant and apparent effects this was having on my health and well-being. I was tired, exhausted and unwilling to spend anymore effort on enforcing my right to live in peace and tranquility. I feel I have done everything in my power to prevent a premature termination but since non of my attempts to resolve the matter had any success – not even calling Lothian and Borders Police ten times – I was forced to come to the conclusion that moving out is literally the only way out of the situation.

Alas the task of dealing with these unfortunate circumstances is now left to my landlord. I can only hope that whoever has the authority to contain this noise pollution and grant our neighbourhood the right to peacefully enjoy our properties comes to the conclusion that the behaviour that “Munchiez” exhibits constitutes a statutory nuisance and is unacceptable. It felt almost as if the operators of “Munchiez” took pleasure in making my everyday life as horrid and hurtful as possible, and I dare say did so in a mean-spirited and malicious manner. Although I moved out of this area now, I am still saddened by the thought that now my landlord has to bear the burden of this company and sincerely ask that the authorities do everything in their power to help him cope with this horrific situation.

Yours Sincerely, Georg Schauer

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