What should you do if your neighbour is noisy or disturbing?

Experiencing a neighbour disturbance can quickly make everyday life impossible and very difficult. Do you have a noisy neighbour and are wondering what you can do to put a stop to the noise? Do not hesitate to contact our firm to speak to a specialist in civil law.

I. What is a neighbour disturbance?

A neighbourhood disturbance is characterized by its abnormal and unreasonable nature. The disturbance may result from the presence of odours, voyeuristic or exhibitionist behaviour, or other disturbances such as dirt, animal cries and, more generally, noise, etc. It is the latter situation that interests us here. Generally speaking, however, the remedies recommended in this blog can be adapted to other neighbourhood disturbances.

Ultimately, assessing whether the inconvenience suffered is abnormal is a question of fact that falls within the discretionary power of the trial judge, but a few factors can help us get an idea of what constitutes a neighbourhood disturbance.

Firstly, since the abnormality of the inconvenience implies a certain seriousness and recurrence, it must be assessed globally. This is a balancing act between the property rights of each party.

Next, to determine whether the inconvenience suffered is abnormal, account must be taken of the seriousness of the disturbance, the character of the premises, the lawfulness of the activity, the previous occupation, the well-being of the community and the conduct of the defendant neighbour.

Then, the recurrence criterion must be considered first. In other words, the disorder must occur fairly often and regularly, and if this is the case and the criterion is met, the seriousness of the disorder can then be examined. Two steps are necessary.

Firstly, there is the analysis of the neighbourhood, during which the local environment needs to be clearly defined, taking into account a number of factors relating to time and place. Once the neighbourhood has been defined, the severity threshold must be assessed to determine whether the inconvenience suffered is excessive. If the disorder in question is both recurrent and serious, there is reason to conclude that it exceeds the threshold of normality.

Recurrence generally refers to the continuous and repetitive nature of the disturbance over a fairly long period of time, while seriousness refers to the idea of real and serious harm in relation to the nature and location of the house or building, local customs and the time of the inconvenience.

Finally, it is up to the person who alleges abuse of rights for nuisances and wishes to put an end to the annoyances he or she claims to be abnormal to show that the annoyances are abnormal and exorbitant, and that they exceed the threshold of a reasonable person’s tolerance (Chainey v. Fortin, 2014 QCCS 3378, par. 27 and 38).

II. The gradation of remedies: stages that must be respected and not exceeded

One of the first things to do in the event of a noisy neighbourhood disturbance is to contact your neighbour(s). Before taking any action in response to a perceived disturbance, you should first address the problem to your neighbour and try, as far as possible, to find a mutually acceptable solution.

If discussions with your noisy or disturbing neighbour fail to resolve the problem, you can draft and send a letter of formal notice explicitly asking your neighbour to stop the disturbance.

If the problem persists, it is best to contact the police and lodge a complaint. Before taking any action in response to a perceived disturbance, you should first address the problem to your neighbour and try, as far as possible, to find a mutually acceptable solution. When filing a complaint, it is essential to limit yourself to describing and explaining the nature of the noise on the one hand, and the harm you feel you are experiencing on the other. This means that the content of the complaint must relate only to the noise (descriptive elements of the noise, e.g. source, recurrence, intensity, etc., but also descriptive elements of the damage) and not to the attitude or the hypothetical or actual behaviour of the neighbour causing the noise.

Indeed, the complaint lodged with the police authorities must not include statements that could damage the honour or reputation of the noisy neighbour. Such statements could be considered harassment between neighbours (Terrana v. Piunno, 2014 QCCS 3295 [83] et [84]¬). Harassment is a particular form of abuse of right, a violation of the general obligation to act in good faith set out in articles 6 and 7 C.C.Q. (Langlais v. Skulska, 2010 QCCQ 10271 [138]). It is therefore essential to be vigilant about what you say, despite the difficulties and emotional burden that a situation of neighbourhood disturbance can cause.

With this in mind, and to prevent an already distressing situation from escalating to the point of conflict, excessive complaints and/or the dissemination of humiliating, degrading or defamatory comments about a neighbour should be avoided. If the noisy neighbour is a business, the publication on the Internet of defamatory and/or untruthful comments about a business could be construed as damage to the neighbour’s reputation and could therefore give rise to damages and punitive damages (J.M. Poirier Excavation et Mini inc. v. Dupuis, 2023 QCCQ 4184). Including if such comments are made on social networks, in which case a permanent injunction to refrain from making such comments and an order to publish a retraction message on the social networks used may be issued (9329-6481 Québec inc. v. Ouimet, 2020 QCCS 3472). As the Superior Court stated in St Paul-d’Abbotsford (Municipality of): “[85] The right to freedom of expression is not unlimited. It must be exercised with respect for the right to dignity, honour and reputation. “.

III. In conclusion

Vivre une situation de trouble du voisinage peut rapidement devenir envahissant et constituer une véritable source de stress, surtout si la nuisance est récurrente et que les dépôts de plainte ne sont pas suivis d’effets. In such a case, don’t remain alone and don’t act alone! Consult a lawyer for legal advice and, if necessary, legal aid, who will guide you through the process with peace of mind.

NOTE: This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion. Its sole purpose is to inform readers about certain aspects of the laws governing the protection of vulnerable adults in the province of Quebec.