When It Comes To Property Management, itís vital to strike the right balance

Your favourite tunes may not always be music to your neighbour's ears.

What is the link between Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You, Glenn Miller's In The Mood and the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4? The answer (whisper it) is that they are all sources of noise, and have been cited as the basis for issuing an ASBO aimed at curbing excessive noise and protecting the ears, health and sanity of near neighbours.

A judge is even said to have observed that the four chord harmonic progression of Dolly Parton's hit, later also famously and loudly covered by Whitney Houston among others, amounted to a form of psychological torture if repeated often enough at high volume.

It is difficult to imagine that the greatest hits of Glenn Miller could cause anyone any problems, but when played at all hours, for hours on end, at top volume, Big Band music can be a big problem. As for issuing an ASBO against the broadcasts on Radio 4, the very idea seems extraordinary. Yet noise, in all its forms, whether in the dead of night or the middle of the day, is a powerful pollutant and potential source of enormous friction between neighbours.

Following the three step conjugation 'I enjoy my music; you should turn down that racket; he ought to be evicted', beauty is very much in the ear of the beholder – clearly anything from Debussy to Dubstep to Thought for the Day can be a disturbance which drives people to the brink of distraction.

And what about the person upstairs who clatters about the house in high heels on their wooden floor? The party next door, downstairs or across the hall, which blasts you with shrieking excitement every time the door opens for new arrivals or stumbling departures and where the thumping bass line makes your pictures rattle? Or vigorous conjugal relations, which can have the same effect.

So – what to do? Call the managing agent and demand an intervention? Perhaps surprisingly, this is not the recommended way forward – the managing agent is not the referee in such disputes between residents. The first step is to talk to your neighbour – in some cases they may not be aware of the difficulties they are causing. If your overtures are not well received, both LEASE and ARMA advise that you keep a log and contact your local council – many of them have specialist noise nuisance units who can monitor and measure the problem and take action where necessary. And...

Here are some simple steps to less stress in communal living

  • if you're having works done, let your neighbours know
  • if your neighbour is hard of hearing and their TV blasts through your wall, let them know – steps can be taken to help
  • if you're planning a party, let your neighbours know - they might arrange to be out that evening. You might even want to invite them to join you. Knowing about it ahead of time is preferable to being shaken awake at 1am and feeling the need to get out of bed and bellow through the window – particularly as that might wake others who had slept through.

And if you want to keep the flames of romantic passion alive without rattling the neighbours' pictures, or if there's going to be a big party at no 3, try a late hotel deal. That way you get your personal choice of background music and even a duty manager to knock next door if they're keeping you awake. Perfect.

Alan Walker is an RMC Director.

To see this article in issue 18 of Flat Living Magazine click here