Volume IX, Issue 41
I went to court this week for the first time. One of our clients is suing the drinking establishment in their building for making more noise than is legally allowed. It’s been a long and arduous process, but a hearing was scheduled, which I attended.
When our clients purchased the apartment, the ground-level space was dormant and quiet. About a year later, a new tenant took over the space and life changed for everyone.
The quartier is lively and filled with restaurants and bars of all kinds, so that wasn’t the problem. Double-paned windows and well-insulated floors and ceilings kept the normal din at bay, but in this case, a fun-loving staff crank up the volume on the stereo somewhere between midnight and 3 a.m. to the point of rattling the whole building. Everyone was upset, but the Syndic (homeowner’s association manager) didn’t seem to think it was their problem and did nothing to help its owners fight the battle.
Our clients took it on single-handedly. They hired an attorney and started on the long road that led to the hearing this past week. It included an evaluation by acoustics engineering consultants to determine if the levels were within the limits of the law or not. They were not.
At the court, four attorneys stepped up to the judge’s bench – the judge being a woman. Everyone in the room was robed in black except for the non-professionals, such as myself, of which there were very few. The four attorneys consisted of ours, the establishment’s, the Syndic’s and that of the owner of the property. Our attorney presented our case and the defending attorney countered the accusations.
It was tough to hold back my laughter and the judge smiled at me acknowledging that she saw the humor in the opposing attorney’s excuses for the deafening music, none of which ‘held much water.’ Their attorney tried to lessen the validity of the claim by showing that the owners live outside of France and therefore aren’t bothered by the noise very often (!) and explained that the quartier is lively and therefore all residents must be aware of the potential noise pollution. BUT, we all know that if the level of noise is outside the law, then there’s no argument…and something must be done to change that.
The judge heard everyone’s remarks and then declared a date on which a decision would be made. Now, there is little we can do, but wait.
For noise from commercial establishments, the law allows for up to 25 decibels within your premises and 30 decibels outside the property. The duration of time during which the noise persists is taken into consideration, particularly between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Those who exceed these limits are subject to fines, court decrees to provide proper insulation and even the shutting down of an establishment if necessary. Because of the threat to the establishment, they have toned down their ruckus considerably and the building residents have less over which to complain of late. This is a clear benefit of the legal pressure our clients are placing on the establishment.
This past September, the Hear the World initiative conducted sound studies in Paris. Their goal was to know the locations in the city where the sound level is the worst. Place de l’Etoile was on top with 120 decibels recorded one weeknight at 8 p.m. On some Métro lines, the noise level can climb to 105 decibels and for several minutes. Regular exposure to levels of 80 or higher can lead to hearing loss. Hear the World notes that 7% of the French have some deafness!
In fact, 50% of the population of Paris is plagued by noise. Noise is perceived as the most common nuisance, according to the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE). The Paris.fr Web site published a noise map – a tool which allows public officials to find ways of reducing the noise pollution, most of which is a result of excessive traffic. According to the map, more than 7% of the residents of Paris are exposed to noise levels over 71 decibels.
To check the Paris noise map, visit Noise Levels in Paris
So, what if this happens to you? How do you prevent it? How will you deal with noise pollution?
First, be aware of the kinds of establishments that surround your property and know that they are likely to change, not always for the better! A homeowner’s association can outlaw any kind of alimentation to rent a commercial space in the building – this is the best kind of security if you are so lucky. One can always install insulation materials, such as double-paned windows and insulation in the floors, walls and ceilings.
In certain extreme cases, the police can be called, and in a case like ours, legal action can be taken, however long and cumbersome…but usually worth it.
Editor, French Property Insider
Email: [email protected]
P.S. I have no hopes of seeing our latest House Hunters International program to be aired in the U.S. this coming October 28th unless one of you technically savvy folks can record it and send it to me! Visit House Hunters International for the exact times. Many thanks!