What can you do in France if your neighbour’s children are too noisy?

We look at what course of action you can take if you believe that next door noise is unreasonable

Excessive noise is in theory grounds for a legal complaint, but it can be hard to prove in the case of children playing
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Reader question: Next door’s children play very loudly. I had no luck complaining to the police and the mairie. Is there anything else I can do?

France’s public health code does specifically cover noise disturbances – including by other people – in both public and private places.

Specifically, it states that “no particular noise must, by its duration, repetition or intensity, be detrimental to the peace and quiet of the neighbourhood”.

If you believe the children’s noise is intense or long-lasting enough – or that it happens too often – you could in theory claim that it is causing a disturbance and breaking noise pollution laws.

The rules are stricter when it comes to tapage nocture (being noisy at night-time), defined as making too much noise during the hours of darkness, when duration, intensity etc do not have to be proved.

Having said this, courts have in the past often considered that babies crying, children playing etc are part of the usual sounds of daily life and not usually an ‘abnormal disturbance’, so it could be difficult to prove.

Apart from the national legal rules, many mairies and prefectures also set bylaws (arrêtés) on noise, as does the règlement de copropriété in blocks of flats. It is worth checking these, for example with your mairie and/or the building’s syndic management body.

They may, for example, impose bans on excessive noise at / after certain times of day, such as at lunchtimes and evenings, Sunday afternoons and bank holidays.

They are, however, more likely to relate to noise such as DIY work with power tools, than sounds of playing children.

As you mentioned in noise disturbance situations there is usually a list of actions to take.

The first is to try and discuss with the neighbour in question, to let them know about the problem.

If that fails you should send the neighbour a lettre recommandée avec avis de réception (registerered post letter) asking that they take steps to deal with the noise.

You can also go through a more formal mediation process, with help from a conciliateur de justice. You can find one local to you here. They will look for an amicable solution to the problem.

In a block of flats you can also talk to the syndic and to the president of the conseil syndical (homeowners’ committee).

Failing that, contacting your mairie to let them know about the issue to see if they will mediate is the next step, though the mairie is not obliged to intervene.

The next course of action is to contact the local police or gendarmerie – they can make an official report of the noise – however we note you said they were not interested.

A fine could be levied on the parents, at €68, increasing to €180 if not paid within 45 days, and up to €450 if the noises happen at night.

Is there another course of action?

In cases of public noise disturbances, it is possible to take neighbours to court, with parents being liable for the noise their children make. You could seek free legal advice at one of the centres linked via this site.

If you decide to do so you will need proof, so it would be advisable to contact a bailiff (commissaire de justice, formerly called a huissier) to come and take note of the noise levels. There will be a fee for this.

In these circumstances, cases must be brought to the courts within five years of the noise disturbances starting, though you might be able to say the noise got particularly bad after the children hit a certain age, and before a cut-off point was bearable, if it has lasted over five years.

If the court rules in your favour you could be awarded damages. Courts have other powers in noise nuisance cases including ordering a person to sound-proof their home, or even having their lease cancelled if they rent.

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