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Good neighbours in summer too

The days are getting longer and we are tempted outside. But what if, just when you’ve got comfortable, your neighbour starts to mow the grass, his children are playing basketball outside, or somebody is barbecuing – again? Here we tell you what you should tolerate and what you don't necessarily have to.

3 August 2019, text: Silvia Meder, Coop Rechtsschutz, photo: Helvetia

Young people playing cards outside.
After 10 p.m. you should move the party indoors to maintain good neighbourhood relations.

“We can hardly use our balcony, our neighbour is always barbecuing! We have to keep the doors and windows shut, otherwise the whole flat stinks”, Mr K. complained to us. His question was whether he can stop the neighbour from barbecuing. Unfortunately it’s not that easy. A general ban on barbecues in a rental agreement would be very difficult to enforce. However, the landlord can ban barbecues that use charcoal, and only allow electric or gas barbecues. We are all obliged to be considerate towards our neighbours’ needs and avoid excessive immissions (whether barbecue smoke, smells or noise).

How much noise is acceptable?

When it comes to noise, the statutory night and rest times apply. These are governed by the municipal or police regulations. As a rule, noise is not permitted outside after 10 p.m. and on Sundays. Noisy activities (such as mowing the lawn) are not permitted during these times. Anyone wishing to remain outside after 10 p.m. should keep conversations low so that only those nearby can hear, or move the party indoors.

The golden rule of neighbourhood law

In the event of any problems, the golden rule of neighbourhood law applies: let tolerance and common sense prevail. In the case of an announced birthday party, a person who calls the police at 10 p.m. on the dot to report a disturbance of the peace will certainly not make themselves popular in the street. A quiet chat at an opportune moment will be more effective than a nasty registered letter.

If it all gets too much

Mr K. doesn’t have to put up with everything his neighbour does, however. If he is regularly disturbed by barbecues or noise, as a tenant he can contact the property owner, who can issue a warning to the neighbour and, in the event of repeat offences, even give them notice. 

As a homeowner you can turn to the magistrate if talking to the neighbour fails to resolve the situation. However, this should only be considered as a last resort. If no agreement can be reached there, it will become difficult and expensive. You will then have to go to court to prove that the immissions from your neighbour are excessive, which experience has shown to be a laborious process with a very uncertain outcome.

Our tips:

  • The golden rule of the neighbourhood: tolerance.
  • Keep a record of the immissions: when, how long and what kind are they. This will give you an objective basis for further conversations.
  • Talk to the neighbour at an early stage, before your anger has built up and a sensible discussion is no longer possible.
  • If you are a tenant, you can inform your property management company and ask them to intervene.
  • If talking doesn’t help: contact the magistrate.
Silvia Meder

Silvia Meder has been a lawyer at the Coop Rechtsschutz legal service since 2018. She provides legal information and deals with cases in various branches of law (especially contract, tenancy and labour law). 

www.cooprecht.ch

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