Noise and Nuisance

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Marbella certainly offers quality of life but noise and nuisance can ruin even the most idyllic setting. Determined to put an end to disorder, Marbella Town Hall is listening these days to complaints and taking action.

The European Court of Human Rights and the Spanish Constitutional and Supreme Courts have ruled that excessive noise emission into homes constitutes a violation of the right to rest and to domestic privacy. They are disruptive to one’s personal and family life, and a basis for claiming damages.

If the noise is of such duration, intensity and nature that it would have affected the victim’s health, article 325.2 of the Criminal Code defines it as an offence subject to imprisonment of between two and five years.

Before arriving at such a point, however, we suggest you complain to your Town Hall. If you live in Marbella, the 1996 noise and vibrations regulations (called Ordenanza de Ruidos, in its abbreviated form) as well as the rules on protection of public areas (Ordenanza sobre Protección de los Espacios Públicos) apply.

The former can be downloaded from the Town Hall’s website (www.marbella.es). However the latter is not available online, despite being in force. It was published in the Málaga Official Bulletin of 27th September 2010 and may be downloaded from www.bopmalaga.es.

Both regulations offer citizens ample protection. Maximum permitted noise levels improve on the minimum standards set out in European Directive 2002/49, as well as Andalusian Decree 6/2012 and the national law. Your Town Hall’s regulations prevail – should they exist – whenever they improve on the abovementioned decree.

Noise levels are set depending on the time of the day and the area. In Marbella, night time is between 10 pm and 8 am. Outdoor permitted noise levels in commercial areas are 65 decibels (dB) during daytime and 55 dB at night. For residential areas, those levels are reduced to 55 and 45 dB respectively, and they are reduced further another 10 dB in areas surrounding hospitals and clinics.

Indoor measurements are considerably reduced of course, and they depend on the part of the house where measurements are taken, windows closed and curtains drawn. Maximum levels permitted in bedrooms and living rooms are 30 dB during daytime and 28 dB at night (i.e. definitively quiet and peaceful); in bathrooms, kitchens and corridors, levels are 30 – 35 dB; and in entrance halls, etc. noises shouldn’t exceed 35 – 40 dB.

Vibrations are regulated too. Regulations distinguish continuous noises or vibrations from intermittent ones, whether following a regular pattern or random (e.g. dog’s barking). These are different to occasional noisy activities, which are permitted (e.g. construction works). They may not exceed 90 dB, a noise level equivalent to heavy road traffic or last longer than necessary.

Other activities, installations (e.g. an air-conditioning unit) and uncivil behaviour, are forbidden. Owners and managers of premises open to the public are responsible for their client’s conduct both on their premises and the areas immediately surrounding them. Owners of pets are responsible for the nuisance they might cause. And of course, shouting, singing and the like, especially during night time, is banned.

Should you wish to complain, a good starting point is a polite but firm letter addressed to those responsible for the inconvenience. Just as offering to talk is vital, so too is informing the offender of your intention to take action, should the noise continue. You might want to share some of the proof you could have gathered, including links to videos, audio files or pictures.

Your letter should be sent by recorded delivery Burofax, certifying its contents. This may be done at any post office or online, selecting Burofax nacional including the options acuse de recibo and certificación de entrega. A couple of pages cost around €30, money well spent if the nuisance stops. Should the addressee not be found at home, a notice will be left and it is their responsibility to pick it up. It’s your right to communicate with them and it’s deemed they had a chance to receive your notice.

You can file a complaint yourself (online too), though seeking professional assistance can be very useful. Hiring the services of an approved sound lab to measure noise levels is highly recommended. Also, asking a Notary to come and witness facts, producing an Acta de Presencia (around €300), is very useful. The notary can take pictures and the contents may only be disputed by criminally prosecuting the notary for falsifying the document.

Words Cristina Falkenberg

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