For Owners

Keep Calm – Not easy to do when exposed to construction noise

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September 2021

So, you just bought a home, got the land register entry taken care of pronto, and are now in possession of the keys. High time to start thinking about the restructuring or refurbishing work, assuming your new home needs a once-over. Ideally, you will have hired a general contractor who is responsible for the entire redevelopment and structural alteration of the property.

The general contractor will gather many of the necessary trades under his leadership and coordinate the various steps at the construction site. Many general contractors will moreover draft blueprints, call in a structural engineer if needed, and assist with the planning application forms in case a planning consent or mandatory notification has to be obtained from the competent building inspectorate or from the heritage protection agency.

Property management, tenants and fellow owners must be notified of restructuring work

Whenever tradesmen get started on the restructuring work in a residential property, things will inevitably get noisy. If your new home is located inside a multi-family building, you, as apartment or building owner, have to let your fellow owners or tenants as well as the property management know well ahead of time that you are about to begin such work. In most cases, the property management will then post a notice in all entranceways of the building to brief everyone concerned on the impending construction work. This bulletin, which must be posted in a highly visible manner, specifies ways to get in touch with the general contractor or principal, and the dates on which the restructuring work will start and is expected to conclude. In densely populated areas, the general contractor will also see to it that loading and parking zones are set up to facilitate the movement of necessary building materials and equipment into the residential unit.

Altering, refurbishing or remodelling work will inevitably generate noise

No doubt, it can be quite annoying to have construction work going on in the apartment next door or on the adjacent property, day in, day out, with walls being opened up, pipes being laid, workers drilling incessantly while playing loud music, too. It is simply in the nature of construction work to be noisy and time-consuming. But to keep your neighbourhood relations from getting off to a bad start, let us make some suggestions how best to handle the situation. For one thing, it is simply polite to notify your neighbours ahead of time of impending construction work and to inquire from time to time how they are coping with the noise. Apart from that, however, certain rules are mandatory for general contractors and owners.

Compliance with designated quiet times and noise protection requirements

Principally, the noise nuisance caused by a construction site should be kept as low as possible by adhering to noise protection requirements and exposure limits. It is generally a good idea to use low-noise construction methods and power tools, and to limit the times during which noisy construction machinery is operated. The 32nd Ordinance for the Implementation of the Federal Immission Control Act (32. BlmSchV) established the legal basis and regulations for the permissible sound level for machinery and equipment in Germany. In densely populated areas as well as in recreational, spa and hospital areas, certain machines must not be used on Sundays and bank holidays nor at night between 8:00 pm and 7:00 am. In addition, particularly noisy machinery must not even be operated during the week between 7:00 and 9:00 am, 1:00 to 3:00 pm and 5:00 to 8:00 pm. The Equipment and Machinery Noise Protection Ordinance applies not only to commercial contractors, but also to private individuals who engage in restructuring work in their own right or else hire a general contractor.

Rent discounts due to construction noise, while possible, must be substantiated

Sometimes, tenants find construction noise next door so unbearable that they will seek a rent reduction. Complaints over such noise should be addressed directly to the principal or the general contractor. If the noise level persists unabated, the tenant has the right to lodge a complaint with the municipal public order office or to take legal steps under civil law.

Indeed, even a rent reduction is among the options. “Noise from a construction site can trigger a rent reduction precisely when the flat’s fitness for purpose as agreed in the lease agreement is compromised. The defect caused must have a significant impact on the quality of living. Conditions typical for a social setting or location do not justify a rent reduction,” elaborates the mietrecht.dom landlord-tenant law portal. In principle, a rent reduction is therefore possible if the tenant or owner substantiates that the construction measures cause significant and unreasonable disturbances and impairments of his or her life in the flat next door.

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