What to do about noise in Spain

Spanish Law Thu, 7 Aug 2014
What to do about noise in Spain

Walk out into a bar or café area late at night in summer in Spain and you will be greeted by chatter. The Spanish talk, and often seem to talk loudly. Everyone seems to have a comment to make and usually at the same time.

Depending on your view point this can be a wonderful, vibrant part of life in Spain or it can be classed as noise pollution. I have been with people who have expressed both points of view. Those who want to immerse themselves in the hubbub of a Spanish evening’s entertainment and those who want to cover their ears and find somewhere where they can sit in peace.

Music bars and fiestas

Of course, in some places the decibels aren’t just down to the level of chit chat. Noisy bar areas, loud music, singing and carrying on – especially in the areas that attract holiday makers in Spain. This additional noise can take it from the slightly annoying irritant to the realms of the ‘turn that down or I’ll...’.

The Spanish summer fiestas can be a particular problem for those living in and around the centre of town. Events continue into the next morning and can bring real difficulties for those with work and other commitments. However, in most places, you can argue that it is only for short periods of time and the enjoyment from the spectacle for many overrules the nuisance for some.

Some argue that town planning in Spain is the real problem. Building residential property side by side with retail and commercial use is bound to create difficulties. There are two sides to every story.

There is no doubt that having a Status Quo Tribute Band below your balcony night after night is enough to send you to distraction. At the same time, live music in Spain can bring in much needed trade and without this, punters will go elsewhere. Finding a happy medium is very hard to do.

A silent Seville?

This begs the question, just how far should the authorities go on limiting noise pollution in Spanish towns and cities? Seville is a wonderful Spanish city that oozes atmosphere and reflects café culture at its best.

In the summer everyone it seems is outside well into the night, taking advantage of the cooler evening air. It’s not surprising that it can be a noisy place to be past some people’s bedtime.

However, the news is that this should no longer be a problem for Seville’s resident population. The Guardian newspaper recently reported that following the campaign of Sevilla Sin Ruidas Ya (Seville without noise now) the city of Seville is to have its noise-making silenced.

Some of the behaviour that is to be targeted includes:

  • Excessively loud conversations
  • Television outside on terraces
  • Bar staff dragging chairs along the pavement
  • Playing loud music whilst driving
  • Domino games played outside

The clamp down doesn’t cover religious parades and processions.

If you want to consider all the issues, you need only read the comments posted after the article, ‘Seville’s Silent Summer: Spanish city bans outdoor noise’.

With opinion spread on both sides, we can only wonder how Spanish police officers will enforce the ban consistently. At what point does talking become too loud and chair rearranging a threat to the peace? The enforcement of these kinds of rules, without that clarity, can lead to bad feeling and accusations of unfairness.

A noisy Elche?

It isn’t just in Seville where restrictions are about to bite the hostelry business. Bars and restaurants in Elche are also about to find themselves receiving visits from the local police. The number of terrace areas linked to bars and cafes has escalated since the no-smoking ban. A move that hasn’t been warmly received by everyone, according to this article in Valencia Today. As a result, like Seville, Elche is due to pass an anti-noise pollution bylaw.

It is easy to feel sorry for the poor business trying to scratch a living in the midst of the economic down turn. However, if you are kept awake night after night by the noise of bars in Spain and other people’s merriment it can become a serious issue and even a health hazard. It can also be a problem for other local bars who end up trying to compete.

Concerns are raised by some bar owners that complaints are made by rivals in a bid to win over custom. The unfairness with which rules can seem to be applied is a constant cause for complaint by those keen to make the most of the summer holiday season trade.

Opinion is divided and there will continue to be those who feel that they are unfairly targeted whilst others just want a decent sleep at night. In the meantime, what should you do if you are having problems with a noisy neighbour?

Tips for dealing with a noisy neighbour

  • Be positive – politely raise the issue and explain what the problem is for you – most issues can be resolved in this way
  • Look for a compromise:
  • Is there a cut off time for you up to which it is reasonable for the noise to be made?
  • What time is acceptable for builders to start work?
  • Are there other ways of reducing the nuisance?
  • Raise the issue with your community of owners if you belong to one – you may find that others have raised their concerns too and you can tackle it on a community basis
  • Make a denuncia – if you go to your nearest Guardia Civil station and report the noise you might be surprised at the speed of reaction – this is an increasing priority in Spain and just one denuncia can lead to a police visit
  • Approach a solicitor who will advise you of alternative means of ensuring a good night’s sleep 

Comments

SINCE THE LONG AWAITED BAN ON SMOKING WAS ENFORCED,THIS HAS CAUSED
ANOTHER PROBLEM WITH TALKING OUTSIDE.
BUT HAS FAR AS MUSIC INSIDE BARS,A LOT OF THE PEOPLE WHO COMPLAIN,
PURCHASED THEIR PROPERTIES NEAR THESE ESTABLISHMENTS KNOWING THAT
THERE WAS ENTERTAINMENT NEARBY, MAYBE GETTING THEM AT A LOWER PRICE ?
THE SPANISH ECONOMY WILL SUFFER IF PEOPLE CANNOT SPEND MONEY ON
ENTERTAINMENT AND KEEP PEOPLE EMPLOYED.LOCAL FESTIVALS CAUSE NOISE.?

We have a guy on the next floor who sees himself as a flamenco singer and guitarist. He practises from 8 in the evening until three the following morning. I complained and he says, "in Spain you can make as much noise as you like on a Saturday Sunday morning and if I don't like it go back to England".
How true is this statement ?

Dear Leonard

Thank you for your question. It isn't true that you can make as much noise as you like and in fact this is something that some regions are really clamping down on. It sounds as though you have already tried resolving this through approaching your neighbour. I would then suggest that you take the next step which would be to make a denuncia at the police station. You might want to keep a record for a week or so of what the noise is and when and it might be beneficial if there are other neighbours who can also act as witnesses. You might want to read the articles by David Ruiz on our website to help you make the denuncia:

http://www.abacoadvisers.com/spain_explained/spanish-law/news/making-pol...

http://www.abacoadvisers.com/spain_explained/life-in-spain/news/making-d...

I hope the situation is satisfactorily resolved. 

Since my move to Spain I have noticed that 99.9% of Noise complaints in our Community and the local Town Hall is from British people, who in the main, do not understand the vibrant Spanish Culture or the fact that most bars exist to feed the Tourist Industry.

My neighbour comes to their property around 5 weeks a year, the rest of the time it is left empty and I give up with them keep composing my TV is too loud at night... Taking into account when it is on I can't hear it in either of my bedrooms that are between my lounge and their bedrooms, I fail to see how they can hear it unless they have bugged my property... My last row with them ended with me saying, "I live and work here, you holiday here so I suggest you take your selfish attitude back home to England where it belongs, I have a life and want to live it and not one other person that adjoins my flat from above, below or to the other side can hear it or had made a complaint....

Thanks for posting your comment.  As you point out, it's not just about conflict between bars and their neighbours, but there can also be difficulties between residents and non-residents. It can be a frequent problem where property is rented out on short term summer lets and holiday makers have a different view of their surroundings to those who live there. 

We live on an urbanization and the owners of the property next door to us sublet their property. We have tolerated constant problems with various tenants and their dogs over the last five years, and recently the house has been let to a couple with three children , average age 18 years, who do not themselves live in the house but rent another property local and their children reside in the house next to us on their own. Recently on a couple of occasions, the house has been used to entertain a group of teenagers about twenty in total, for a party, with excessive noise until eleven to twelve o'clock at night, .they also have two dogs that are continuously using the front of the house as a toilet.What laws are in force in Spain to protect residents from this kind of behavior from neighbors.

Hi Catherine

I am sorry to hear you are having so much trouble. You might start off by trying the letting agent if there is one and you are not able to contact the owners directly. Your community of owners should also help intervene if there is one. You can always make a denuncia and I recommend you read David Ruiz's articles to help you do this: http://www.abacoadvisers.com/spain_explained/spanish-law/news/making-pol... and http://www.abacoadvisers.com/spain_explained/life-in-spain/news/making-d....

Hello, can you advise please on the law regarding noise from music or conversational noise, on a residentional complex, to enable myself and retired husband to keep within the confines of the law. We have a small apartment with balcony and roof terrace. Is there a time guideline, for example 11 or 12pm. Thank you

Dear Jane

First of all, people must obey the laws as indicated by their community of owners. You should request from your president or secretary what the expectation is in your particular community. You can also check what the legislation is for your town at the town hall. The time guideline is usually from 8.00 am to 10.00 pm. During weekends and festivals the 'noisy' hours are usually from 9.30 to 12.00 pm.  

It also depends on the activity. It's not the same if it's a conversation on your balcony in comparison to a fiesta or building works.

Your best guide is to find out from either your community and/ or town hall. 

We have recently moved to Spain to the Alicante area.
Our problem is with noise from children from early in the morning to 2300hrs at night they play football against our house and are always shouting we have asked them to stop but all we get back is "I don't understand!
This has gone on for 3 months and we are not getting much sleep how can we ask them to keep control of the kids

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