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