Three senior judges urged squabbling neighbours to mediate, not litigate, in a stinging ruling issued in a case brought over noise caused by wooden flooring.
They urged the parties to “give and take” after ruling on a Court of Appeal row about the noise made by a family walking on the wooden floor of a third-storey flat in a “prestigious” block in Belgravia, London.
One said the dispute had resulted in more than £140,000 being “thrown away” on lawyers’ fees when a “moderate degree of carpeting” might have solved the problem.
Hameed and Inam Faidi took legal action against the company which held the lease on the flat above theirs in Eaton Mansions, Cliveden Place.
The couple complained the “normal activities” of the people living above were disturbing because the flat had a wooden floor.
They moved into their apartment in 1995 and the court was told they had no problems until renovation works were carried out between 2007 and 2009, during which alterations were made the floor above.
Mr and Mrs Faidi sued the Elliott Corporation, the landlords of the upstairs flat, and when their claim against the company failed last year, launched an appeal.
But yesterday they failed to persuade judges to order the £100,000 wooden floor be carpeted.
Lord Justice Ward, Lord Justice Lloyd and Lord Justice Jackson rejected the appeal against the county court judge’s dismissal of their attempt to “enforce a covenant in the lease”.
They had argued the installation of timber flooring ran counter to a clause in the lease, which dictates the floors of every room, except the bathroom and kitchen, should be covered with carpet and underlay.
“This case concerns a dispute between neighbours which should have been capable of sensible resolution without recourse to the courts,” said Lord Justice Jackson. “A moderate degree of carpeting in Flat 8 might reduce the noise penetrating into Flat 6 and still enable the occupants of flat 8 to enjoy their new wooden floor. This is precisely the sort of outcome which a skilled mediator could achieve but which the court will not impose ...
“In neighbour disputes of this kind now before the court (and of which I have seen many similar examples) if negotiation fails, mediation is the obvious and constructive way forward.”
He added: “The total costs thrown away amount to £140,134. If the parties were driven by concern for the wellbeing of lawyers, they could have given half that sum to the Solicitors Benevolent Association and then resolved their dispute for a modest fraction of the monies left over.”
Lord Justice Ward and Lord Justice Lloyd agreed.
“Not all neighbours are from hell,” added Lord Justice Ward, in a written judgment. “They may simply occupy the land of bigotry.
“There may be no escape from hell but the boundaries of bigotry can, with tact, be changed by the cutting edge of reasonableness skilfully applied by a trained negotiator.Give and take is often better than all or nothing.”