Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Spring 2007 - page 8


Legal Assistance Fund

One of the most frustrating experiences for noise sufferers is that they find that, when they complain to the police or to their municipal authorities about blatant infractions of the local noise bylaws, the authorities will do nothing, and the noise nuisance continues. The only remaining alternative then seems to be to see a lawyer and take the offenders to court yourself. Unfortunately, the expense of doing this can be horrendous, and few dare to risk it.

It is with this in mind that the Society set up its Legal Assistance Fund in 2002. The Fund is designed specifically to help members, whose complaints to municipal authorities have been ignored, to take the offenders to court. The Society believes that a victory in court would not only give relief in the particular case at issue, but could have wider implications and establish that inconsiderate nuisances who generate noise can no longer continue to do so with impunity.

If you have a noise problem that you have been unable to resolve after complaint to your municipality, and have considered legal action yourself, read on— we may be able to help.

 

Conditions
The Society will offer a Grant or a Loan (I'll explain the difference further on) to assist anyone who is considering legal action after a municipality has failed to act. In order to apply for a Grant or Loan, you will be asked to describe briefly the nature of the noise nuisance that you are experiencing.

It is expected that you will already have tried seriously to get the local authorities to deal with the problem, but they have failed to act effectively. And you must have had at least a preliminary discussion with a lawyer to make a realistic assessment of the probability that a legal action will have some success. "Success" could perhaps mean the award of substantial damages to you, but most victims of noise nuisance are not interested in "gold-digging" and will count any action as a "success" if at least you obtain an injunction to prevent the noise from continuing, and an extra bonus if you manage to recover your legal expenses.

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Factors we consider
When the Society has been satisfied that you have made every reasonable effort to solve the problem with the municipal authorities, and that you have consulted a lawyer who believes that you stand a reasonable chance of success in a legal action, the Society is prepared to offer a Grant or a Loan to help you with your expenses.

In considering your application, one of the things that the Society will consider is whether a successful action is likely to set a precedent that could have ramifications in future similar cases elsewhere. Also, other things being equal, the Society would probably give preference to (but is by no means restricted to) a Canadian applicant. We would also appreciate your taking out a membership in the Society, at least for a year. However, do not let these apparent restrictions deter you from applying! The unfortunate fact is that, as yet, no one has applied for such funds, and unless your application is not obviously flip- pant you'll probably be a shoo-in and get the assistance you need.

 

How much is available?
At present the Society offers up to $1,000 but could decide to go as high as $2,500, depending on the case. That may not be enough to fund a legal action completely, but we think many members will allow that it would be a substantial "seed" contribution.

If you lose the case, you are not expected to return the money to the Society—it was a Grant, and you did your best. If you win the case, and the noise is stopped but you receive no substantial damages, again you keep the Grant. If you win the case, and you receive substantial damages that are in excess of the funds provided by the Society, you would be expected to return to the Society the funds that it supplied you with. In other words, the assistance is then treated as a Loan, and, on its return to us, it is then available to the next person. Either way, we encourage you to have a go!

And, needless to say, even if you are not considering applying for a Grant yourself, but you support the concept, donations to add to the Legal Assistance Fund and to in- crease the amount available to support a legal action are always most welcome!


Sound advice

Now-a-days there is rarely a commercial place without conspicuous TV-screens and/or "music" blaring from sound- sprinklers in the ceiling, allegedly to allure and entertain customers (and staff and management?). The Oscar- winning documentary film An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, has stirred up a lot of attention lately. With the DVD  package of that film also comes a short list of suggestions of how to save energy. One of them is: "Turn off electronic devices: Simply turning off your television, DVD player, stereo, and computer when you're not using them will save thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide per year."

Next time you encounter blaring music and / or annoying TV-screens, tell the owner, manager or staff of what a great contribution they could make by turning those pesky gadgets off and, simultaneously, provide a pleasant acoustic environment in which to do business, work, shop, dine or simply relax. And add to that the terrific savings from not installing them in the first place! We also urge everyone to demand a "silent option" when put on hold on the telephone with imposed entertainment or advertising—like, for instance, "press 1 for silence".


Entire contents © 2007 Right to Quiet Society. Cartoon © 1996 Right to Quiet Society
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