What can be done about noise nuisance?

We receive a large number of noise complaints each year. Complaints are typically made regarding noise from barking dogs, loud music, shouting, banging doors, DIY, construction and noise from industrial and commercial premises.

No property is totally soundproof and everyday living will give rise to noise from time to time. It is normal to hear some noise from your neighbours, and they from you, but sometimes this can go beyond what is ‘normal’. If the noise levels become unreasonable they may constitute a statutory nuisance.

Under Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, we have powers to deal with statutory noise nuisance. Usually the noise will need to be coming from private land or property to allow us to act, but there are some exceptions to this, for example car alarms from cars parked on the road.

  • What is a statutory noise nuisance?

    This cannot be easily defined, but is often described as the unreasonable interference with the normal enjoyment of your property. The noise would generally have to be occurring regularly or over a continuing period of time to be considered unreasonable.

    There are no set noise levels (decibel levels) in relation to noise nuisance. Each case is judged on what might be reasonable and normal for the situation and we will take into consideration various factors such as:

    • When the noise is occurring
    • The duration of the noise
    • How often it occurs
    • The type of noise
    • Location
    • Whether there is a social acceptance (for example new years eve, church bells etc.)

    Unfortunately there is no added protection for shift workers or for people who are studying or ill and may want or expect more peace and quiet than may be normal.

    The following are UNLIKELY to be a statutory nuisance:

    • A one-off party
    • Neighbours arguing
    • A lawnmower being used
    • A baby crying

    Noise that we have no control over:

    • Road traffic/engine noise on the public highway
    • People noise on a public road or footpath
    • Air traffic noise
  • What can you do?

    If your neighbour (or neighbouring business) is causing you a regular or significant noise problem it is generally worth approaching them to explain politely that you are bothered by the noise. It might be that your neighbours are unaware of the disturbance they are causing and most will be willing to do what they can to reduce the noise. You are not obliged to do this, but it may help neighbour relations in the longer term.

    If this doesn’t work, or you are unsure about approaching your neighbour, you can contact us to make a complaint by using our online form:

    Report an Issue 

    Alternatively, you can telephone our Customer Service Centre or write to us.

  • How will my complaint be investigated?

    You will initially be sent some diary sheets and asked to provide details on the type of noise which has been disturbing you, where it is coming from and how often. This evidence is crucial to taking the complaint forward as it allows us to initially assess whether the noise you are bothered by is something that we can deal with and enables us to discuss your complaint with the person causing the alleged nuisance.

    A polite advisory note will also be sent to the alleged perpetrator at the time of your initial complaint and it may be that this letter is sufficient to reduce the nuisance you have been experiencing and the matter is resolved before you have the chance to complete and return your diary sheets. If we do not receive your completed diary sheets after 28 days, the case is automatically closed with no further action.

    If your diary sheets are returned to us and they indicate that a statutory nuisance may be occurring, we will contact the alleged perpetrator again in an attempt to resolve the matter informally. If this is not successful, we will gather more evidence (often in the form of sound recordings) and if the evidence is sufficient, we will serve a formal notice requiring the noise nuisance to be abated within a certain time period.

    Breaching a noise abatement notice is a criminal offence and punishable by fine or imprisonment by a Magistrates Court.

  • Keeping the noise down

    If you have been the subject of a noise complaint here are some tips on how to minimise the noise you may be making:

    DO

    • Be aware of your neighbours when you are doing something noisy or let them know beforehand (for example if you are holding a party)
    • Keep the music volume down, especially after 11pm, or use headphones
    • Remember if you live in a flat or maisonette that noise and vibration travel easily through walls and floors
    • Pull TV’s and speakers away from walls and off floors
    • Keep musical instrument practices short and at respectable times
    • Be respectful of your neighbours when returning home from a night out after 11pm 

    DON’T

    • Carry out noisy DIY before 8am or after 9pm. Try to avoid DIY on Sundays
    • Play music at a level which could be heard by your neighbours
    • Have frequent noisy parties in your home
    • Leave dogs alone for long periods
    • Sound car alarms, slam doors or rev engines at night
    • Use vacuum cleaners or washing machines late at night