Staying at home during social distancing - noise and bonfires advice

Last updated: 02 April 2020 at 8.45am

Everyone is going to be experiencing difficulties and stresses because of the current restrictions on movement, with most people being confined to their homes and where available, gardens, for most of the day for the foreseeable future.

These restrictions are clearly essential to reduce the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), and protect everyone’s health and save lives. We all must play our part in this.

This means you will probably be seeing and hearing more of your neighbours than you are used to. In some situations, this may lead to frustrations or annoyance with e.g. noise you don’t want to hear, or things as like smoke from a garden bonfire.

With this in mind, we would urge you to act more thoughtfully towards your neighbours – think about how noise from your home could be causing problems and upset to others. For the same reason, we would urge you to be more tolerant and patient with noise and activity that you won’t be used to hearing. There is a real need for us all to show some good will at this time.

Below is some specific advice on things you can do, to help avoidable tensions and annoyance to your neighbours.

Bonfires

At this time, we would ask all residents not to have garden bonfires. The law has not changed, these are not illegal, but the effect they cause on other peoples gardens and homes is at best very unpleasant and at worst can cause a statutory nuisance.

The recent nice weather might mean you have been doing more in the garden and might be tempted to have a bonfire. Please think again. It’s not fair or reasonable to inflict this on anyone right now, especially if they are unwell. Filling the air with smoke could make a bad situation worse for someone.

Be thoughtful, be kind and be fair.

Stereos, TVs, radios and music

These are the most frequent causes for complaint. What is considered entertainment for one person can be torture for someone else. Avoid playing music so loud that your neighbours can hear it and keep the bass level down.

Try to position any speakers away from adjoining walls, floors and ceilings. Standing them on an insulating material can also reduce the transmission of sound. Loud music in the garden is more likely to cause a problem to your neighbours – try and keep it at or below conversation level or wear headphones.

It is a common misunderstanding that anyone is allowed to play their music as much and as loudly as you like up to 11pm. This is completely wrong, so don’t make that mistake. Noise nuisance can be caused at any time of day or night.

Some of us play musical instruments – they key with this is to keep musical instrument practices short and at reasonable times. If you can, do it in a room furthest away from your neighbour. If you are a neighbour who can hear someone practicing, be prepared to be patient. Being able to hear noise from elsewhere, doesn’t make it unreasonable.

Banging doors and stamping feet

Sound can travel quite easily through walls and floors, so be aware of what is next door. Avoid slamming doors and running up or down stairs especially if you live in a flat or terraced house. Shut doors gently and use the handle – don’t push it closed.

If you have laminate or wood flooring consider the use of rugs in areas with high footfall or where children play.

Dogs barking

Complaints about dog barking often happen because dogs are left at home alone for long periods of time. There are however, practical steps dog owners can take to minimise dog barking and prevent noise nuisance. This information is in the council’s barking dogs leaflet which is available on our website.

DIY activity

We all need to carry out DIY from time to time to maintain and improve our homes. You may be taking the opportunity now to finish or start new projects because of the current restrictions on movement. However, please be thoughtful and reasonable. The impact this could have on your neighbours during this difficult time could be greater than you think.

If you can do so whilst maintaining social distancing of a minimum of 2 metres, talk to your neighbours about the works you want to do and any parts of it that might be noisy. Most people will be understanding and accommodating, but you should be prepared to compromise if there are times that your neighbour asks you to avoid for a genuine reason.

In any situation, unless it’s an emergency, don’t do this sort of work in the evening or early in the morning, particularly at the weekend.

Most importantly – Please keep in mind that most people are currently confined to their homes. They can’t escape you, and you can’t escape them. Play fair!

Exercising at home

Gyms and sports facilities are closed but many of you (and us) will be exercising at home instead. Exercising is as important now as ever, but spare a thought for your neighbours if you are jumping around the living room and playing music, or following on-line classes. Whatever your preference, please think about the following:

  1. Time of day – please keep exercise to reasonable daytime hours;

  2. Weights – do not drop weights on the floor. As well as poor technique, it makes a lot of noise. Put them down with the control you lift them.

  3. Repetitive stepping – keep it brief and don’t overdo it. Consider avoiding routines that mean you repeatedly land heavily on the floor.

  4. Music and online classes – music is a useful motivator to exercise, but not for the person next door to you! Keep the volume down or maybe use wireless headphones so you can listen to your workout music without disturbing your neighbours.

Be prepared for feedback – if someone tells you what you are doing is disturbing and over the top, there’s a good chance it is. Maybe that’s the time to talk about what you want to do and agree something with your neighbours.

Household appliances

This is particularly relevant if you live in a flat or terraced house. Try to avoid using domestic appliances late at night. Domestic appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners can be very loud. Although their use is part and parcel of everyday life, where you put them and when you use them can make all the difference.

Ensure, where possible, noisy appliances are away from party walls. Washing machines should be balanced to reduce vibration. Placing them on an absorptive surface could help reduce noise further.

Be considerate and only use noisy appliances during the normal waking hours.

Reducing noise

Everyday household living generates noise, whether that’s the washing machine, doors closing, or the TV. However, disputes can occur when people are inconsiderate to others in how much noise they create. It is important to acknowledge the noise your household creates and think about the impact it might have on your neighbours. With this in mind, here are some top tips on how you can reduce noise.

Consider the lifestyle of your neighbours; e.g. are they retired or do they have young children? With this in mind, be mindful of the effects noise from your property may have on them, as well as the types of normal living noise you may hear from their property (for example from children playing).

If you are approached/contacted by a neighbour and asked to keep your noise down react positively. Respect their right to enjoy their home without hearing all that is going on in yours. Keep in mind the need to maintain a 2 metre distance from any of your neighbours.

Parties

The current Government restrictions on socialising mean that you should not be socialising with anyone who you don’t live with, including in any outdoor areas. Any complaint concerning noise from a party or a social gathering will be investigated, as this may not only amount to a noise disturbance but also a breach of the Governments Coronavirus social distancing requirements. This is not in any way acceptable behaviour, or behaviour that is likely to be tolerated. Stay at home and save lives.

Given the circumstances, you may be tempted to have ‘online’ parties in your home. If you do, please keep the volume down, particularly the bass, or use headphones. Avoid any loud, late night parties. Homes aren’t the place to replicate a pub or night club environment. If someone complains, be prepared to accept you are probably disturbing quite a few others too – they are just the ones confident enough to speak to you. Turn the music down or use headphones.

Also please visit the GOV.UK website for information regarding social distancing.

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