Noise nuisance and noisy neighbours
We receive a large number of noise complaints each year. The main issues that people say cause them noise nuisance are loud music, barking dogs, shouting, banging doors and DIY/construction activities from their neighbours, and noise from commercial or industrial premises.
Under Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, we have powers to deal with noise nuisance. Usually, 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 in the road.
No house or flat is totally soundproof, and everyday living gives rise to noise from time to time. It is normal to hear some noise from your neighbours, and they from you, but obviously sometimes this can go beyond what is ‘normal’.
What can you do?
If your neighbour (or a neighbouring business) is causing you a regular or significant noise problem, it is usually worth approaching them to explain politely that you are troubled by the noise. It might be that your neighbours are unaware of the disturbance they are causing. Most will be glad to do what they can to reduce the noise. You are not obliged to do this, but it might help neighbour relations in the long run.
If this doesn't work, or you are worried about approaching your neighbour you can contact the council to make a noise complaint by using our online form:
Alternatively, you can telephone our Customer Service Centre on 01256 844844 or write to:
What is a noise nuisance?
This cannot be easily defined, but could be described as an unreasonable interference with the normal enjoyment of your property. It will usually be something that is occurring regularly and/or continuing for a period of time that makes it unreasonable.
The following are unlikely to be a statutory nuisance:
- a one-off party
- neighbours arguing
- a lawnmower being used
- a baby crying or dogs barking occasionally
Noise that we have no control over:
- road traffic/engine noise on the public highway
- people shouting/laughing or screaming on a public road or footpath
- air traffic noise
There is no maximum noise level (decibel level) that relates to noise nuisance. Each case is judged on what might be reasonable and normal for the situation. We will take into consideration factors such as:
- when the noise is happening (noise can be a nuisance at any time of the day or night)
- the duration of the noise
- how often it is happening
- the type of noise
- whether there is social acceptance (for example, bonfire night or church bells)
Unfortunately there is no added protection for shift workers or people who are studying or ill, and may want or expect a great degree of peace and quiet in the day than might be the norm.
Who will investigate my complaint and how?
You will be assigned a case officer to investigate your complaint. You will be sent some advice and asked to send us information on what has been happening. This evidence is crucial to taking the complaint forward - it allows us to challenge the person causing the alleged problem about noise that took place between certain times on certain days.
The diary should be completed over a period of 7 to 14 days and then returned to the case officer for assessment. If you experience significant disturbance during office hours while you are keeping the diary, you are advised to contact the investigating officer and it may be possible for them or another member of the team to visit and witness the noise.
If the case is an emergency
We have an out of hours service to give advice and assistance on emergency environmental health issues when the council offices are closed. It is also available on bank holidays, including Christmas day.
Please note that this service is intended for genuine emergencies only (for example, house or car alarms). If it is not an emergency, please wait and contact us during normal working hours, when we have access to more resources.
You can contact us outside normal hours by calling 01256 844844. Your call will be connected to the out of hours contact centre who will be able to give you advice and assistance. In most cases this should deal with your concern but, if it is judged necessary, an officer may visit you.
You may find some of the leaflets below useful, in dealing with noise from your neighbours.
Many of the noise complaints we get every year are avoidable. The leaflets below may be of use to you, in avoiding causing a noise problem or if you find that you are being affected by noise.
Frequently asked questions
- Why do I need to keep diary record sheets?
Diary record sheets are an important source of evidence. They enable the case officer to establish some basic facts about the noise, for example, how often and when it happens, and how it affects you.
If the diary record sheets are not returned within the agreed time, further action will not be possible and the complaint will be closed.
When diary record sheets are returned they will be assessed as to whether the noise could be classed as a statutory nuisance.
If the investigating officer decides that the noise could not be classed as a statutory nuisance you will be advised verbally and/or in writing.
If your diary record sheets indicate the likely existence of a statutory noise nuisance the investigating officer will contact the perpetrator to inform them of the complaint and the legal action available to the council should a statutory noise nuisance be witnessed.
- Will my neighbour know I complained?
We do not disclose your details to anyone. People might make assumptions about who has complained about them, but we won't confirm this. If we get to a stage where we have served a notice on your neighbour and they breach this notice, we might ask you to appear as a witness in court proceedings, but this would not be obligatory.
- What happens after the noise source is informed of the complaint?
If the noise problem persists after we have written to them, we would expect to hear from you to inform us that it is still happening. The case officer will arrange with you how best to visit to assess the noise. It is still important for you to keep a record of what is happening by completing diary sheets.
- What happens if the noise is a statutory nuisance?
If the case officer forms the view that the noise is a statutory nuisance the perpetrator will be served with a Noise Abatement Notice under section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This will require them to stop making the noise that is causing the nuisance.
- What if the noise is not a statutory nuisance?
If after a thorough investigation no noise nuisance is substantiated, the complaint will be closed. The decision will be confirmed verbally and/or in writing. You will also be advised of alternative courses of action available to you.
- What if the noise continues after the notice has been served?
If you are still bothered by noise following the service of a Noise Abatement Notice you must notify the case officer. They will arrange further noise monitoring and ask you to continue keeping a written record of the noise causing you a disturbance.
If we get evidence that show the Noise Abatement Notice has been breached, then we can prosecute those responsible. In some situations we can also apply to the Magistrates Court for a warrant to enter the property to seize those things causing the nuisance, for example, stereos, televisions, speakers and other electronic devices.
People found guilty of breaching an Abatement Notice could be liable to an unlimited fine.
Environmental Health team
If you have an enquiry about environmental health, send a message to the Environmental Health team