We have a number of powers to deal with noise. The main legislation is that relating to statutory noise nuisance in Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Noise from neighbours is a common source of nuisance and can originate from barking dogs, loud music, machinery, construction, DIY activities, alarms and transport. Noise nuisance can occur at any time of the day or night, and the Environmental Protection Act does not specify times at which statutory nuisance can or cannot occur. It is determined by the subjective assessment of an authorised officer of environmental health. There are no times of the day when excessive noise will be acceptable.
Please note that some forms of neighbour noise, such as from children, raised voices, footsteps and doors being closed, cannot normally be dealt with under the Environmental Protection Act, as this is often an indication of poor sound insulation or may constitute everyday living. Also, the council has no enforcement powers to remedy complaints of noise caused by aircraft, road traffic and trains.
Remember that no house or flat is totally soundproof - everyone can expect some noise from neighbours. Environmental health considers that each resident can reasonably expect:
- not to have their night's sleep disturbed by noise
- to be protected form significant loss of amenities due to noise
- to have suitably trained staff where necessary to assess noise
- not to hear excessive noise from someone else, in their property on a regular basis
Where we assess that a noise coming from a person or property is unreasonable and is causing a noise nuisance we have a duty to serve an abatement notice requiring the person to eliminate the 'unwanted noise'. Failure to comply with the notice is likely to lead to a fine of up to £5000 and/or seizure of all noise making equipment and accessories (such as stereos and CDs).
Being a reasonable neighbour
Everyone has the right to reasonable enjoyment of their own space, and we are likely to assess you as being unreasonable if:
- you play music too loudly for too long
- you play music with your doors and windows open
- you carry out DIY like hammering, drilling or car repairs over a long period or early and late in the day
- you allow your dog to bark or howl excessively
- your children play too loudly or are antisocial
- your house or car alarm is left sounding
- you have loud parties after 11pm or frequently
- you use raised voices (in the street or with windows and doors open or in the garden) which disturb others
Most problems can be resolved amicably by talking about the problem to the person concerned. Often people are not aware that they are causing a problem, and most people are happy to make slight changes to their behaviour so that they do not upset their neighbours. However, you should approach the matter carefully if you think that your neighbours might react angrily to your request.