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How we investigate noise complaints, legal powers, report a noise nuisance, how to avoid causing a noise nuisance, advice on noise assessments, intruder alarms and other noise issues.
What can I do about my noisy neighbours?
The most common domestic noise problems are caused by loud music or television, barking dogs, shouting, banging doors and DIY activities. If noise is causing regular and unreasonable disturbance to you, it may amount to a statutory nuisance or anti-social behaviour.
Firstly, you should try resolving your complaint by talking to your neighbour to make them aware of the problem. An informal approach is usually preferable, as your neighbour may not be aware that they are causing a problem, and involving the council can sometimes damage your relations with them. If you do not feel comfortable speaking to them directly, or have already tried unsuccessfully, we have provided an example template letter which you can amend for your situation and give to them. It may also be useful to start keeping a diary of the dates and times of the noise nuisance, a description of the noise and the way it affects you.
More advice on neighbour noise nuisance:
Noise is simply defined as unwanted sound. It can therefore be very subjective, and affect people differently. Noise is a common source of annoyance and for some people it can be very upsetting. Remember, no home is totally soundproof - everyone can expect a certain amount of noise from their neighbours. The most common reasons for being disturbed by noise from neighbours are:
they may be behaving unreasonably, such as playing loud music late at night
they may be behaving normally but the sound insulation between the properties is not sufficient to cut out the normal sounds of everyday living. Read more about improving sound insulation
you may have become oversensitive to the noise, particularly if you do not get on with your neighbours. Some people will ‘tune-in’ to a particular noise and find it annoying even when most other people would not.
When trying to resolve a noise problem informally, keep a copy of any letters you send and keep a record of any further conversations you have.
What legal powers does the council have to resolve a noise problem?
If we investigate a noise complaint and are satisfied it is anti-social or a statutory nuisance, we can issue a formal notice on the person or business responsible, to get them to stop the nuisance or behaviour within a given amount of time.
It is an offence if a person does not comply with a notice, and anyone found guilty can be served with a fixed penalty or prosecuted and fined.
Any costs incurred by us where a notice has not been complied with, will be recharged to the person who was issued with the notice. This may include silencing a misfiring intruder alarm which is causing a nuisance, where a key-holder cannot be found.
Additionally, we have powers to obtain a warrant and seize noise making equipment, such as sound systems and TVs.
Complaints about nuisance behaviour from council tenants should initially be directed to our council housing team.
Read more about noise nuisance and the law:
Legal powers to deal with noise are covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Powers to deal with noise nuisance from vehicles, machinery and equipment in the street are also available in the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993.
To be considered a statutory nuisance, the noise has to be serious enough to be interfering substantially with your well-being, or comfort and enjoyment of your property. This may include certain types of noise.
To be considered anti-social behaviour, the noise has to be having a detrimental effect, of a persistent or continuing nature, on the quality of life of those in the neighbourhood. Read more about how we deal with anti-social behaviour, or view a copy of our enforcement policy.
Are there types of noise the council won't usually investigate?
Yes, the following are examples of noise sources that we will not usually be able to investigate:
Contact details to report noise from aircraft:
This includes all types of civil passenger carrying aircraft, private pleasure aircraft, helicopters, microlites and crop-spraying aircraft which are registered in the UK. Wherever possible, details of time, place, type of aircraft and registration marks should be given to enable the investigating authority to complete its enquiries as quickly as possible.
If the aircraft is known to originate from a local air base, the initial complaint should be directed to the base commanding officer. If this does resolve the issue, then complaints relating to military air traffic may be directed to the Royal Air Force.
How does the council investigate my noise complaint?
If you report a noise nuisance you will need to provide your contact details, so we can discuss your complaint with you before we investigate further. It can be useful if you have kept a record of when the alleged problem occurs and how it affects you, so we can decide what action can be taken.
Please note: it may take up to 10 working days to respond to your complaint.
When we investigate an alleged nuisance, we will usually write to the person responsible for the alleged problem to inform them that a complaint has been made, and will send you a detailed diary sheet to fill in and return to us. This is important as it allows us to target our resources effectively and prioritise cases, and to decide whether or not to use noise recording equipment. Failure to return a completed diary sheet may jeopardise the investigation of a case. When making a complaint you will need to provide the address that is causing the alleged problem. Our officers will also try to witness the problem themselves and gather any further evidence as necessary.
If you report a problem with pollution all your personal details will be kept strictly confidential. However, if a case does end up going to court, you may be asked to give evidence, depending on the nature of the investigation, at which point your details would become known.
Read more about how we determine if noise is a statutory nuisance:
In order to determine if the noise amounts to a statutory nuisance, we will try to gather first hand evidence of the noise. This may be by visiting at a time when the noise is likely to occur or by installing recording equipment. We will take reasonable steps to investigate a complaint. For most complaints this would mean three visits or separate installations of recording equipment. If by then we have not gathered sufficient evidence to determine a statutory nuisance, we will normally close the case and advise the complainant of their options for taking their own private action.
It is difficult to define what will amount to a nuisance, as each case will be different. Therefore there cannot be a set noise level that is applicable to every case. Where a relevant standard exists to enable a noise to be measured objectively it will be used. We will consider the following issues when determining a case:
volume (how loud a noise is)
duration (how long it goes on for)
regularity (how often has it happened)
time (night time noise is considered to be more intrusive)
neighbourhood (what is the background noise level in the area)
malice (was the noise caused deliberately to upset).
If it has been decided that a nuisance does exist, we have a duty to serve an abatement notice on the person(s) responsible. Failure to comply with the requirements of a notice is an offence. However, we do not have a duty to prosecute, and where appropriate, we may consider use of other powers such as the seizure of equipment.
What about commercial, industrial and agricultural noise?
The same procedures normally apply for investigating a noise nuisance from commercial, industrial and agricultural premises, as they do for domestic noise complaints. Depending on the type of premises we may liaise with our licensing or planning enforcement teams as part of our investigation. Some larger industrial and waste facilities may also have an environmental permit which can include conditions to control noise pollution. These can be regulated by either the Environment Agency or the council.
Specific guidance for farmers on the use of bird scarers is available from the National Farmers Union (external website).
Advice for building contractors to minimise noise disturbance:
Construction and demolition works are usually noisy and can take place in areas which are normally quiet and clean. Although the work may not last long, the disturbance caused by noise and other issues may lead to problems for people who live and work near the site and can often lead to complaints.
It is in everyone’s interests to try to foresee any problems which could arise and plan ways to avoid them. Contractors should obtain a copy of British Standards 5228:2009 + A1:2014 which is a Code of Practice containing information and procedures for noise control on construction and open sites.
The following suggestions can help reduce the likelihood of noise disturbance:
give neighbours who may be affected by particular operations at least 48 hours notice
keep normal working hours between 7.30am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday and 8.00am to 1.00pm on Saturdays. There should be no Sunday or Bank Holiday working, as far as possible
select the quietest suitable plant and equipment and keep it properly maintained and observe safe working practices
make sure that all sub-contractors are told to carry out their work in compliance with agreed guidelines on noise and other matters
for long term and complex projects, arrange for detailed liaison with the local community, through structured meetings with residents
be vigilant and ensure compliance with all planning conditions
inform the council where activities might be expected to cause disturbance
take all reasonably practicable steps to prevent noise from causing a nuisance
ensure that any particularly noisy operations are not undertaken outside normal working hours
do not allow the use of radios on the site in circumstances where it could cause disturbance.
Do you investigate anonymous complaints?
No, we cannot usually investigate anonymous complaints.
To prove noise is a statutory nuisance or anti-social behaviour, we will need to investigate the problem at the complainant’s property. When carrying out visits, we will be as discreet as is reasonably practicable, and we will keep your details confidential, in accordance with our data protection policy. However, the complainant will be expected to keep a diary of noise problems suffered and to provide a statement of witness or attend court should formal action be necessary.
What if the council cannot help me with my noise complaint?
In some cases we may not be able to get sufficient evidence to be able to take any action on your behalf. In such cases, you can take private action by complaining directly to the magistrates’ court. This is a simple process and need not cost much. You do not need to employ a solicitor but it is advisable to seek some legal advice prior to taking such action.
Read more about taking private action:
It is possible that even after several visits to your property to witness the noise nuisance, we are not able to pursue the matter for you. This may be because having heard the noise, our officers may not feel that the noise would represent a nuisance to the “average person”. For example, the noise may be during the day but disturbs you because you are a shift worker trying to sleep during the day. Alternatively, it may be that the random and intermittent nature of the noise means that our officers were not able to visit when the noise occurred and were therefore unable to confirm that it constituted a nuisance.
You may, therefore, decide to take legal action yourself to resolve the problem. Under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 you are entitled to complain directly to the Magistrates’ Court. If the court is satisfied that a nuisance exists or has occurred and is likely to recur, it will make an order requiring the defendant to abate the nuisance and/or prevent its recurrence. The court may also impose a fine.
If you decide to complain to the Magistrates’ Court, you must give your neighbour at least three days’ notice of your intention to do so. The letter must be in writing and give details of your complaint. Remember to date the letter and to keep a copy of it.
The next step is to contact the Clerk to the Magistrates’ Court. The Clerk will then advise you what to do. You may wish to do this yourself or you may engage a solicitor to do this for you. However, you should remember that a solicitor may make a charge for his services.
If you win the court case, you may still have to keep a record of any nuisance caused by your neighbour in case further legal action becomes necessary. Should you lose the case, you may have to pay some of the costs incurred by your neighbour in coming to court.
Where can I get advice on sound insulation?
Useful advice on improving sound insulation in the home is also available from the Building Research Establishment website.
Will I have to do a noise assessment as part of my planning application?
If you are proposing a potentially noisy development such as an industrial site or certain leisure activities near to noise sensitive buildings, such as homes or schools, then you may need to carry out a noise assessment as part of your application. Similarly, if you are proposing a noise sensitive development, such as housing, near to an existing source of noise, this may also need to be assessed.
The National Planning Policy Framework states that planning policies and decisions should:
prevent new and existing development from contributing to, being put at unacceptable risk from, or being adversely affected by, unacceptable levels of noise pollution;
ensure that new development is appropriate for its location taking into account the likely effects (including cumulative effects) of pollution on health, living conditions and the natural environment, as well as the potential sensitivity of the site or the wider area to impacts that could arise from the development;
mitigate and reduce to a minimum potential adverse impacts resulting from noise from new development - and avoid noise giving rise to significant adverse impacts on health and the quality of life;
identify and protect tranquil areas which have remained relatively undisturbed by noise and are prized for their recreational and amenity value for this reason.
There is also National planning practice guidance on noise issues on the GOV.UK website and Professional Practice Guidance on Planning & Noise for new residential development available on the Institute of Acoustics website.
You should seek specialist advice from a noise consultant when considering carrying out a noise assessment. Further information on noise consultants and noise assessments can be found on the Institute of Acoustics website and the Association of Noise Consultants website.
Do you have advice on barking dogs and noisy cockerels?
Read more about controlling noise from barking dogs and how to report noise from barking dogs.
The government has also produced useful guidance on resolving problems with barking dogs.
Cockerels have the potential to cause noise nuisance, particularly when they are kept near built-up areas. If you own a cockerel there are a few steps that can be followed to help minimise crowing and disturbing your neighbours.
Suggestions for controlling noise from cockerels include:
cockerels tend to crow from first light. If they can be put into a dark hen house or coop covered with a heavy material overnight and they cannot see the dawn this should reduce the problem.
let the cockerel(s) out later in the morning (for example, after 8.00am) as this should delay the early morning crowing.
a high level shelf can be put in the hen house to allow the cockerel to walk around above the hens but prevents it stretching its neck to make the crowing sound (Consideration should be made for separate hen houses for each breed so when closed in at night smaller cockerels and chickens have a lower ceiling height in their house than the bigger breeds to prevent crowing).
ideally only have one cockerel (over 5 months in age) at the premises at any one time, to prevent competition and more crowing.
locate the cockerel(s) away from neighbouring residential property.
consider sound-proofing the hen-house, building or shed where they are housed, and prevent light from entering it.
make sure there is plenty of food and distractions to keep them occupied, as boredom can be a cause for more crowing.
If I have an intruder alarm fitted, what should I do?
Alarms should be fitted with an automatic cut-off device, so that they stop ringing after 20 minutes. However, they can often misfire and are a common cause of noise complaints.
It is a good idea to make sure that a neighbour or someone close is a 'key-holder', and can access your property and deactivate the alarm in the event that it misfires while you are away. This will avoid the need for formal action to be taken to silence the alarm, if it is causing a statutory noise nuisance, and recharge the cost of doing so to the property owner.
Are there any requirements or guidelines for buskers and street performers?
There is currently no licensing or registration scheme for street performers in the East Riding. However, if you intend to play live amplified music you may require a temporary events notice from the Licensing Team.
Good practice guidelines for buskers and street performers to avoid noise problems:
make contact with the neighbouring traders when looking for a site to busk. Advise them how long you intend to perform in that location (should never be more than 1 hour)
consider neighbours when setting your volume - reduce the noise level to a minimum and stick to it. Busking must never be intrusive or a nuisance to nearby premises
vary your location (pitch) from day-to-day. Move at least 100 metres away from the last pitch used if carrying out more than one performance that day.
try to co-ordinate and co-operate with other buskers
stop busking if requested to do so by anyone who is inconvenienced or disturbed by what you are doing, or if asked to do so by the police or a council officer.