Unlike a lot of other UK laws the current nuisance law does not give any guidance about what particular level of noise, smoke or other specified matter amounts to a legal nuisance.
This means that council officers have to assess the circumstances of each complaint to determine whether they are dealing with a matter that can be dealt with under the law.
What type of noise issue can be investigated?
We can deal with many types of general noise that are disturbing people nearby and affecting how they enjoy their homes.
The source of the problem must always be on another property. We cannot investigate matters that occur on the road or pavement except in cases of malfunctioning car alarms, loudspeakers and on-going vehicle repairs for business or personal gain.
We are normally unable to take action in relation to general living noise such as:
- flushing the toilet
- household appliances such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners
- moving furniture
- general talking
- children playing or crying
- slamming doors
If you are not sure whether we can help, it’s best to contact us directly and we will advise you.
We cannot always help people with acute sensitivities (e.g. can hear the faintest noise from next door) or people with special requirements (e.g. shift workers having their sleep disturbed by day to day activities)
How disturbing does an issue have to be before you can take any action?
To be a legal nuisance the problem must cause you a significant interference with your use and enjoyment of your own property. In extreme cases it might even be considered harmful to health.
It is more likely to be a nuisance where there are multiple incidents, that recur on a regular basis (perhaps daily or at least three or four times a week) and cause a significant impact over a reasonable length of time (on/off throughout the day or at least lasting in excess of one or two hours) .
Nuisance law does not specify days or times when certain activities are allowed or prohibited. It is therefore possible to experience a nuisance at any time of the day or night, but sometimes the problem might be made worse because it occurs at a sensitive time of the day or night (i.e. after 11pm or before 7am).
Are there any time restrictions for the playing of music?
There are no periods of time when the playing of loud music is specifically allowed. If the noise is causing a nuisance to others then it is a nuisance regardless of the time of day, or day of the week.
Is there a noise level set in law?
There is no noise level set in Law. Noise is a subjective assessment; therefore loud music being played from a detached property is unlikely to cause a nuisance whereas the same level of music in a block of flats is likely to cause a nuisance. Environmental Health Officers are qualified and trained to assess whether a noise is likely to be a statutory nuisance.
What should I do if I think my problem may be a legal nuisance?
We would encourage you to discuss the problem with the source; they may be unaware of the nuisance they are causing and such an approach will help to keep good neighbourly relations and lead to a quicker resolution.
Advice on doing this can be found on our fact sheet ‘Discussing a nuisance problem with your neighbour’.
If you have discussed your complaint with the source, but failed to improve the situation, or if you do not feel able to contact your neighbour about a problem for any particular reason, you can ask the Council to investigate.
What information will we require?
If you want us to deal with your complaint you will need to tell us:
- The nature of the complaint
- The address where the problem is being caused
- Your own name and address and a contact telephone number and/or email address.
Please note that we are unable to act on anonymous complaints because of the legal requirements of nuisance and human rights law, and the practical issues of effectively investigating nuisance complaints.
We will require you to complete a nuisance diary.
This information is essential to gain sufficient evidence for us to investigate your complaint. If you have difficulty completing the diary or if you are disturbed frequently over several days please contact us for further advice.
If the evidence obtained shows there is a likelihood that a statutory nuisance may exist, your nuisance diary will be used to support any action taken by this Department. It is, therefore, essential that the information which you record is accurate and written at the time of the noise or shortly after.
What happens if I make a noise complaint?
If it is a problem we can investigate, we may ask you to complete a noise diary. We may also arrange to visit your home to see how the problem is affecting you.
We will try to deal with the problem informally, but can take formal action if necessary.
If I make a complaint are my details kept confidential?
Yes, we have a duty under the Data Protection Act 2018 to keep your information secure and confidential. There may be some circumstances were we are required by law to disclose your information, for further information please see our privacy notice webpage.
We won't give your name and address to the person or business that you have complained about. However, your neighbour may guess who has complained.
If you want us to resolve a statutory noise nuisance for you, and we need to take legal action to do it we may have to disclose your personal details. For example, if we serve a Noise Abatement Notice the person causing the noise nuisance will have a right to know who made the complaint if they decide to legally appeal against the noise abatement notice in court. Similarly, if a case goes to the Court you may be required to give evidence.
Do you provide an out-of-hours noise service?
We do not operate an out of hours noise service. However our officers can make pre-arranged visits out of hours to investigate ongoing noise complaints.
Any calls received out of hours will be normally dealt with by an officer the next working day.
Can I make a complaint anonymously?
We can't investigate anonymous complaints because we need information from you to enable the investigation to be carried out. We have to look at how often the noise occurs and how it affects you.
We will not give your details to the person or business you are complaining about.
Do I need to keep diary record sheets?
Record sheets are used to collect evidence of what is happening and when. It is important that you record the times and dates that you are being disturbed by the noise as we need this information to help us decide how best to investigate your complaint.
They can help us find out the best time to visit to witness the problem for ourselves.
Diary record sheets can also be used as evidence of an ongoing problem if we need to take formal action.
If you have difficulty completing a diary or if you are disturbed frequently over several days please contact us for further advice.
What other options are there other than enforcement?
There are several ways of dealing with your problem. Please consider each of the following options:
- The person causing the problem may respond better to a polite word or a letter from you rather than an approach from a Council Official
- If the noise is coming from a council owned property or other Housing provider action may be taken under the terms of the tenancy agreement. For CBC owned properties contact the Housing Services Anti-Social Behaviour team for further advice on 01509 634666
- The Police are able to deal with certain types of neighbour problems such as those involving violence, public disorder or threatening behaviour
- If the behaviour of your neighbour is making you feel harassed, alarmed or distressed then contact the Anti-social Behaviour Team.
If I have a noise problem, do I have to rely on the Council for help?
No. Anyone who believes that they are suffering from a statutory noise nuisance can take their own private civil action against the person causing the noise under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. To find out more contact a Solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Would I be required to attend court?
Court cases are very rare as we try and resolve the complaint informally, however, each case is taken on its own merits.
Your completed record sheets and a signed witness statement will form part of the prosecution files and this is usually sufficient. Without this information we are unable to proceed to a prosecution.
What about firework noise?
The law relating to fireworks changed with the introduction of the Fireworks Act 2003. This placed new restrictions on the use of fireworks and came into effect in 2004. Other than this, there is no specific law to deal with noise nuisance caused by fireworks.
The ordinary noise nuisance laws are not applicable to firework noise as:
- a 'nuisance in law' must be a continuous state of affairs. A firework event, held maybe once a year for an hour or so, is not ongoing
- fireworks are often used to celebrate a significant cultural or religious ceremonies and this would be the view taken by any court in relation to fireworks used during such periods
- it would be difficult to prove beyond all reasonable doubt (Nuisance law is criminal law) that any one event or person is solely causing the noise problem when there may be scores of similar events in the locality
- Charnwood Borough Council covers a large geographical area with thousands of buildings and gardens, to pinpoint which premises is hosting the event (in the dark) from an explosion occurring in the night sky and identifying the person responsible, is likely to be challenging.
- by virtue of the cost of fireworks few firework events last long enough to allow our Officers to respond to complaints and gather the evidence we would need to take enforcement action.
Noise from construction sites
Construction sites are in the open and are often near existing residential accommodation. Residents will in general accept construction site noise but will complain if work starts early or finishes late or takes place on Saturday afternoon, Sundays or Bank Holidays. Complaints about construction noise can be investigated by Environmental Protection Officers.
Where can I get further information about noise, including noise nuisance?
A good starting point is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) website.
Last updated: Thu 26th October, 2023 @ 15:59