How to deal with noisy neighbours and neighbour disputes
Noise nuisance and neighbour disputes
If you are in dispute with your neighbours, perhaps over noise or a tall tree, you may need to get your local council involved to help resolve the problem with practical or legal solutions.
It's best to try and resolve the problem early on by talking to whoever is responsible for the noise. It's also important to establish the facts - make a record of where the noise is coming from, at what time, and the reasons for it. Some local councils will give you a noise record sheet to note the problems. Contact your local council (usually the environmental health department deals with noise issues). They will give you practical advice and may suggest using mediation services to help resolve the dispute.
Commercial noise and noise from traffic
Noise pollution from trade, industrial and business premises (for example, noisy machinery, pubs and clubs) is dealt with similarly to that from domestic premises. If you are having problems with noise from road traffic or railways you may be eligible for a noise insulation grant from your local council. To find out more read the article on noise pollution from the travel and transport section below.
How your local council deals with ongoing noise problems
The assessment of noise nuisance is based on whether it is 'reasonable', bearing in mind the locality, how often noise occurs and how many people are affected. If the local council thinks the noise is a statutory nuisance, they will serve an abatement notice on the neighbour. An abatement notice will set out what is required of your neighbour. For instance, if the issue is loud music, they may be asked to stop the noise outright, or be asked to just play music between set times. In some cases, the council may not need to prove a statutory nuisance where the premises hold a public entertainment licence. Action can be taken against premises that operate outside of their licensing agreement.
The maximum penalty for non-compliance with the order is £5,000 for domestic premises and £20,000 for industrial, trade or business premises. In extreme cases, prosecutions can be made for anti-social behaviour, if the police have enough evidence.
Reporting a noise nuisance
If you wish to report a noise problem, you should make a record of where and when the noise is occurring. The following link will let you enter details of where you live and then take you to your local authority website where you can find out more.
Complaining about dogs that bark
Constant barking, whining or howling can be disturbing and annoying for neighbours. You can make a complaint to your local council about a dog that is disturbing you, or causing a nuisance, because of its barking. Usually the environmental health department will handle your complaint. Contact your local council for details.
Hedges and trees
To find out about what to do if you are unhappy with a neighbour's hedge read 'Dealing with a dispute about a high hedge'. For information about Tree Protection Orders read 'Tree Management and Preservation'.
Before registering a formal complaint it is a good idea to try talking to your neighbour about the problem. If you find this intimidating or would like some support, various community mediation services are available and can be found online or in the phone book.
On the Noise Mapping England website, you can find interactive maps for cities and large urban areas. You can search by postcode and view airports. You can also download maps for the major transportation links between cities and large urban areas.
Definitions & Additional Information
What is noise?
Generally, noise can be defined as any unwanted sound. Noise could occur unexpectedly, or be too loud or repetitive. At certain decibels, it can be hazardous to health, with low frequency noise as damaging as loud noise. Noise accounts for most of the complaints that the Local Authority and the Environment Agency receive about environmental pollution, and is a major source of stress.
When does noise become a nuisance?
The law defines a nuisance as "an unlawful interference with a person's use or enjoyment of land or of some right over, or in connection, with it." The process of determining what level of noise constitutes a nuisance can be quite subjective. For instance, the level of noise, its length and timing may be taken into consideration in ascertaining whether a nuisance has actually occurred.
What is a statutory nuisance?
Local Authorities have a duty to deal with statutory nuisances. For noise to amount to a statutory nuisance, it must be prejudicial to health or a nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
What is an abatement notice?
An abatement notice can be served by the local authority if they are satisfied that a noise problem amounts to a statutory nuisance. The notice may require that the noise be stopped altogether or limited to certain times of day. The notice can be served on the person responsible for the noise, who then has 21 days to appeal.
There is an extremely noisy construction site near my house. The local council says that one of the things it has to consider is whether the contractor has applied all best practical means. What does this mean?
"Best practical means" is a defence available to operators of an industrial, trade or business premises when faced with a noise nuisance complaint. The party responsible for the noise has to prove that it has used all reasonable means to reduce or control the effect of the noise.
What can the police do about noise complaints?
Noise nuisance is generally treated as an environmental health matter, to be handled by the Local Authority. The police can deal with a complaint if the noise amounts to a breach of the peace, or where it is associated with threatening, violent or other anti-social behaviour. In very serious cases of anti-social behaviour, the police and local councils can work together to seek anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) against residents causing alarm, harassment and distress to others.
What is anti-social behaviour?
The closest to a definition is provided by the Crime and Disorder Act in dealing with anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs). It states that a person who is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons who do not belong the person's own household is behaving anti-socially. The recent law on anti-social behaviour now includes provisions that deal with noise nuisance. You can find out from your local council if the noise disturbance you are complaining about amounts to an anti-social act.
How do I make a noise complaint to my local authority?
Complaints can be made in person, by telephone or by email to the environmental health department of your local authority. Your name and address would normally be kept in strict confidence and would not be released to the person causing the noise. However, if the council decides to take legal action, you should be prepared to give a statement and attend court to give evidence.
What are the laws that deal with noise pollution?
The UK does not have a consolidated body of legislation on noise pollution. Here are some selected pieces of legislation that deal with noise pollution. Please note that the list is not exhaustive.
- The Land Compensation Act 1973 and the Noise Insulation Regulations 1975 and 1996- allows for grants for the cost of sound insulation in premises subjected to noise from new or upgraded roads or railways which result in excessive noise levels beyond stated thresholds.
- The Environment Protection Act 1990 (EPA). Part III treats noise as a statutory nuisance. By virtue of the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993, Part III extends to noise nuisance from vehicles (e.g. car alarms but not traffic noise), machinery and other equipment such as loudspeakers, in the street
- The Control of Pollution Act 1974 (COPA). Part III provides legislative controls for construction site noise and certain levels of street noise.
- The Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993. Contains amendments to the EPA and COPA and also deals with noise from vehicles, burglar alarms and street equipment.
- The Noise Act 1996- This criminalises certain forms of night time noise and gives local councils power to confiscate certain kinds of noise-making equipment.
- The Housing Act 1996 and the Crime and disorder Act 1998- Both Acts tackle anti-social behaviour including excessive noise.
- The Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999- provides local authorities and the Environment Agency with powers to control emissions from industrial processes including noise emissions.
- The Building Regulations 2000- regulates building development by requiring that construction meets certain standards, including sound insulation standards
- The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001-amends the Licensing Act of 1964 and gives the police summary powers to close a licensed premises that is causing excessive noise.
- Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003- provides powers to close down noisy premises if they cause a public nuisance.
- Firework Act 2003 and Fireworks Regulations 2004-provides controls on the use of fireworks, especially in public places. These include an outright ban on the use of powerful fireworks by unauthorised persons and on-the-spot fines for anyone using fireworks during anti-social hours (11pm to 7am). Under-18s are also banned from possessing or using most fireworks in public places or at anti-social hours.
- The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 (CNEA) amends the Noise Act 1996 and grants local authorities with powers to investigate complaints from residents about excessive night noise coming from licensed or residential permits
Can I get public funding if I decide to take legal action?
Publically funded legal representation is not normally available for this type of action. However, under the Legal Help Scheme you may be entitled to free or subsidised legal advice and help to prepare your case. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) may be able to give you advice on your eligibility.
Details of the closest CAB to you can be obtained from the CAB Directory Search. There is also advice on the following websites:
- Legal Services Commission - Government body responsible for legal aid scheme in England and Wales
- Community Legal Advice- Government website offering free, confidential and independent legal advice for residents of England and Wales.
Call Community Legal Advice Helpline-0845 345 4 345 (Lines open Mondays- Fridays-9.00 am to 6 pm- 4p/ per min) What alternatives are there to publically funded legal representation?
This information was sourced from www.direct.gov.uk & environmentlaw and we would like to thank Alison Boydle for giving us permission to use this excellet advice and information 18/02/11
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