To paraphrase the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, ‘hell is other people’s music/rows/drum practice/barking dogs’. So what can you do when you’re subjected to noise pollution by inconsiderate neighbours?
If you feel you are being subjected to an unacceptable (persistent) level of noise, you can report it to your local council. If the noise is some DIY work or a loud children’s party, it might be best to accept that it’s just for a short while. However, if the disturbance is long-running then you should not be afraid of acting to bring it to an end.
It is best if, to start with, you can ask the offending household if they can control the sound, turning it down, even if it’s for a certain number of set hours, evening through till morning, for example.
Be polite but firm in saying the reasons why you find the noise unacceptable; you can’t sleep, it disturbs the children etc. Often the offending party isn’t aware of the noise level they are creating. You might invite them to hear the noise levels from your own home.
Do not enter the person’s home unless invited as you will be trespassing. Do not attempt to pull the plug or damage any audio equipment in the house. That could result in a criminal damage charge against you.
As in all neighbour-related problems, keep your language and tone calm and polite.
If the noise level persists then there are steps you can take to relieve the situation.
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Tenant or home-owner
If the offending neighbour is a tenant, then you should approach the landlord or letting agency to make your case. A word from them could do the trick. As a last resort, a tenant in England and Wales can be evicted for persistent and excessive noise-making under the Housing Act 1985. In Scotland, the area for complaint is covered by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001.
If the disturbance is caused by a home-owner then you should contact your local council.
Local council intervention
Your local council has a legal obligation to investigate the complaint under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, to ascertain whether it’s a ‘statutory nuisance’. That is, it’s ‘prejudicial to health or a nuisance’. Of course, this could be interpreted as subjective; rock music/rap music/the Ring Cycle have to be played loud to be appreciated. It is down to the environmental health departments to decide.
Initially your complaint should be handled as ‘anonymous’ so as not to trigger any untoward reaction from the offending party. Do ask the environmental health official if this is the case. However, if the case to proceed to court then the complainant will have to be identified.
Providing proof of noise disturbance
It is a good idea to keep a noise diary, keeping a time/date record of when and what type of noise is affecting you. Your council may give you equipment to record the decibel levels to reinforce whatever action they decide to take.
What happens if the council is satisfied that your complaint is justified?
They will contact the offending party to advise them of the situation. If it doesn’t improve the council can/will issue an abatement notice requiring noise to be kept to a certain level and/or between certain hours of the day. There is an appeal period of 21 days.
And if the noise persists even after the notice has been served?
The council then will decide whether to take legal proceedings.
Can the police intervene?
If the police believe the noise levels are likely to cause a breach of the peace, or is associated with anti-social activity, which can lead to the offending party(ies) being issued with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order, but it is the local council that will usually handle the situation.
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