– Noise from your Neighbour
– What you can do
– Legislation and Options in dealing with and managing noise
We’ve split this help sheet up into different sections to make it easier for you to read as it’s quite an extensive subject. Noise is a nuisance in many ways!
The content has been kept down to earth and readable as far as possible, but remember there are some laws and legislation to take into account here so it may get a little more detailed in places. We think you’ll find our comprehensive guide useful and practical though.
Noise from your Neighbour
When you’ve got a neighbour who makes a lot of noise it’s no joke, noise can intrude into every area of your life and can literally assault you with its un-consenting effects.
Excessive noise affects your quality of life, it makes you jumpy, it makes you irritable, and it can prevent you from sleeping and cause many stressful side effects.
Noise has many forms – for most people who are living next door to a neighbour from hell, it’ll be the boom boom boom of the heavy stereo music, the shouting and conversations they can maybe hear from their neighbours, the banging, crashing, DIY noise, car noise, car/house alarms, noise from parties and other gatherings, wooden floors, the list can go on and on.
Even houses and homes that have good insulating properties are often affected by modern noise – modern sound making equipment such as amplifiers and DVD surround-sound systems often cut right through good insulation that would normally stop normal every day sounds. Night time noise making and nuisance is a whole different ball game – it echoes, carries more and can keep you or others in your area awake.
Within it’s own right it is not an instant offence to create high levels of noise and remember that there is unfortunately no set level at which noise then becomes a ‘statutory nuisance’.
Talk to your Neighbour
It may be an obvious starting point, but many complaints are often made formally in the first instance to individual Local Authority Environmental Health Departments or straight to a landlord of the property next door where it’s possible you could resolve things informally.
We recommend that you always approach your neighbour first to let them know they are making noise that is disturbing you.
Be courteous and be polite even if you’re very angry that you’ve been kept awake for the 5th night running or your enjoyment of your home is being regularly spoilt by the noise from next door. There could be a good chance your neighbour may not even be aware that the noise they are making could be disturbing you.
Hopefully, pointing this out to your neighbour may solve the problem and ultimately prevent it from spiraling even more out of control. Your neighbour could feel extremely guilty about their noise making and genuinely not have realised what they were doing has been causing you disturbance. Fingers crossed this works, it is one of the best solutions in theory.
Plan what you need to say first, take some written notes and examples of their noise nuisances with you when you call on your neighbour so you don’t forget what you want to say. You could be a bit nervous about approaching them, especially if they are unknown to you, are new to the neighbourhood, or you’ve had little prior contact with them, so prepare and be as confident as you can.
Try to avoid going round to your neighbour to complain about the noise when it’s actually happening. Chances are if someone has been drinking or partying heavily, they’re not going to want to talk to you. You may be seen by your neighbour as simply trying to stop their enjoyment, when in reality that certainly isn’t the case. So go around when you know they are home, when it’s quiet and always plan your approach beforehand.
My Neighbour Won’t Listen
OK, so what if your neighbour isn’t interested? At Neighbours From Hell in Britain and on our forum community, we often hear this.
Sometimes Neighbours simply aren’t interested in what you have to say and they persist in their noise making. They selfishly continue and sometimes in the knowledge that what noise they are causing is very much troubling you.
Write A Letter: To your neighbours if you can, this can be a good option.
We have a free template letter that can help guide you and base your letter upon, which is free to use and alter if you like. Download below:
It can help you logically list out your complaints and enable you to be factual. Writing a letter to next door may sound formal, but it’s an effective communication method when your neighbours are unwilling to listen to you verbally or even let you approach the subject with them at all. It’s also a good method if you really don’t want to approach them in person as we’ve previously mentioned.
Letters also serve as good proof that you have brought the matter to the attention of your neighbour; you’re letting them know there’s a problem, what it is and what you’d like them to do about it. Remember too if you take your complaint formally (say by complaining to your Local Authority or neighbours Housing Association etc), chances are you’ll be asked for proof you’ve first tried to tackle the problem yourself. This is the evidence you need and in many cases unless you can say, ‘yes, I’ve tried to sort this out with my neighbour first before coming to you’, an organisation or authority may even refuse to become initially involved with your complaint until you make the first move.
Safety is paramount
It may be obvious to mention your safety, but it’s worth doing so. Often people who are living with neighbour noise and nuisance are subject to threats of intimidation, violence, anti-social behaviour and general bullying.
Don’t ever approach your neighbour in circumstances where you feel threatened or uneasy and simply don’t go at all if there’s another option or if you can avoid it. Walk away in situations where you feel or are threatened if possible. Report it to the police as soon as you can afterwards, you may be able to instigate anti-social behaviour restrictions via the police/local authority and after all, your neighbour is not above the law.
If you’re in any doubt always dial 999 for Police Help and support.
Here’s our 3 Major Points of Advice if you need to tackle a neighbour who could pose a threat to your safety in any way:
- Don’t go alone wherever possible. Take a friend, relative, partner or other neighbour with you. They can act as a witness if the worst happens and can help you in other ways where needed.
- Take a mobile ‘phone with you. It’s easy to put one in your pocket concealed away, but accessible in case you need it.
- Tell someone where you’re going, how long you’ll be and ask them to take action you agree on if you’re not back before a certain time has elapsed.
Record Logs & Mediation
Start noting down all the noise disturbances.
It’s vital to do this if you haven’t started already. It provides a picture of what’s happening from your neighbours that’s disturbing you. Remember, small instances and occurrences of noise nuisance add up.
You can use our Log to use for Noise Disturbances from Neighbours to record noise nuisance. It’s very important that you put when the noise started and when it stopped, the nature of the noise (e.g. music, dog barking) and it’s also essential to list how the noise affected you. This could be because you were kept awake until 4am, couldn’t hear your own TV over the neighbour noise, made you feel physically sick and tired, and so on.
These logs are also your evidence – keep a photocopy of them or the originals before you hand them to someone else for their records.
Can I record the noise myself?
Remember too – although you can record the noise from your neighbour yourself, it may not be admissible evidence. If Local Authorities ask you to record noise from your neighbour it will be on a properly calibrated and ‘time stamped’ recording device which is officially authorised for use in such purposes. These pieces of equipment are very sensitive and will fully pick up all sounds.
Mediation is sometimes an option people overlook. We hear comments such as ‘OK, why should I try mediation when it’s not my fault?’. Fair enough, it may not be your fault – after all, you’ve not asked to be disturbed by your neighbour’s noise, why should you sit down and discuss it with your neighbour and a mediation group when you haven’t caused it? It’s a normal reaction – but be proactive, show your neighbour you can meet them halfway and at the end of the day if the outcome gives you a higher quality of life it is worth it.
Mediation representatives who are trained, will listen to both your side of things and the views of your neighbour – this can be done independently or in a meeting where you are all present. The mediator will attempt to reach an objective and successful compromise and plan of action where needed that suits both you and your neighbour.
Different mediation services have different approaches and will offer different services. You can also ring Mediation UK on Tel: 0117-9046661 for details of mediation services in your area.
For mediation to be ultimately successful, it does of course require the co-operation of both you and your noisy neighbours.
Formal Action & Taking your own action
I’ve tried all of this, I want to take formal action
Sadly, this is a very regular occurrence. You’ve tried with your neighbour, talked with them maybe, written to them and yet they still persist in making noise that they are aware disturbs you and prevents you from enjoying your own home.
Your next step is to complain formally to your local authority and the most often used way is by complaining directly to your local authority Environmental Health Department about the noise you’re experiencing.
Your Local Authority (Council) has a duty to perform an investigation when they receive complaints about noise from any form of location. So whether you live next door to a pub or club, a noisy family or neighbour, have noisy machinery/vehicles and equipment in the street, a factory or any form of business close by, your local authority are obliged to investigate fully.
Legislation is under sections 80 and 81 within the Environmental Protection Act of 1990 (as amended by the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993) and your Local Authority will have a responsibility to look into and deal with any noise sources that are considered to be a statutory nuisance.
Your Local Authority will have at its disposal different capabilities and resources in place that they can use to deal with and investigate neighbour and anti-social behaviour problems.
Look in your local telephone directory to find the number of your local authority (council). You should be visited or contacted for more information and then be advised of your council’s plan of action and policies in cases of complaints about noise.
Chances are you will be visited at home to discuss the matter and the Environmental Health Officer will explain your rights and what you can and can’t expect from the local authority. Your neighbour will likely then be informed (either in writing or by a visit from the EHO, or perhaps both) by the Local Authority that they have received a complaint of noise nuisance.
They will outline to your neighbour what is expected from them and will be asked to be more considerate and take action to reduce their noise. They should also be informed of the legal position and the penalties for persistently creating noise that is disturbing.
Your local authority should keep your identity confidential – the originator of the complaint (e.g. you) will not be made available to your neighbour. Check this out with your Environmental Health Officer (EHO) for your peace of mind as you could be worried about unwanted repercussions via your neighbour after you have complained formally.
Your EHO will explain what steps can be taken after the initial contact with your neighbour and especially if this fails to remedy the problem. They may decide to install sound recording equipment into your home to monitor the noise, ask you to complete and continue with noise recording log sheets and they could also witness the noise in person within your home.
Before any action is taken, the Local Authority has to inform your neighbour of what could happen (e.g. they could be recorded/monitored) if they continue to pose a nuisance to you – this is under legislation from the Human Rights Act 1998. If this is not done, however ironic this can and probably will feel to you, your neighbour’s human rights will not have been upheld!
Some Local Authorities operate out of hours noise teams and if you are suffering noise during the night time hours, they can visit you and witness the disturbance first hand. Again this service varies throughout the country, ask what’s available to you.
Taking your own action
If for whatever reason your Local Authority cannot intervene further on your behalf or you have reasons not to initially involve them, you are entitled to take and instigate your own action through the Magistrates court against your neighbour or the source of the noise nuisance.
You can complain under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 directly to the courts about a noise problem. You will need to convince without doubt, to the courts that the noise problem you are experiencing constitutes a statutory nuisance.
If this route is for you and you are convinced to take action under Section 82 of the EPA 1990, you are required to give a minimum of three days notice in writing to the person who is responsible for the noise you are taking action over. In that written record you are required to list details of your complaint and you must ensure this is delivered via hand or recorded delivery post, dated and that you keep a copy.
The Magistrates Court will then work with you and inform you of further procedures and expectations and will also decide if a summons can be issued.
We would strongly advise you to take detailed and further professional advice before embarking on this option either from your Local Authority, the Magistrates Court or a qualified legal professional. This is a more complicated route for individuals involved in making noise orientated complaints.
Also be aware that you will be liable for all costs relating to taking your own action through this route. You need to check this out fully in advance with the relevant professionals to avoid running up costly bills.
You will not be able to gain legal representation for a case of this type through the legal aid scheme but it’s possible you could be eligible financially within the ‘Legal Help’ scheme which could provide free or partly assisted legal advice/assistance. Again it’s very important you ask the Court or your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau for more advice, help and information.
Civil Action, Renting, Abatement Notices
A quick note on Civil Action
It is possible that you could instigate a civil action concerning noise nuisance at common law and attempt to get an injunction to restrain the perpetrator from continuing with the source(s) of the noise nuisance. You could also issue a claim for loss/damages in place of this action or alongside it.
Again, take professional advice from a qualified legal professional before embarking on this route.
My neighbour rents their property
If you can get to see a copy of your neighbour’s tenancy agreement it could be worth it.
It’s possible there could be a clause within the contract/agreement for their tenancy that prohibits your noisy neighbour from making higher levels of noise in between certain hours (11pm – 7am for example) or something similar. So, in doing so they could be risking or breaking their tenancy agreement. You are not entitled to know about or see a copy of your neighbours tenancy agreement, but it is possible their landlord, especially a private landlord may divulge or show you this information. They may refuse however on the grounds that your neighbours privacy and confidentiality could be breached.
All different types of landlords – whether this is the council, the local housing association or private landlords have measures where they can instigate appropriate action against a tenant who is wilfully and regularly in breach of their tenancy agreement. Injunctions can be put into place (very effective measures to prevent and reduce nuisance from next door, but at the same time allowing people to retain tenancy in their homes). If the landlords originate from within a housing association or local authority, they are then able to ask a court to put a ‘power of arrest’ into this kind of injunction which is enforceable if there are any instances of violence, abuse, threatened violence or actual violent behaviour.
Ultimately, your neighbour in these circumstances can face eviction in the cases of people who consistently persist in making their neighbours and community’s lives a miserable existence and flaunt the conditions of injunction enforcement’s.
Like you’ve tried to do right at the beginning, your Environmental health Department will want to try and remedy your neighbour problem informally – after all it could be a lot quicker, more effective and dare we say it, cheaper and use less resources!
If this hasn’t been possible and your Local Authority is satisfied that the noise you’re experiencing does constitute a ‘statutory nuisance’ they are required to serve an Abatement Notice on your neighbour or the person responsible for the source of the noise. There are different notice requests within an abatement notice and your neighbour or other individual (owner/occupier of a property/business or source of the problem) could be asked to totally stop all noise or they may be restricted to making noise at certain times only (e.g. say only during the daylight hours and not after 11pm).
When an abatement notice is served on a person, they have the right to appeal against this within 21 days of it being initially presented.
A business owner for example could argue against such a notice in court and detail that they have tried through the best possible means (or the ‘best practicable means’) to prevent or reduce noise nuisance and have been restricted through technical or other difficulties.
What happens if my neighbour breaks an abatement notice?
When an abatement notice that has been served on your neighbour fails and without a specific reason or explanation from them, they have committed an offence. In these cases the Magistrates Court can enforce and fine your neighbour up to £5,000 (this is for a neighbour in a ‘domestic’ home or who has a private vehicle which is the source of the nuisance). After the offence and conviction by the magistrate’s courts, if your neighbour persists in causing more disturbance they can receive a further fine of up to £500 a day for doing so each day it occurs.
If the noise nuisance originates from business, trade or industrial premises or property, the original fine can be up to £20,000.
Your Local Authority has the power to force an entry into properties so that they can stop and prevent a noise nuisance (for example to seize music making equipment, disconnect faulty burglar alarms and so on). Other machinery, different vehicles that are the cause of the statutory nuisance can also be removed.
London Residents, ASBO Info
A special note: If you live in London
Within London, Local Authorities have a discretionary and special capability to actively and swiftly manage burglar alarms that sound/ring for more than a maximum of 1 hour.
Ask your Local Authority in this instance if it actively uses these special powers. If so, all alarm sounding systems in the area concerned are required to include a 20 minute ‘cut-out device’. If they don’t incorporate such a device your Local Authority can then enforce their special powers to enter into any premises so that they may silence and deactivate any alarm where needed. If this happens a warrant must be obtained to enter in advance and your Local Authority Officer is always acting within the presence of a local police officer.
Anti-Social Behaviour Orders
ASBO’s can be very effective and relevant in your noisy neighbour situation as with noise often comes many different forms of unwanted, intrusive anti-social behaviours.
Neighbours From Hell in Britain have a help sheet about ASBO’s and ABC’s which you can read to give you a really good overview of what they are and what’s available.
Noise Law and Other Legislation/Contacts
In your area, the Local Authority may have a ‘bylaw’ which can control some sources of noise. Approval for bylaws has been gained for such things as street noise, parks/recreation areas and noise sources covered could also include such things as musical instrument playing, singing, radios/stereo use. Your best bet is to ask your Local Authority what, if any of these bylaws may apply in your area.
Loudspeaker Noise in Streets
From section 62 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, your Local Authority has the power to manage any loudspeaker use in the street. Loudspeaker use in streets to advertise any form of entertainment or business is banned. For other uses this is imposed by a restriction between the hours of 8am and 9pm only.
A Local Authority can give consent to loudspeaker use in streets for the purposes of non-advertising outside the hours of 8am – 9pm, but in specific circumstances and taking due consideration of any effects this may have in the local areas.
Building and Construction Sites
These sites can be pretty noisy, especially if something is occurring near you and all days of the week. Even if it’s not a regular occurrence this kind of noise can literally be deafening.
Your local council has authorities under section 60 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 to list and details the ways in which work has to be carried out and conducted, ask them for more help and information.
Noise Act 1996
The Noise Act 1996 includes capabilities to cover night-time noise nuisances and offences as well as the powers to remove noise making technology (e.g. your neighbours hi-hi system).
Within the act is a standard against which night time noise being caused from a domestic property (your neighbour for instance) can be assessed and investigated. There are penalties within the act such as the £100 fixed penalty notice and where a Local Authority is using these powers they have to declare so by the use of advertisements during a minimum period of 2 months prior to such use.
Car and Vehicle Noise
Noisy vehicles can be extremely irritating, especially when you’re living on or nearby a main road. Some kinds of vehicle noise could be classified as offences under Road Traffic Law (car horn noise for example).
For enquiries that are general concerning noise from specific vehicles, not traffic, you can contact –
Department for Transport
Local Government and the Regions
Transport Environment and Taxation Division
2/03 Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street
Tel: 020 7944 2063
Fax: 020 7944 2069
Environmental Information Access
Under the Environmental Information Regulations of 1992 individuals have rights to gain information of an environmental nature which is help by a public body (for example your Local Authority). Ask your local council for more information.
Air Traffic Noise
Can be just as excessive and disturbing, especially if you live near or under a flight path which is being used for domestic or military purposes.
For more information about noise policies on aircraft noise, you should contact –
Department for Transport
Local Government and the Regions
Aviation Environment Division
2/24 Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street
Tel: 020 7944 5494
Fax: 020 7944 2191
Complaints concerning noisy aircraft should be made to the following numbers directly –
Heathrow Airport: Freephone 0800 344844
Gatwick Airport: Freephone 0800 393070
Stansted Airport: Freephone 0800 243788
In any other places a complaint should be made directly the operators of the aircraft or the owners of the aerodrome.
If you’re suffering with noise from military aircraft, you should contact –
Ministry of Defence
Director Air Staff 4b (Sec) Room 8249
Tel No: 0207 218 6020
Other Contacts for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:
Separate information is provided for those residents living in NI, Scotland or Wales by The Scottish Executive, the National Assembly for Wales and the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland.
Details are –
The Scottish Executive
Air Climate and Engineering Unit
Edinburgh EH6 6QQ
Tel No: 0131 244 0393
Fax No: 0131 244 0211
National Assembly for Wales
Air Quality and Industrial Pollution Policy Branch
Cardiff CF1 3NQ
Tel No: 02920 823473
Fax No: 02920 823658
Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland
Air and Local Environmental Quality Branch
48 High Street
Belfast BT1 2DR
Tel: 028 9054 7719
Fax: 028 9025 7300
More Help and Advice?
Remember: That if you are currently selling your property or plan to in the future, all disputes with your neighbour that have been formally reported and/or acted upon need to be declared to potential or actual buyers (by use of the ‘SPIF’ – more info on the SPIF is available on the NFHiB Forum). If you don’t do this, you could be legally challenged or at worst, sued!
When a dispute has been recorded or put down in writing, or where complaints to an authority (council) have been made, then this needs to be informed to any potential buyers of your property. Ask your solicitor for more information about this.
You can also join the forum community to ask for more help and information – it’s very busy and has a lot of good information, we currently thousands of registered members.
This article last revised: 29th June 2003