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What Action Can I Take Against A Noise Complaint?

Noisy and troublesome neighbours can be a nightmare to deal with. When you want a peaceful life, having a dispute with a neighbour can be stressful and seriously impact your quality of life.

What constitutes a noise nuisance?

A noise nuisance is an unreasonable sound that affects others.

The council only has a duty to investigate and take action if the noise is found to be a statutory noise nuisance, a nuisance covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

A statutory noise nuisance must be one of the following:

  • be unreasonable and greatly interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises
  • injure health or be likely to injure health

There is no fixed level of noise which constitutes a statutory nuisance. The decision is based on what ‘the ordinary person’ would find acceptable.

Steps to take if you find yourself at the receiving end of excessive and disturbing noise

  • Keep a diary: Keep a diary recording the noise nuisance; where appropriate, support it with photos or sound recordings. It is also important that you keep a record of your communication with other parties about the nuisance.
  • Direct contact: If you think it is appropriate, approach the person making the noise. Often a direct and informal approach is best. They may have been unaware of the noise and be willing to try to address the issue.In some situations, the direct approach may not be possible. The person affected by the noise may not feel able or willing to discuss the issue with the person responsible for the noise. In this situation, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation, may be appropriate.
  • Consider who owns the property: If the noise comes from a privately rented property, it would also be worth contacting the landlord. Most tenancies state that residents must not cause a disturbance to neighbours; therefore, the landlord can try to prevent the nuisance.If the noise comes from a council or housing association property, you should also contact the housing or tenancy officer.

You should note that you can also log a complaint with the council regardless of who owns the property

Councils must investigate complaints that could be a ‘statutory nuisance’. If they agree that a statutory nuisance is happening, has happened or will happen in the future, councils must serve an abatement notice (usually on the person responsible).

If the council has decided not to institute proceedings, or you do not wish to involve the council, you can take action yourself.

1) Sue the perpetrator through civil proceedings

Any private individual whose right of enjoyment over their land is hindered by the actions (or inaction) of neighbours can bring a claim in nuisance against the occupiers of the property.

A successful action may result in the abatement of the nuisance, damages, or an injunction.

Representation/ Funding

It is advisable you seek the advice of a solicitor about your matter and funding options.

Please be aware legal aid funding is not available for this action.

Civil action can be expensive. If the action is unsuccessful, you will likely have to pay the other side’s costs. If the action is successful, you will likely be awarded some costs by the court, although this is discretionary.

2) Argue that the noise amounts to an offence (a noise nuisance) and take action in the magistrates’ court under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA)

The judge will need to be persuaded that the noise you are complaining about, amounts to a statutory nuisance.

The judge has the power to order that the nuisance is abated and to pay compensation. If the nuisance is not abated, this is a criminal offence.

Representation/ Funding

Legal aid is not available for actions under s.82 of the EPA 1990. The idea is that it is a relatively quick and straightforward procedure; therefore, legal representation is not essential.

It is also cheaper than the above civil proceedings because you are under limited risk of paying the other side’s costs. If the application is unsuccessful, the defendant’s costs will be paid with public funds (unless the application is meritless or applicant is dishonest).

If you win in statutory nuisance, you can still sue in the civil courts for compensation. This may be appropriate if the magistrates court do not order compensation, or this is only limited.

We know finding yourself at the receiving end of excessive and disturbing noise can be very stressful; therefore, it is important that individuals are equipped with the knowledge to take effective action. We hope the information above goes some way in simplifying the procedure.

If you need legal assistance and would like to speak to one of our housing law experts please call 0330 822 3451 or requets a call back online.