What you can do to avoid causing a disturbance to your neighbours
The most common things that people complain about are:
- Loud Music
- Barking Dogs
- Domestic Disturbance
- Bird Scarers
Loud Music - Radios, TV's, Stereos
- Keep the volume as low as possible, especially late at night. Use headphones (either cord type or infra red which give more freedom of movement), or listen to music on a personal stereo.
- When not using headphones, the bass control should be set at a low level as the "bass beat" can be particularly irritating. If you are having a party or barbecue, remember the neighbours - let them know beforehand or better still invite them. See ‘Parties’ below.
- Most people are willing to accept more noise occasionally if they know when the noise will end and they will be able to get some sleep.
- If you are having a party then your neighbours are far more likely to be understanding if you warn them well in advance that you are having it, (whether you invite them or not) and give them an indication of when it is likely to end.
- On the actual night try and contain the party as much as possible within your home keep guests within the house or flat rather than in the garden and keep windows closed if at all possible.
- Finish the party, or at least turn down the music, when you said you would and ask your guests to be considerate, we receive just as many complaints about guests leaving the premises or being outside as we do from loud music.
- Carry out noisier operations during the day keeping the evening for less noisy work.
- Complete the work as quickly as possible - don't let it drag on for months.
- Let your neighbours know beforehand if you are carrying out potentially noisy operations, using power tools or working on party walls or floors. Use hand tools if possible.
- Don't let your dog bark or whine for long periods.
- Keep your dog indoors if it barks constantly when unattended or disturbed.
- If your dog still barks when indoors make arrangements to leave it with a neighbour or friend or get someone to call in - leave its favourite toy or put the radio on at very low volume.
- Move the kennel or erect a fence so that your dog is disturbed less often by passers-by. Attend a dog training class to retrain your dog and change his / her behaviour.
Domestic Disturbance and Being a Good Neighbour
This is generally a matter of common sense and treating your neighbour as you would wish to be treated. There are no specific rules to be followed but here are some guidelines:
- Site fridges, freezers, washing machines and loudspeakers well away from party walls.
- Stand washing machines/spin dryers on a solid floor or place on a carpet/rubber mat to reduce vibration.
- If people live below you fit carpets and underlay.
- Close doors gently, don't slam them.
- It is free to register a keyholder for your burglar alarm with us, this can be a friend, family member or neighbour we can contact to switch off your alarm if it malfunctions whilst you are out. Please complete the Audible Intruder Alarms Notification.
- In the event of an alarm going off continuously and there being no keyholder registered for the building, we would disconnect the alarm by forced entry if necessary and a charge would be incurred by the owner.
- As a safeguard you should fit a 20-minute cut-out to the alarm sounder but you should consult your insurers before doing this.
- The alarm should be regularly maintained by a competent company.
We can investigate complaints alleging noise nuisance from cockerel crowing.
In considering whether a Statutory Nuisance exists, an Environmental Health officer will consider the following factors:
- Source of noise
- Environment of noise
- Duration of crowing
- Time of day of crowing
- How often it occurs
We have produced a Noise from cockerels leaflet
We can investigate complaints alleging noise nuisance from Bird Scarers.
We have produced a guidance leaflet: Guidance for Bird Deterrents and Bird Scarers
What to do if you are affected by noise
- Often the best approach to resolve a problem is to talk about your concerns to the person making the noise. Explain why you are being troubled by the noise and try to agree to a solution. This may sound like a daunting task but people can get very upset if they are contacted by us with no prior warning, especially if they did not know they were causing a problem.
- By trying to resolve the problem informally you can help to avoid unpleasant legal action which can sour the relationship between you and your neighbour, and sometimes the problem can be resolved more quickly.
- If the problem seems to be inadequate sound insulation there are a number of solutions available to improve it, for further information you can contact the Building Research Establishment (BRE) on 01923 664200 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or see their website: Building Research Establishment (BRE).
- If, after approaching the person who is causing the noise you still continue to experience problems you could try writing to them, explaining the effect the noise is having on you (and your family), you should also refer to any agreements you previously came to and ask them again to stop making a noise nuisance.
- Start to keep a diary relating to the problem, you should detail any times you speak or write to the person causing the noise, you should also write the dates and times of when you are disturbed and the effect it has on you. This will provide the first level of evidence in any subsequent legal action that may be needed. Be careful to make records as the events happen, not sometime later and try not to exaggerate. For example:
Time Nuisance Started
Time Nuisance Stopped
Description of Nuisance
Remarks (i.e. inconvenience caused)
Could not hear television.
Dog continuously barking
Woke me up - couldn't sleep until 2.30 am
- Tell your neighbour every time a nuisance occurs. If the problem persists and the person causing the problem lives in a property owned by a Housing Association, you could contact the Housing Association to discuss your problem.
- We have produced a leaflet Are you being disturbed by noise? which contains useful advice on what you can do and what we can do to help.
How do we investigate a noise complaint?
- Depending upon the exact circumstances of a case, when we receive a complaint regarding persistent noise (we do not investigate ‘one off’ instances of noise disturbance i.e a birthday party), a letter is sent to the person affected by the noise enclosing a Witness Report form to keep a record of the problem. At this stage we do not reveal who has made the complaint to the alleged offender, however if the case goes to Court the identity of the person who has complained will probably be revealed.
- We will also write to the person who is being complained about, making them aware a formal complaint has been received.
- The diary is an important aid to the investigation and should detail dates and times when the noise is heard and the effect it has. This will help us assess the situation and allow us to choose the best method of proceeding with an investigation.
- During the investigation, the officers have to assess how unreasonable the noise is to the average person. Noise is very subjective, what may be causing one person extreme distress may hardly be noticed by someone else. We must, therefore, hear the noise for ourselves to decide whether or not a statutory nuisance, within the strict meaning of the law, exists. Some of the things which help us decide are:
- How loud is the noise?
- What times of the day/night does the noise occur?
- How long does the noise last for?
- What type of noise? (Some noises are more annoying than others).
- What is the nature of the area? e.g. rural / industrial estate / urban etc.
- What is the level of background noise?
- How sensitive to noise is the complainant, do they have tinnitus?, for example.
- We may set up equipment in the home of the person who has complained to record the noise or we may visit to hear the noise first hand.
- The success of our action will rely on the person who has complained assisting in gathering evidence by keeping the diary log forms, allowing access and carefully following instructions in respect of noise monitoring devices.
- If the officer witnesses the noise and is satisfied that it is a nuisance in legal terms they will serve a noise abatement notice. If the noise continues to cause a statutory nuisance an offence is committed and may lead to the prosecution of the offender and / or seizure of any noise making equipment. Should a case go this far, evidence from the person who made the complaint will be very important and they may well be called to give evidence at a Court hearing.
How long will it take to investigate a noise nuisance?
- Unfortunately not all cases are 'straightforward.' Sometimes it takes months to investigate all aspects of a noise problem in order to recommend the best solution. There may also be practical reasons as to why the investigation takes a long time, for example a company may have to be allowed a period of time to complete any suggested work e g. - a commercial premises may have to have an acoustic enclosure designed before it can be fitted to a noisy refrigeration compressor. The officer who investigates the case will keep you updated of any developments regarding your complaint.
How to take your own private legal action
- It is not always possible for us to help or take action. It may become apparent during the investigation that we will not be able to gain the evidence we require to take legal action on your behalf. If this is the case we will normally advise you what alternative steps you might take. This does not mean that you do not have a problem, just that the investigation methods available to us are not suited to gaining the evidence needed to prove a case on your behalf.
- You can take your own legal action under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 by making a complaint direct to the Magistrates Court. You will need to produce evidence - particularly copies of any letters and diary log forms. The magistrate will listen to all your evidence and that of any other person(s) affected by the noise. The magistrate(s) will then decide whether, beyond all reasonable doubt, the noise problem amounts to a statutory nuisance. If you require more information about this course of action, you should contact:
Address: Environmental Services, Council Offices, Weeley, Clacton on Sea, Essex,
Tel: 01255 686767