Noise nuisance

If you are experiencing a noise nuisance you can report it to us using the online noise nuisance form. If we have asked you to keep a record of the disturbances, you can find a Recording Form here along with guidance on how to fill in the form. The better the information you give us the more likely we’ll be able to take action on your behalf.

If the noise is coming from a council owned property, please contact our neighbourhood services department direct.

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Investigating a noise complaint

If you feel that you are suffering from unnecessary or unreasonable levels of noise, there are ways in which you can act. Firstly, it may be helpful to speak to the person responsible for the nuisance. People often do not know that they are causing a problem and this approach may help to solve the problem on a more friendly level. See our guide on how to approach your neighbours about noise.

If you feel you can’t do this, or your friendly approach doesn’t work, the Environmental Protection team will investigate the matter on your behalf. Generally, this will involve the following steps:

Step 1

Details of the complaint will be taken.

Make sure you know the source of the noise as we need to write to them. Whilst we don’t need the names of the individuals causing the noise, we cannot investigate anonymous noise complaints – we will need the details of the person being affected, and how they’re being affected, to prove that the noise is unduly causing a nuisance.

We will not release names or details about who has made the complaint.

You will be asked about the noise. When is it happening? How long does it go on for? Is the noise happening at a particularly bad time or place? While the complaint may not be able to completely stop the noise, there may be a compromise that appeals to both sides.

Step 2

We will send out diary sheets for you to make a record of the noise. Please see the guidance on completing these. More sheets can be downloaded if required. This record helps the Council decide if the issue is likely to be considered a statutory nuisance and may also be used as evidence in Court at a later date. We also use the information provided to plan the next step of the investigation. If you are unable to keep these diaries, let us know and we will assist you in recording the information in another way.

Once we have received your diary sheets and reviewed the evidence, we will write to the subject of the noise complaint to let them know that we have received a complaint. We will ask them to take whatever action they think is appropriate so that we don’t get any further complaints. The subject often contacts us when they receive this letter, and the more information we can provide them the better. We don’t tell them who made the complaint. We will aim to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Step 3

A noise diary is vital for us to progress the investigation. If you do not return the diary, no further action will be taken on your complaint.

We then need to substantiate what is in the diary. This is so when we take formal action we can justify it, if necessary, in court because we have witnessed it for ourselves.

  • We will review the information provided – if no Statutory Nuisance action is available we will advise you of this and other options available.
  • If the forms show a pattern to the disturbance we may arrange to visit at times when the disturbance is likely to be happening.

What happens if the problem is considered a statutory nuisance?

If the investigating officer believes that there is sufficient evidence of statutory nuisance, and the matter cannot be resolved informally, immediately and completely, the persons responsible for the noise will be served with an Abatement Notice under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. 

If the person being complained about does not agree with the Notice and appeals or does not comply with the requirements of the Notice, the complainant and other witnesses may be required to give evidence in Court.

Should the offender(s) persist in contravening the Abatement Notice, the council may be entitled to execute work ‘in default’ and require the offender to pay all costs to do this. This is basically the Local Authority taking steps themselves to stop the nuisance. This might include applying to the magistrates court for a warrant to enter the offender’s premises in order to seize any equipment likely to be the cause of the noise nuisance. Seized equipment is kept securely by the council until the magistrates court decides whether it is to be permanently confiscated. The offender has to pay a fee to have the items returned.

The council can also prosecute the offender for contravening the requirements of the Abatement Notice. These cases are usually heard in the magistrates court. If the offender is found guilty then a fine of up to £5,000 per offence may be imposed by the court (£20,000 in the case of a trade or businesses, or on indictment an unlimited fine or even imprisonment).

In some cases the council will do both.

If the offender is a tenant the Abatement Notice will also be raised with the landlord, and separate action may be taken for breach of tenancy. The Environmental Health Team work closely with the Tenancy Services Team at NKDC. Persistent noise may ultimately lead to someone’s eviction from their home.

I have received a noise complaint

We appreciate it is not nice to receive a letter from the Council concerning allegations of noise nuisance. The information below is to reassure you and answer any concerns you may have.    

Am I being accused of causing a noise nuisance?

We would like to stress the letter you have received from the Environmental Health Team is not a threat of legal action and you are not being accused of anything. The purpose of the letter is merely to let you know about the fact that we have received a complaint relating to your property. We hope that by writing to the occupant of the property the letter will reach the appropriate person.

Why have I received this letter?

We receive a large number of neighbour noise complaints and we believe that people would want to be aware if someone had made a complaint that may concern them. If we can resolve the matter informally then that’s best all round. There might be issues we’re not aware of – let us know.

I believe I'm not causing any noise

If you are confident that you are not causing any unreasonable noise then you have nothing to worry about. You do not have to get in touch with us or do anything if you feel this is the case. Maybe have a look at some of noise advice we have on the website here. We do welcome any comments you may have to make about the letter you have received so feel free to get in touch with the team and we’ll make a note of those comments. We have to say, for issues like barking dogs – are you sure that they’re not barking while you’re out? It’s one of the most common assumptions.

Why couldn’t the person speak to me directly?

You may feel unhappy as the person complaining didn’t come and speak to you directly themselves. The Environmental Health Team does advise that in the first instance neighbours have a polite word and try to resolve issues prior to our involvement however, some people may find this daunting or feel intimidated or scared to mention it – this is not a reflection on you – there is no legal obligation for them to do so. Under Data Protection laws we are unable to reveal the details of who has complained.

What will happen next?

The person complaining has been told to complete noise monitoring forms writing down instances of noise nuisance. Once the noise monitoring forms are received the case officer will investigate to establish whether a statutory nuisance exists. If we are satisfied that the nuisance is coming from your property you will be formally notified.

I own my own home, can’t I do what I like?

In law as far as nuisance is concerned it does not matter if you are a homeowner, private tenant or social tenant – the law applies equally and the Council is obliged to take action if a nuisance is established.

How to be a good neighbour

If only we all liked the same sounds - and at the same time - life would be so much simpler. But we don’t. When it comes to the everyday sounds of a busy neighbourhood, we have different lifestyles, different tastes and different tolerances.

What’s music to your ears could well be ‘that awful row’ to your neighbour; nocturnal vacuuming may suit your lifestyles, but it’s giving the person in the flat below sleepless nights; and your dog barking after you’ve left for work is slowly driving the young mother next door crazy.

We all make noise but awareness is the key to making sure your noise is not a problem for others. Are you a good neighbour?

Things you can do:

  • Warn neighbours if you are having a party and finish at an agreed time - remember to keep the noise down particularly after 11pm.
  • Be careful not to disturb neighbours after midnight.
  • Wear slippers or soft shoes especially if you have a wood or laminate floor if your floor is someone else’s ceiling.
  • Lay carpets and hang curtains - they help to absorb sound.
  • Try to position speakers and washing machines away from neighbour’s walls.
  • Make sure your children don’t disturb other people.

Try not to:

  • Carry out noisy DIY at night or early in the morning. If you are planning DIY work at the weekend let your neighbour know beforehand and try to keep the noise down. Remember - drilling and hammering can be very annoying.
  • Play music or have the television on too loud.
  • Take a radio or speakers outside.
  • Slam the doors if you come home late.
  • Use domestic appliances - such as the vacuum cleaner or washing machine - late at night.
  • Shout or use raised voices - your neighbours don’t need to hear you.
  • Let your children play too noisily. No jumping on the floor!
  • Sound car horns or rev engines, especially at night.


  • Low frequency noise travels further than high frequency noise. If you are able, adjust the bass settings down on your music system.
  • Keeping doors and windows shut will help contain any noise.
  • If you want to play music or play video games loudly – use headphones.
  • Background noise is less at night time which means that noise can be more disturbing than it would be during the day.
  • Ensure any alarms such as vehicle alarms or burglar alarms are serviced regularly to lessen the chance that they will malfunction.

And if your neighbour approaches you about your noise – listen to them and do something about it – it will save a lot of hassle and upset for everyone.

What is a statutory noise nuisance?

Statutory nuisance is defined by the Environmental Protection Act 1990. In the UK there is no absolute right to silence within your home. Therefore, although you may be unhappy with the level of noise you are exposed to, if it does not amount to a statutory nuisance you may have to put up with it.

A statutory noise nuisance is more than where the noise is just annoying, it needs to unreasonably interfere with the use or enjoyment of another property, the problem must occur regularly and continue for a period of time that makes it unreasonable.

There’s nothing in the legislation that says that a certain type, volume or time of noise will amount to a statutory nuisance – each case is considered on its own merits. Many factors are taken into account in determining if the noise amounts to a statutory nuisance, including:

  • Location: Is the noise typical for the area? A cockerel crowing in the countryside would be more accepted than that in a quiet residential estate.
  • Time of day: A statutory nuisance can exist at anytime of the day, however if the noise happens late at night when most people are sleeping, it’s more likely to be classed as a statutory nuisance than the same noise occurring during the day.
  • Frequency: How frequently are people being affected by the noise? Noisy parties every weekend would be viewed differently to one held occasionally.
  • Duration: How long does the disturbance last? A dog barking at the postman for a short while in the morning would be viewed differently to one barking most of the day.
  • Intensity: How loud is the noise? How intrusive? In determining nuisance we look at how the noise would affect an ordinary individual, not someone who has a particular sensitivity to the noise complained of.

The Environmental Health Team investigate noise complaints and they use their professional knowledge and experience to assess whether the noise complained of amounts to a statutory nuisance. It is the professional officer, rather than the complainant, who makes the decision on whether noise is a nuisance. Ultimately it is that officer who will have to stand up in court and defend their decision. Case law requires us to act as the “standard person” when reaching the decision.  Therefore we cannot take into account those who have a different or higher expectation of peace (e.g. shift workers, people who are studying or people who are ill).

We need to gather evidence of the noise and its effects on complainants (see the section Investigating a Noise Complaint). If and when the noise has been determined to amount to a statutory nuisance an abatement notice will be served. This will require the nuisance to be abated. Failure to comply with an abatement notice is a criminal offence.

Bars, clubs, and other licensed premises

North Kesteven District Council supports businesses and wants people to enjoy themselves but sometimes a resident’s right to peaceful enjoyment of their home can be affected by events from licensed premises.

You can read about this on our noise from licensed premises page.

Burglar alarms

Faults, power cuts and pets can all set off even a well maintained alarm and the Council has legal powers to silence an alarm.

If this happens when you are out, the noise is likely to annoy your neighbours and noise control officers have legal powers to silence an alarm that is causing a nuisance. The cost of this is then passed back to the householder. This normally only happens when we cannot find who is responsible for the alarm, or a key holder, and arrange a suitable timescale for the alarm to be turned off.

Following these simple steps will help prevent alarm owners from potentially annoying their neighbourhood and incurring unnecessary costs

  • Ensure your alarm is installed by a qualified engineer
  • Look after your alarm – make sure it is maintained
  • Make sure your alarm has a cut out (20 minutes) to stop it ringing for long periods

Even if you follow the above, there is a chance that your alarm could still be triggered accidentally. That is why it is important to register keyholders with your local council. Registering two keyholders is best as this gives a greater chance of someone being available to switch off the alarm if you are away.

You can register an alarm whether you are an owner-occupier or a tenant and it is completely free. The information you provide us will not be used for any other purpose and will not be shared with any other people; it is used just by us if your alarm misfires.

To register your burglar alarm and keyholders, go to our online form.

Low frequency noise

A low frequency noise is very often characterised by a hum or rumble and can be linked with industrial or commercial machinery such as pumps, fans or electrical sources. The noise can also be internally generated within the home by heating systems or electrical appliances. While such noises can be irritating, they are often difficult to deal with as a statutory nuisance as it is usually of low volume.

Sometimes such noise is confused with tinnitus (ringing/hissing in the ears with no obvious cause). Some people can be sensitive to low frequency noise; this is often characterised by only some people in the household being able to hear it or are bothered by it.

While we will do what we can to find an external source of the noise, identifying it or reducing it can often be very difficult. If the source can be found then there is a chance the noise can be controlled, however, in many cases no sound can be traced that could account for the disturbance.

To help determine whether noise is internally or externally generated, it’s worth speaking to neighbours – can they hear the noise in their homes? Is it audible outside? If its only affecting your property internally it may be worth switching off appliances in turn to see if the noise disappears. If you are the only person who can hear the noise, it may be worth having your hearing checked.

Choosing a noise consultant

There are some situations where it is advisable to get the advice of an acoustic consultant. This can include:

  • Planning applications for new businesses near residential premises
  • Applications for residential buildings near busy transport routes or established noise sources
  • Businesses looking to expand their operations, or investing in new machinery
  • Licensed premises subject to noise complaints from neighbours

An acoustic consultant will investigate potential problem noise, quantify it and offer advice on dealing with it. This could make the difference in getting a planning application approved, or avoiding formal action for noise nuisance.

We can’t recommend any particular consultants, but we recommend you go to the Institute of Acoustics website where you can find a specialist.

We would be happy to advise on any specification or survey put forward by a consultant before you commission the works.

Common types of noise nuisances

Building and vehicle alarms

If the same alarm keeps going off this may qualify as nuisance noise, especially if it goes on for a long time and keeps people up late at night.

Noise from pubs and clubs

Pubs, clubs and other venues can contribute to nuisance noise by playing music too loud or later than their licence permits. This can be made worse by people talking loudly as they leave the venue or keeping the party going by turning up their vehicles’ music systems.

Construction sites

Construction companies and contractors must by law take all reasonable steps to control noise and work within certain times, usually from 7.30am to 6pm. If they want to work outside these times they must apply for a special permit.

Bird deterrents and bird scarer devices

This type of noise typically tends to occur in early spring and late summer. To deal with this type of noise we need to identify the location of the device(s) and contact the relevant land owner(s) to get them to check that it is working correctly, that any timers are accurate and that it is not misfiring. 

We will require you as part of the process of completing a nuisance diary forms to also provide a location on map of where you believe the noise to be coming from. This will help us to identify the potential land owner(s). 

Further information can be found in the code of practice given in the National Farmer's Union Guidance for Bird Deterrents and Bird Scarers.