Noise

Online Noise Nuisance Form

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 you feel that you are suffering from unnecessary or unreasonable levels of noise, there are a number of things you can do. Firstly, it may be helpful to speak to the person responsible for the nuisance before taking any other action. 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. Please 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 Health team will investigate the matter on your behalf. Generally this will involve the following steps:

Step 1

Details of the complaint will be taken. Please make sure you know the source of the noise as this is generally easier for you to find out than us. We don’t need their names though. We cannot investigate anonymous noise complaints - we need to prove that the noise is unduly affecting someone, so someone needs to be prepared to detail to us how they are being affected. We don’t give out names or details about who has made the complaint (but sometimes it can be guessed!).

You’ll be asked about the noise, when it is happening, and how long it goes on for. Is the noise particularly bad at a certain time or when it happens in a certain place? Let us know – while the subject of the complaint may not be able to completely stop the noise, if there’s a particularly annoying aspect they can deal with, it might be a compromise both sides can live with.

Step 2

We will write to the subject of the noise complaint to let them know that we have received a complaint and 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 – the more information we can provide them the better. We don’t tell them who made the complaint. If we can resolve the matter informally at this stage, all the better.

We will also send any complainants diary sheets to make a record of the noise. Please see the guidance on completing these. More diaries 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.

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 to you.
  • If the disturbance happens mostly during office hours you will be asked to contact the team when it is happening so that, if possible, a monitoring visit can be carried out.
  • If the forms show a pattern to the disturbance we may arrange to visit at times when the disturbance is likely to be happening.
  • Where the disturbance is regular but there is no pattern to it you may be provided with noise monitoring equipment that will record the noise and how loud it is.
  • For disturbance which is occasional and unpredictable you may be provided with access to our Out of Hours Hotline Service which you can contact to arrange for an officer to attend at any time.

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.

What happens if the problem IS NOT considered a statutory nuisance?

Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 gives complainants the power to take independent action through the local Magistrates’ Court to deal with noise and nuisances where:

  • The Council considers that the problem is not a statutory nuisance;
  • The Council cannot obtain enough evidence to serve an Abatement Notice or to prosecute; or
  • The complainant does not wish to involve the Council in resolving the complaint.

A separate Guide providing advice and information on taking independent legal action using section 82 powers is given.

Depending on the facts of the case, the Environmental Health Team will advise you on other potential action you can take.

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 then?

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.

But I am 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 complaining 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 North Kesteven District Council is obliged to take action if a nuisance is established.

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.

Remember:

  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.