Q What’s the best way to handle things if noise is a problem?
A Everyone wants to live in peace with their neighbours, but people have different ideas about what constitutes antisocial noise. Follow these guidelines to help minimise problems:
- Don’t let the problem fester, contact your neighbour for a chat as soon as possible and do your best to keep the discussion cordial.
- Be reasonable, stick to the point at issue and know the legal position, just in case.
- Be prepared to compromise in order to keep the peace.
- If you need some outside help, you can find a local mediator at civilmediation.justice.gov.uk
Caption: Neighbours may not realise they are bothering so have a chat to see if you can resolve problems
Q Noisy all-night parties are making my life a misery. Is there anything I can do?
A Events causing excessive noise between 11pm and 7am fall within the remit of the Noise Act 1996 (Environmental Protection Act 1990 in Scotland). This empowers environmental health officers to visit the site of a complaint, measure the noise and, if it exceeds a set level, issue a warning for it to be reduced. If this is not complied with, they can levy an on-the-spot penalty of between £40 and £1,000 for night noise offences. They can also confiscate any noisy equipment.
Causing excessive noise at night, or in residential premises, can be a form of anti-social behaviour. The police, councils and housing associations now have extra powers to deal with anti-social behaviour under Part 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
Q My neighbour is keen on DIY and often goes on drilling and banging half the night. What should I do?
A If gentle persuasion fails, keep a log of the disturbance, and contact other neighbours to see if they will join forces. Your neighbour may agree to a curfew if shown the extent of the problem. The National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection defines sociable hours for carrying out unavoidable work as between 8am and 7pm on weekdays and Saturdays and between 10am and 5pm on Sundays.
If your neighbour is building a house or conservatory, noisy activities need to comply with hours laid out by the Council's Construction Sites Guide: weekdays 8am to 6pm; Saturdays 8am to 1pm; Sundays and Bank holidays no work where noise is audible at the site boundary.
If you still get nowhere, contact your local environmental health officer (EHO), who will probably give you a log sheet to complete. They may also be able to lend you equipment to record noise levels. If the noise is damaging your health, by stopping you sleeping, for example, it’s important to obtain medical evidence, too.
If the EHO agrees there is a problem, they can serve an abatement notice that specifies what the neighbour must do to reduce the noise. Failure to comply can mean a fine of up to £2,000, plus £50 for each day it continues. The EHO may use the Act to confiscate noisy power tools, for example.
Alternatively, you can go direct to the Magistrate's Court for an injunction (or an interdict at the Sheriff’s Court in Scotland) to get the noise stopped, but you must have good evidence to support your case.
Q Every Sunday, my neighbour mows his lawn, which destroys everyone's peace. Aren't there any regulations about noisy machinery?
A Recent European Community noise regulations do include a maximum noise level for lawnmowers. If you buy a new mower, the label or handbook should now include details of its noise level. Some new garden power tools are also covered, but even these can still be annoying. This is partly because it’s often not the total amount of noise that’s the problem, but the pitch and type of sound. The manufacturer or its authorised representative is responsible for compliance, apart from when neither is established in the EC, in which case it is the person placing the equipment on the EC market.
The only solution is to try to reach an agreement with your neighbours – perhaps arrange a few hours each weekend when you all agree not to use powered machinery and everyone can enjoy the peace.
The Government produces a free booklet called Bothered by Noise? There’s no need to suffer. For a copy, visit gov.uk/government/publications/bothered-by-noise