Everyone's perception of noise nuisance is different. It's not just about sound levels in decibels but of what is acceptable to the average person. Noise is generally considered to be unwanted sound, but what one person considers unwanted may seem reasonable to someone else.
As an enforcing authority, we have to decide what is reasonable and what is not, before taking action.
We can help residents who are experiencing problems with:
- barking dogs
- building and construction site noise (noisy work is allowed Monday-Friday 8am-6pm and Saturdays 8am-1pm)
- DIY noise during anti-social hours
- burglar/car alarms
- deliveries at unreasonable hours
- nightclubs and pubs
- loud music/television/computer games
- industrial processes (dry cleaners, factories, etc)
- kitchen extract / air conditioning units
- places of worship
- open-air events
- street performers
Responding to noise complaints
How we respond to noise complaints depends on the nature of the problem, the time it occurs and whether it is a first-time complaint or a recurring problem.
The first thing we do is check whether there have been any similar complaints made for the same property in the past. If we have received no similar complaints in the last 6 months then we consider this to be a new complaint.
We will send a letter informing the occupier(s) of the household, where you believe the noise nuisance is coming from, that a complaint has been made. We will never disclose your details. We usually find that this informal approach curbs the problem; most people do not realise that they are affecting their neighbours. An acknowledgement letter is also sent to you explaining what is being done and the procedures we follow.
In severe cases officers may decide there is a need to make an immediate visit, for example, when alarms are sounding continuously or for parties running late into the night.
What we need from you
If the problems persists, we will normally ask you to complete diary sheets to enable us to look in depth at the times of day that the problems arise and the extent of the problem. These should be returned to us in the stamped addressed envelope provided, within 3 weeks.
Certain types of noise are difficult for us to assess and we may ask you to contact us at the time when the problem is being experienced.
If an officer is available, and considers there to be a potential problem, they will try to make a visit.
What we can do
We have a duty to investigate service requests received from residents within the borough.
If an officer is satisfied that a nuisance is being caused, and there is no resolution within 7 days, a formal or statutory noise abatement notice will usually be served. This is done to prevent a recurrence of the problem.
In cases where there is substantial non-compliance with an abatement notice or a very severe ongoing noise nuisance at night, it may be appropriate to seek a warrant and seize equipment to abate a nuisance.
What you can do
There are also provisions under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 for you to complain directly to the magistrates court. The magistrates court can make a nuisance order and it can impose a fine.
See also What action can I take?
Noise monitoring equipment
We have digital audio noise recording equipment that we can use in suitable cases, (where it has not been possible to obtain first-hand evidence).
However, the use of evidence from recording equipment is less suited to prosecutions as it relies on the person in whose property the equipment was installed to attend court as a witness and undergo cross examination. Any evidence obtained must be robust and stand up to challenge in court should that become necessary. This is why first-hand officer evidence is always preferred where possible.
Officers will undertake the task of analysing the results of the recordings after the equipment has been removed from the premises. Once this has been completed we will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to serve an abatement notice or to take a prosecution if a breach of an existing abatement notice has been witnessed. Only once there is evidence of an abatement notice not being complied with can any prosecution action be taken.
Officers will inform you of the results of their analysis and the reasons for their decision about whether legal action can be taken.
Noise we can't deal with
Please note that we have no jurisdiction in respect of noise from aircraft or trains. For train and railway noise, contact the Network Rail Helpline on 0845 711414.
If you are experiencing noise from any aircraft please contact the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), on 020 7453 6525.
We are unable to assist in respect of banging noise, slamming doors and heavy footsteps as a result of poor sound insulation. If you believe that the noise is being made on purpose and you are able to provide evidence in the form of diary sheets, that we send to you, we will review the information and assess how best we can help. If we are unable to help we may refer your complaint to our anti-social behaviour team. They will endeavour to contact you within 10 working days.