Noise Investigation Process – Timeline

Investigation process for noise pollution complaint.

Noise from Neighbours – Investigation Process

This model describes the investigation process involving a typical case of noise from neighbours in a local authority (typically, an environmental health department, and sets out a rough expectation for benchmarks. We think it is best that you have an understanding of what to expect from your local authority. This model is based on the statutory nuisance regime.

Day 1You contact the EH department and lodge a ‘complaint’. This will probably be via an administrator who will pass your details on to the team responsible.Can be done by post, telephone, email or through web contact forms. If you ring you may be able to discuss your case with an officer.
Do encourage others to complain if they have a problem.
Day 4An officer contacts you back to discuss your case and/or sends you a standard reply with a diary sheet to complete. Noise diaries are important as they build essential supporting evidence of nuisance.
He should also contact the alleged perpetrator and let them know that a complaint has been received, get feedback and warn that they may be monitored. Your personal details are not usually revealed at this stage.
Get the direct contact details of your case officer and his department. Find out if they offer an out of hours service, when it runs and how to contact them.
If possible, start calling them out when the noise is happening so that they can witness the noise from neighbours.
Day 34By now you should have completed and returned your diary/log. If not your case may be closed automatically. Some authorities will wait until they have been returned before offering further services.
After receipt they should contact you to discuss how they intend to witness the noise. They will need to enter your property to do this when the noise is happening.
Some authorities may install noise monitoring equipment.
Diary sheets should be completed with as much information as possible. Don’t expect much help if you just complete one occurrence or enter one line.
Keep on completing your diaries for as long as the nuisance persists.
Be persistent and call officers out whenever the noise is disturbing. Carry on doing this even if the noise has been witnessed.
Day 60Most complaints should have been fully investigated by this stage. However, a few more weeks may be necessary in areas with restricted resources.
Where they are satisfied that a nuisance exists they must serve an abatement notice. If officers are unable to witness the noise they may close your complaint. Sometimes local authorities will attempt to witness the noise a set number of times (often 3) before closing the complaint.
It may be that the noise is not loud, late or often enough to constitute a nuisance.
If the noise occurs at the same time every week ask for an officer to visit you at that time. They should be happy to arrange this.
If their evening/weekend service is limited ask whether a noise monitoring device is available for installation.
Continue supplying evidence to the case officer.
Day 67By now an abatement notice may have been served on the person responsible for the nuisance. They may be given a time limit for compliance or it may require its immediate abatement.
An appeal to the magistrate’s court by the recipient will delay enforcement but not the collection of further evidence.
If you are unsatisfied with the action taken so far make a complaint to the Environmental Health manager or follow the Council’s complaint procedure relating to noise from neighbours.
Day 90If the notice has not been complied with (and not appealed) the officer will need to witness a breach. He will need your cooperation on this matter and, again, may need to be contacted when the noise is happening.The officer may wish to witness more than one breach of the notice so be persistent.
Day 130The officer may have collated evidence and gathered witness statements. His case will have been referred to their solicitor for legal proceedings.By this stage your evidence is important to the local authority’s case.You will have been asked whether you would be willing to attend court.
Your identity may have been disclosed through the exchange of evidence.
Day 220The date for the criminal case at the magistrates court. This may be adjourned.

Points to Note

  • Most of the benchmarks outlined will probably be achieved before the dates specified and the vast majority of cases are resolved informally before the notice stage.
  • Noise policies and procedures vary slightly in each local authority so not every authority will follow this approach.
  • We feature the use of noise diaries. Noise diaries are usually used for ongoing cases and will not always be an appropriate way of investigating all noise from neighbours.
  • Construction and demolition works should follow a different (much faster) route.

Find out more about the investigation process and how to get the best out of it with our resources.