10 Common Mistakes with Neighbour Noise

NEIGHBOUR NOISE ADVICE

Five Common Mistakes by Noise Complainants

  1. Not following clear instructions. If the investigating officer has requested you complete x or do y by a specific time then do it. If you can’t let them know why and agree on alternative arrangements.
  2. Waiting for problems to be fixed by themselves. Be proactive; engage with the investigator, keep them informed at regular intervals and use the services they provide to get the noise witnessed.
  3. Exaggerating Problems or Loosing Perspective. The rule of ‘live and let live’ applies to both parties and the law seeks to balance interests. Avoid frivolous claims or overly sensitive reactions.
  4. Failing to collect evidence. Being asked to keep logs or diaries is not a way of fobbing you off. This sort of evidence, over time, can be essential to demonstrating nuisance.
  5. Giving Up. Persistence is the key with noise. Don’t expect your problem to be fixed immediately; think weeks or months rather than days.

Five Common Mistakes by Noise Enforcers

  1. Failing to provide clear instruction. The investigations process should be set-out and clear expectations established. How else will noise complainants know what they need to know?!
  2. Failing to time-limit an investigation. Alleged noise makers shouldn’t be kept ‘under investigation’ in perpetuity. In addition cases, where no nuisance or justification for formal action could be established, should not be reopened without good reason.
  3. Written hiccups. Statutory notices are often badly worded or easy to pick apart. Admittedly, statutory nuisance is a complex area of the law though. We are always happy to advise.
  4. Reliance on informal action. Whilst there may be an instinct to mediate and advise, enforcers often do so at their peril. Failing to act or getting involved in protracted informal correspondence can easily damage a case.
  5. Reliance on desktop investigations. Officers need to get out there to witness the noise. However, its not always a lazy officer who is to blame; resource management and local politics can also be significant factors.

Join others on our tutorial

Anti-social Behaviour Powers and the Community Trigger

Antisocial Behaviour and Noise

For sufferers of noise nuisance the new anti-social behaviour powers is a mixed bag. Generally speaking the range of new (and amended) mechanisms are likely to be applied in cases that involve anti-social behaviour in a wider sense. However, there are some potential benefits for sufferers and enforcers of noise, including:

  • The potential for the use of Community Protection Notices on party-patrols or ongoing disturbances.
  • The power to close a property for 24-48 hours (extendable) where nuisance is caused to neighbours.
  • The ability for social landlords to apply for civil injunctions for noise related nuisance or annoyance.
  • Breach of injunction, criminal behaviour order, conviction for a serious criminal offence or conviction for breach of noise abatement notice can all lead to a rented or tenanted property being re-possessed by landlords.

(Learn more about antisocial behaviour and the types of antisocial behaviour).

The Community Trigger and Noise

It will take some time for these powers to be understood and applied. In the meantime, there is one other measure that we would like to mention briefly – the Community Trigger. This was introduced to provide a voice to victims who feel that their issue(s) are/were not being dealt with effectively by the agency investigating their concerns. If their application qualifies and meets the minimum threshold it requires the Police and Local Authority (and perhaps housing associations) to review your case and propose an action plan to address the issue(s) you have raised.

For victims it enables their case to be prioritised and reviewed by the relevant enforcement agencies (who are expected to work together rather than in isolation).

You must have made three complaints to any one agency within the last 6 months. The behaviour complained of must have caused “harassment, alarm or distress”, so it is important that you emphasise how the problem has affected you within that context. If you are particularly sensitive for whatever reason or, for example, have health issues these may also be taken into account.

Make sure that you follow through on instructions provided by the investigating agency before applying for the Trigger. Allow them to conduct their investigations fully first; being too premature may cause delays or result in a lack of suitable evidence being available at the review.


Learn more about dealing with antisocial behaviour.

Positivity is the First Step to Empowerment

Positive Thinking = Empowerment

Enough is enough; you’ve decided to tackle your problem neighbour who, has so far, been completely unresponsive to any polite request you’ve made. You are ready to put your head above the parapet and have decided to call in the authorities.

Here follows a few tips explaining why remaining positive and retaining a focus on your end goal will make the path a smoother one.

OWN YOUR MISSION

Take responsibility for your problem and control from the onset. There are no magic noise wands or sound fairies. Noise enforcers rely on you to provide the bulk of the evidence and will expect you to check in at key stages. Ask questions and inform yourself about the process from the onset.

CONSIDER CHANGE

Consider changing your routine during noise incidents. Instead of getting frustrated and becoming angry with the situation (or process) allow what is happening to happen and shift your energy to something else (this may need to be pre-planned). A rising temper and adrenaline will do nothing to help resolve the situation and will just affect the duration and intensity of your sleep; leaving you tired and unproductive.

You could also try changing your sleep pattern to fit in with the noise, for example, go to bed earlier. Anything that enables you to maintain a longer duration of quality sleep should be considered.

Now you may ask: Why should I have to change my mindset or lifestyle to fit in around this inconsiderate neighbour? The short answer is to say that you are right. You shouldn’t have to change anything you do; none of this is your fault and the noise maker is the one in the wrong. One consequence to this response though, is that all the power and control now reverts to the noise maker.

RECORDING INCIDENTS AND EVIDENCE

Most people see keeping noise logs or diaries as an unnecessary pain. The fact of the matter is that, those people who fail to follow procedures, ultimately, fail to get their issue resolved satisfactorily.

I spoke to someone the other day who said that she rewards herself every time she completed a diary entry. Of course, it would be patronising of us to suggest you do the same but I mention it as an example of how a positive attitude can lead to productivity.

Make recording evidence your routine and do it well; every incident is a step nearer to your goal.

NOISE SUPPORT

Pause and regroup; particularly after noise incidents. Access to, and the strength of, your social ties are linked to well-being. Whether it be via the phone or facebook, talk to your friends and family and let them know how you are doing.

Keep in touch with your investigating officer at regular intervals – by phone (or, even better, in person) as well as by email. Demonstrating a positive and professional attitude will also help them progress your case. Remember, he may receive 500 noise complaints a year; familiarity can therefore act as a useful reminder.

MOVING FORWARD

Don’t give up on positive thinking. Persistence is the key to success and negativity can be counter-productive. Read more about the science of positive thinking.

Rebirth of the Noise App

The “noise app” mobile application for reporting and recording noise complaints was relaunched and became a huge success. We confirmed long ago that the new and updated version will not disappoint and, it seems, that over two hundred service providers (including local authorities and housing associations) agree.

RECORD NOISE – APP USERS

For users the app is free to download and use. Once registered they are able to make recordings of noise instantly and are prompted to enter some simple information by tapping a few icons. After submission the information and sound file are forwarded to your service provider (local authority or housing association) automatically. They will review the recording and can message you through the application. As a result, that whole tedious stage of log sheets and liaison becomes so much easier for sufferers.

If your service provider has not signed up to receive notifications do not fear. You can still use the app and they can be notified that there is data waiting for them.

Managing noise complaints with the noise app

The app has been an invaluable tool for noise investigators over the last several months when noise investigation services have been disrupted. Figures have shown a sharp uptake in usage.

SERVICE PROVIDERS

Officers benefit from a few more bells and whistles at the ‘back-end’. Access data via the secure server; be notified of any new entries; and even correspond with the complainant. When we played back the sound recordings the quality was also excellent – and you can listen right through your browser without any fancy acoustic software. You can also dispense with any installation of tricky recording equipment as the initial stages of the process are in the hands of the complainant.

The online service is designed to empower complainants but it also allows investigators to triage cases, prioritise incidents and direct resources to those most in need. There are obvious efficiencies as well as an improved investigation process (a local authority who have been using the beta version of the app stated that their complainants much prefer using the app to traditional paper diary sheets). Unsurprisingly, dozens of local authorities and housing associations have already signed up.

SUMMARY

For users and service providers the Noise App makes total sense; a win-win situation for once. We rate it highly and think that the noise app is rapidly becoming an essential tool for both sufferers of noise and noise enforcers. For more information visit www.thenoiseapp.com

Local Authorities and Housing Associations Investigating Noise

Noise/Nuisance Training and CPD

Our leadership team have been involved in training professionals and noise enforcement personnel for many years now. Local authority clients on our noise training events have included local authorities in London and metropolitan areas as well as rural districts and boroughs based in the ‘Shires’. It has also become popular for housing association officers involved in ASB to attend the workshops and courses we present to and provide content for.

Here are some examples of the courses that you may be interested in booking or attending:

  • Statutory nuisance – and overview and introduction
  • Licensing Act – the role of the responsible authority
  • Abatement notices – statutory nuisance, drafting, service & common mistakes
  • Investigating noise – overview of the laws and practical considerations for investigating officers

Courses are generally suited to environmental health, neighbourhood support and housing officers.

We have published a Noise Management Guide for local authority environmental health and housing providers with an interest in anti-social behaviour. This provides an update for anyone managing noise issues.

Third Party Support and Expert Opinion

As well as training we are sometimes called upon to provide third party opinions, consultancy and advice on noise matters. This can be useful for environmental health or anti-social behaviour teams (local authority or social landlords) who are considering taking enforcement action or other interventions due to noise. Clients include:

Abatement Notice & Enforcement Reviews

One of the tasks we relish is reviewing statutory notices (pre or post service). The law of statutory nuisance and appeals is pretty complex and there are a number of pitfalls and common mistakes that can affect the direction of enforcement in this area. If you would like a notice and/or enforcement action reviewed please contact us. However, we have also put together an online course for noise enforcement officers so that they can benefit from our experience directly.

Link to our Web Content

Local authorities and housing associations are free link to any of the posts on our website on their noise/nuisance pages. Here’s why:

Noisenuisance.org is a fantastic source of free resources and advice for sufferers of noise nuisance. As well as comprehensive articles on noise matters complainants are also able to tap into support on noise and nuisance issues.

Public authorities and their employees are allowed to link to other organisations that help promote the aims and objectives of their organisation or department. In doing so they can help us support public authorities in their role of advising members of the public, tackling anti-social behaviour and promoting well being.


Any other organisations or businesses who are interested in working with us please let us know. Learn more about us and see how we may be able to help through noise training.

Britains Noisiest Places to Live Revealed

Britains Noisiest Places to Live

noise data

Our noise survey revealed some interesting information about the numbers of noise complaints being received by local authorities. We asked each local authority in the UK how many noise complaints they received, how much enforcement action they took and about officer staffing levels. In our report we compare the data received to government data and national indices. The analysis has been completed and we can provide you with some key findings, including regional data and where Britains noisiest places are.

You can obtain a full copy of all of the raw data here. It is presented in a dashboard that allows different areas to be benchmarked against each other. In the meantime, view a summary of the data, discussion and results here. A few of the key findings include:

  • Analysis shows a strong correlation between population density and the number of complaints received. Urban areas are much more likely to generate high levels of noise complaints.
  • Local authorities were ranked according to the number of complaints received per 1000 population. Results were compared to other local authority indices. In the case of deprivation, for example, no correlation was found. Conversely, the relationship between the number of noise complaints to the percentage of social housing is moderately strong.
  • As one might expect, the more complaints a Council receives the more enforcement notices are served. As a result we were able to identify authorities who are taking much more or less enforcement action than average.
  • There is a significant (but moderate) correlation between the level of enforcement (notices served) and the number of complaints received.
  • The extent to which we could rely upon the data provided relating to staffing levels was limited. However we are able to estimate that an average of 2.2 officers serve every 100,000 people. Each officer deals with an average of 330 noise complaints per year and may undertake a number of other duties in addition to this work.

Other organisations have attempted to repeat our work but the data we provide in our download is much more comprehensive.


In our results we display data regionally, nationally and within the same rural/urban classification so that a reasonable comparison may be made as to which are Britain’s Noisiest Places.

Take a look at our other resources

Tackling Poor Sound Insulation Issues Using Housing Legislation

Poor Sound Insulation – A Possible Solution?

There have been few legal cases or appeals concerning the use of HHSRS with respect to noise issues so generally there are few established precedents concerning application of housing legislation in noise cases. However, it is generally accepted that the use of HHSRS is most likely to be invoked in the case of serious intrusion associated with poor insulation or transport noise (Note – it can not be used to tackle neighbour noise issues that are associated with unreasonable behaviour or nuisances). Transport noise could involve road, rail or aircraft noise.

With respect to excess neighbour noise caused by problems associated with poor insulation the established statutory nuisance legislation is generally not applied (by virtue of decisions set out in Southwark v Mills; and Vella v Lambeth). Standards of sound insulation in new buildings are served by Building Regulations Approved Document E (this lays down standards to protect against excess sound transmission between buildings). Therefore, most commonly, the application of HHSRS could be considered in the case of existing dwellings (most often flats and converted properties).

INVESTIGATION PROCESS

When assessing noise cases there would typically be an initial subjective assessment (witnessing) of noise by the local authority officer. If it is suspected that a noise may qualify for HHSRS assessment the officer should refer the matter to the appropriate officer for classification. They should conduct a physical inspection of the existing building structure and may make a determination of the current level of sound insulation (potentially through a sound insulation test). A determination of risk class is then made and decision as to whether enforcement action is appropriate.

ASSESSMENT

The assessment is complicated. As well as the regulations (Housing Health and Safety Rating Scheme Regulations 2005) operating guidance and enforcement guidance is applied in order to determine the level of risk associated with the hazard. Once the deficiency is identified the risk of harm is assessed, scored, rated and classed.

ENFORCEMENT

Enforcement action might include the service of an improvement notice or hazard awareness notice (HAN). A HAN is simply a formal way of notifying a landlord that a hazard exists. Whilst a HAN might seem toothless it has been noted that many social landlords tend to take them seriously (by responding positively to them) due to their responsibilities to protect convention (human) rights and the possibility of civil claims.

QUESTIONS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PRACTITIONERS TO PONDER

  • Do you dismiss complaints relating to transport noise without considering the application of housing legislation?
  • Do you have a suitable system of referral from noise officers to housing officers in order that potential cases are assessed when it is suspected that noise complaints involve poor insulation?
  • Will permitted development (relaxations to planning restrictions) lead to more use of HHSRS?
  • Whilst building documents refer specifically to building to building sound transmission the same is not true for transport noise. Do you examine this hazard adequately when looking at new/potential development?

Dog Barking Noise and Recording Evidence

Dog Barking Noise

Occasional barking is not usually an issue for most people, for example when someone comes to the front door, but persistent dog barking noise can be particularly upsetting and annoying. Very often dog owners will not appreciate how bad a problem is as the noise can often occur when they are away from the property. Having an obedient and well trained dog will always be the responsibility of the owner. If they are unable to train a dog appropriately or keep it from barking, ultimately, they run the risk of having that dog removed.

Usually the first step for the EHO will be to witness the disturbance and gather evidence from you in the form of a log or diary. Counting the number of barks in a specified period, the duration of the barking and frequency will all help demonstrate how bad the issue is. Once a statutory nuisance is established a notice may be served and, if broken, the person responsible may be prosecuted (max £5000 fine).

In Scotland The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, Section 49 permits a Justice of the Peace to deal with anyone who keeps a creature which is giving reasonable cause for annoyance. It involves the person aggrieved making a compliant to their local Court. After hearing evidence from both parties they may order owners to take action to reduce the noise.

Some local authorities have dog wardens who can offer advice to dog owners. If you are concerned that a dog is being mistreated or neglected (and that that act results in cruelty to the animal) you should contact your environmental health department and RSPCA for advice – they may be able to act in partnership to resolve the issue. Some Councils also have animal or dog wardens who may be able to provide useful advice to you and/or the dog owner.

The RSPCA provide some useful guidance for dog owners about reducing your dog’s barking and why dogs bark.

Dog Barking Noise – Recording Evidence

Collecting evidence on dog barking is normally a relatively easy process for you and the local authority. The first few stages of the investigation can therefore be completed fairly quickly if it is happening regularly enough. Initially, you might have to collect some evidence yourself so that your case gets prioritised by the investigating officer.

We’ve spoke a great deal in the past about the importance of collecting evidence – usually in the form of a diary sheet. The same principle applies to most forms of noise nuisance, including barking dogs. You will initially be involved in recording occurrences when you are disturbed by the noise, entering detail as to how long it is continuing and how it is affecting you. This enables you to paint a picture of the intrusion and initiate an intervention by the enforcement authority.

There is also one other inclusion you might wish to add in order to provide more detail on the severity of the situation; that is, the number of barks. It might sound silly but this sort of information provides third parties (think magistrates) with a clearer picture of the situation. Simply use a five bar gate tally system and record the barks over a 5 minute period. Your short diary entry might look a bit like this example we read:

21/7/14. 6.30am-7am. Barked intermittently. Woke me up. I got up and saw the owner had just left the house. In one 5 minute period I counted 90 barks. This was typical of the first 15 minutes – then it gradually decreased. Although tired I couldn’t get back to sleep. It was too noisy to watch the TV.

Make sure you also mark your tallys on the diary or a single piece of paper alongside the time and date. This can then also be forwarded to the enforcement authority with your diary – it will illustrate your method and demonstrate your openess. The same method can be used for other sporadic and repetitive noise sources and some types of anti-social behaviour, for example shouting or moaning.

If the disturbance is happening regularly and every day for significant periods, just a couple of weeks diary should be necessary to initiate a response from the authorities.

Try our top 10 tips for further advice about tackling noise.

Sensitivity to Noise – Am I Too Sensitive?

Am I Being Too Sensitive?

Here at noisenuisance.org we tend to be concerned about real problems – those that affect peoples’ personal comfort and well-being (and there are plenty of those!). However, levels of noise vary along with people’s perception of it’s severity. Occasionally,  we come across people who are more sensitive to everyday issues than others; particularly their sensitivity to noise.

We put together a quick quiz so that you can test your sensitivity. Just answer the following 15 questions (as honestly as you can) to find out how sensitive you are.

Sensitivity to Noise – Take the Quiz

To each question answer “Yes” or “No”.
To each statement answer “True” or “False”.

  1. You have a keen attention to detail.
  2. You don’t like loud environments like bars.
  3. One should not be able to hear neighbours in the evenings when relaxing at home.
  4. You are a light sleeper.
  5. Are you a shift worker?
  6. Did you grow up in a quiet environment?
  7. You need the comfort of your own bed.
  8. You are happy having an occasional daytime sleep.
  9. You are a very conscientious person.
  10. You always have to be on time.
  11. You prefer to exercise alone rather than in a group.
  12. You often feel concern for other people.
  13. You have the occasional weep or cry.
  14. You really don’t like open-office environments.
  15. You find it hard to concentrate when more than one conversation is taking place.

Sensitivity to Noise – Guide to Results

If you answered “Yes” or “True” to the above questions/statements

12 or more times
You are super chilled – one laid-back dude.
9 to 11 times
you are a little discerning but still a hardy breed.
6 to 8 times
You are on your guard. You do like your comforts.
3 to 5 times
A delicate case. On the other hand, you may be a good friend and workmate.
2 or less
You may be acutely sensitive. Never mind, you are probably sharp minded and caring.

If you scored over half then you might be a sensitive person. There is no shame in that – often sensitive people are kind, generous and make good workmates. This quiz is no more than a bit of fun really so don’t be upset or disheartened if you score highly. In the UK many thousands of people with varying sensitivities suffer from noise nuisance problems each year. Whilst, sometimes, it can help to put the problem into perspective and think objectively you probably don’t need to answer a silly quiz to know whether your problem is real. Trust your instinct.

It could also be possible that your sensitivity to noise has a medical basis. There is a condition called hyperacusis (sometimes referred to as misophonia) which may be relevant in a small number of cases. Tinnitus is more of a significant issue though, particularly for the elderly.

If you think you have an excessive noise problem the likelihood is that you’ll be much happier when you get it sorted. Our noisy neighbour resources will help guide you through the complaints process.

20 Tips for Forming and Managing an Action or Campaign Group

Setting up a Campaign Group

Often people are isolated in their suffering and have no choice but to stick their lone head above the parapet. However, if a number of people are affected by the same issue it doesn’t have to be that way; for example, have you considered forming or setting up a campaign group or action team?

People power can be a really effective way of getting a collective message heard and many have been successful in securing change. Furthermore, members of action groups often say that they find their campaign work cathartic as they find support from people who are all working towards a shared goal.

Here are our top twenty tips for maintaining and setting up a successful campaign group:

  1. Sign up members (as many as possible)
  2. Appoint a chairperson
  3. Schedule and minute all meetings
  4. Decide what your role, remit and objectives are
  5. Limit the number of negotiators and points of contact for the group
  6. Make sure that your spokesperson(s) are calm and level headed
  7. Set out clearly what you want to achieve
  8. Be prepared to compromise and be reasonable
  9. Seek to balance your own interests and those of the perpetrator
  10. Work out your strategy in advance
  11. Identify all of the potential arguments against you as well as those in your favour
  12. Don’t stop gathering and recording evidence
  13. Use different forms of media to get your point across
  14. Identify the key people to talk to (often the head of an organisation)
  15. Formalise correspondence in writing
  16. Use whatever tactics are likely to be more effective in your circumstance (petitions, rallys, formal meetings etc.)
  17. Enlist the support of your local Councillors
  18. Meet regularly and keep members informed of your progress
  19. Appoint different tasks to different people (and work as a team)
  20. Know what you are talking about

Good luck in setting up your campaign group!


Find out more in our e-book or tutorial.