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.

Reducing Noise Caused by Poor Insulation – Part 1

Reduce Noise and Improve Sound Insulation

Unless you are one of the lucky ones living in a detached property it is likely that you will share at least one wall or floor/ceiling with your neighbours. Most of us who do live together in relative harmony. However, in some property, often flats or converted property, poor quality sound insulation is often raised as a cause for noise complaints.

Whether it is purpose built or a converted property problems often arise. Property converted before the early 90’s, in particular, may have been completed with poor sound insulation qualities (whereas after the early 90’s minimum standards for sound insulation were put in place). There is also the chance that work is substandard.

Some people are more sensitive to noise than others. So it is important you consider whether you are experiencing a ‘behaviourial’ problem. If the noise is not a result of unreasonable behaviour by the occupant it can not be considered as a statutory nuisance. In close proximity you will be able to hear occasional raised voices and amplified music; this is part of everyday living. However, if you are able to discern normal speech or television (played at a reasonable level) you may have a sound insulation problem. In some cases where the premises is defective in some way (or were not made to the standard of the day, for example, when converted) there may be the potential for a statutory nuisance to exist. However, the circumstances for such cases are rare and protection through noise legislation is, in the main, unavailable.

So if statutory nuisance (noise powers) can not be used what are your options? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Put pressure on landlords
In private rented property (or social housing) pressure can be put on landlords to assess and address the problem through improvements to the building fabric or internal arrangements.

2. Request a housing assessment
You can contact the environmental health service housing team to assess the issue. Using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System they can determine whether a noise hazard exists and can sometimes require landlords to improve sound insulation for occupants.

3. Consider internal arrangements
It may be that the noise is structure borne and so moving a bed to a different side of the room may reduce noise experienced at night. Sometimes people are able to swap over living rooms and bedrooms.

4. Get professional help
Consult a builder or specialist with a view to increasing the sound insulation properties of the building (some examples are given at the end of this article). In such circumstances neighbouring occupants may be happy to share costs as improvements serve common interests.

5. D.I.Y sound insulation
You could complete your own sound insulation improvements internally. For many this will be a cheap option and can be effective in certain circumstances.

We provide some more practical information on how to improve sound insulation in our resources.


Keep in Touch

10 Tips for Tackling Noisy Neighbours

Noisy Neighbours – Our Top Ten Tips

We have compiled a short list of our favourite tips for dealing successfully with your noise complaint. Each year local authorities receive hundreds of thousands of noise complaints; our tips will help you get the best out of the system.

  1. Be polite. If you can, give your noisy neighbours the benefit of the doubt first. Let them know that you are being affected by the noise and give them a chance to put things right.
  2. Use your local authority. They have a duty to investigate noise nuisance and have legal powers to act where nuisance exists (even where housing associations are involved).
  3. Understand the process. Having a better understanding of how your local authority propose investigating your complaint will enable you to make better use of them.
  4. Follow instruction. If the local authority have asked you to keep a diary or to contact them when the noise is happening, then do it (its probably for a good reason).
  5. Understand your rights. When it comes to noise being informed means being empowered. Use the resources on this website to get a basic understanding and don’t be afraid of asking challenging questions.
  6. Get others involved. This could be a housing association or other neighbours. As long as your neighbours are genuinely affected there is strength in numbers.
  7. Be patient. Only when the local authority have sufficient evidence are they likely to take formal action. In some cases this can take a period of weeks. See our example noise timeframe.
  8. Help yourself. Don’t expect anyone else to do all the work for you. Even where the local authority are involved they will expect you to undertake tasks, such as keeping a log.
  9. Be persistent. Use the services provided as much and as often as you can. Those with genuine problems who fully commit to the investigation process usually find that their complaints are resolved sooner.
  10. Stay calm. Always keep your cool and do not retaliate. Keeping the moral high ground will pay off in the long run.

We hope you have found this advice useful. Good luck in progressing your noise nuisance case!


We help thousands of people each year.

Tips for Noisy Neighbours – Garden Parties

Its the weekend, the weather is fine, the charcoal is lit and friends are over. It can only mean one thing – a rise in noise complaints. Yes, the combination of warm evenings and open windows is the recipe of the summer barbeque blues and, with it, a peak in poor neighbour relations.

Here follows a few tips for anyone blighted by late night garden dwellers or revellers.

Avoiding Noisy Outdoor Parties

If the party or gathering is just a one-off it is unlikely that there will be any formal action to tackle the issue either retrospectively or when it is happening. However, some Councils offer night-time services (or party patrols) and may be willing to visit and politely request that occupiers respect their neighbours.

On occasion there may be a one-off party where the noise is so serious (perhaps to the extent that it is considered a public nuisance) that it warrants some form of formal action. This may be achieved through the service of a statutory notice or via Police enforcement. Typical examples include raves or live bands where music is amplified. Furthermore, after 11pm, statutory noise powers may be used against those who exceed permitted noise levels.

Neighbours have also been known to hire marquees for gardens and bands or DJ’s (often for birthday celebrations). Marquees offer little in the way of sound insulation and should not be used in conjunction with amplified music in domestic settings (they being much more suited to flower shows and country festivals!).

Action can be taken against neighbours that regularly disturb during the summer months; either before or after 11pm. Try approaching your neighbours first and ask them politely if they could keep the noise down. Failing that contact your environmental health service and see if they offer an evening response service. If they don’t ask that they make an alternative arrangement(s) to witness the noise.

People can often forget that at night the background level of noise reduces to the extent that, very often, close neighbours can hear conversations clearly. People are entitled to keep your windows open during the summer months and not be unduly disturbed by noise. The time of day and frequency of disturbance are key factors when assessing nuisance.

There are ways to reduce noise from outdoor sources but it is always best to remove the noise source.

If you are planning a party

Anyone having a party or gathering outside should follow the following tips to respect their neighbours:

  • Don’t have music outside
  • Move the party inside at a reasonable hour
  • Finish at a reasonable time (let your guests know in advance)
  • Keep the number of outdoor “sessions” to a minimum

Find out more and discover how you can improve your chances of tackling noise successfully with our Resources.

How to Tackle a Noisy Neighbour – Don’t Retaliate!

How to tackle a noisy neighbour

Picture the scene; your next door neighbour enjoys entertaining their friends on a regular basis (in fact most nights). They play music, chat and laugh until the small hours. Initially, you put up with some disruption; acknowledging that they are young and are just having fun.

It’s the third night in a row now though, your blood pressure is rising and you are starting to feel frantic. Eventually the red mist descends and a little voice in your head tells you what you must do. Within minutes you’ve: downloaded Cliff Richard’s greatest hits, pointed the speakers at the wall, pressed ‘repeat’, whacked the volume up, grabbed the car keys and left the house.

You come home a couple of hours later and turn off Cliff mid-flow. All is now quiet. Your action has provided a momentary sense of relief and gratification. However, that feeling quickly fades and that anxious feeling returns whilst you lay in bed thinking about the evening’s episode and what may lay ahead. (Afterall, you have just made a declaration of war).

Keep your cool – do not retaliate

It may be hard to resist but, in the long run, keeping your cool and maintaining the moral high ground will pay dividends. As well as the potential of wrecking neighbour relations completely and spoiling any chance of resolving your situation amicably there is also a more important and legal argument that stands against any form of retaliation.

Your own conduct may, in some circumstances, be an important consideration for enforcers and, ultimately, the courts. If you deliberately create noise to frustrate or as a reaction against perpetrators this will be seen as a malicious action and may amount to a nuisance. In other words, you might end up being the one who ends up in trouble!

The basis for this decision was established way back in 1893 when one man, affected by noise from an adjoining neighbour, banged on walls, beat trays and shouted in retaliation. It was found that his actions constituted a nuisance and an injunction was granted to restrain him. One of the central tenets to nuisance law is in whether the person causing the noise is acting in a reasonable manner. If you are able to keep your cool you will be able to avoid a counter-complaint and any claim that you have acted unreasonably.


If talking to your neighbour does not result in an improved situation you could consider mediation. We talk about the options for taking your own action in our tutorial.