We all expect a low level of background noise to permeate the walls and windows of our homes. Traffic, nearby barking dogs, aircraft and pedestrians for example. When that noise becomes a nuisance is a different matter altogether. Noise interference can significantly affect our mental and physical well-being, preventing us from getting a good night’s sleep and affecting our ability to concentrate and relax in our own homes.
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Other noise nuisance issues might require a different approach. If a neighbour’s loud music is keeping you up all night, a DIY project is carrying on too late or too early or a barking dog just won’t stop then there are things you can do to stop suffering in silence.
The first step is usually to talk to the person who is causing the noise nuisance. By asking politely, you might find that the situation resolves itself and the person might even be suitably apologetic and not realised they were upsetting anyone. If the person is not receptive to your attempts, then you can contact Environmental Health in your local area for further advice.
Councils have certain powers under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to deal with noise that becomes a ‘statutory nuisance’. Sounds of everyday life are one thing but sounds become a ‘noise’ when they disturb or annoy someone else’s quality of life. The noise must be indicative of unreasonable behaviour. Loud music all night is unreasonable whereas children playing in a garden during the day is not.
It’s helpful to keep a diary of when these noise nuisances occur. Noise-monitoring equipment is also available should the council wish to investigate what’s happening. Diary entries and the recordings from monitoring equipment could be used as evidence in court.
Domestic noise can be created from a number of sources. The sounds of cooking, talking, playing, footsteps or electrical equipment might all be audible through walls between you and neighbour. Aside from adding extra insulation, which will be affected by Party Wall regulations, there isn’t much that can be done unless the noise is proven to be unreasonable or significantly interferes with your enjoyment of your own premises.
Commercial noise from nearby entertainment venues, retail stores or pubs is dealt with in the same way as complaints over domestic noise. Readings are often required from your property to establish exactly how loud the disturbance is.
Construction site noise is limited by the Control of Pollution Act 1974. Any sites of demolition or construction work are only able to operate in residential areas between the hours of 08.00 and 18.00 during weekdays and 09.00 until 13.00 on Saturdays. No noisy work should be undertaken on a Sunday or a Bank Holiday.