What Are Noise Complaints and What Is the Law in the UK?

A noise complaint is a complaint people can make to their local council in order to address a noise issue in their surrounding area, for example coming from neighbours. These complaints can be made to the council in the form of a ‘statutory nuisance.’ A statutory nuisance is valid when the noise issue is a nuisance, and/or damaging to the health of the person making the claim. Reassuringly, in the UK when new builds and developments are being constructed, they must undergo sound insulation testing. Part of this process, particularly in the case of houses of multiple occupancy (HMO), entails impact and airborne testing, which will help to some degree with potential neighbour noises.

What Is Deemed a Statutory Nuisance?

There are various different disturbances that may fall under the category of a statutory nuisance; all valid claims either causing a nuisance to the surrounding neighbour(s) and/or having to potential to damage their health. Below is a list of some of the issues that could be classed as a statutory nuisance:

  • Artificial light (this does not include street lamps)
  • Gases, smoke or fumes
  • Excessive amounts of litter and rubbish
  • Noise

There are many different types of noises that are potentially valid for a statutory nuisance claim, including a dog barking or loud music. Statutory nuisance claims though, are only considered valid if the nuisance is, or is likely to, damage health, and is “unreasonably and substantially” interfering with peoples’ enjoyment of the surrounding premises (e.g. their home).

Statutory nuisances are covered in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. When a complaint is made, the council is obliged to investigate the issue, and if they agree it is a statutory nuisance, they will serve what is known as an abatement notice.

How Do I Make a Noise Complaint?

If you feel that your noise complaint falls under the category of a statutory nuisance, you can report a noise nuisance to your local council. You can enter your postcode in here and the gov.uk site will direct you to the relevant pages on how to make a noise complaint with your local council. Complaints can be made over the phone or online. If you are experiencing issues with noise from your neighbours, it is important to try and resolve this with them first before getting the council involved. Only when talking to your neighbour fails should you enlist the help of the council and make a complaint.

What Is an Abatement Notice?

An abatement notice is a type of warning the council can issue out to people. When a valid statutory nuisance complaint is made, the council will give an abatement notice to those who are deemed responsible for the nuisance. This abatement will detail the actions that must be taken in order to stop the nuisance.

This notice could require the people responsible for the nuisance to restrict the activity causing said nuisance, either stopping it entirely or limiting it to particular times of the day to eliminate or reduce the issues it brings to those who made the complaint.

If those issued an abatement notice do not comply with its specified requirements, penalties may then apply for non-compliance. This information is provided in the notice.

What Are the Penalties for Non-Compliance?

Penalties for not complying with an abatement notice can vary, from charging a lump sum to applying for an injunction. Penalties for non-compliance can be considerably large. Therefore, it’s always important to follow the requirements of any abatement given to you or your business to avoid further issues. Penalties for non-compliance include the following:

  • Additional fines (applied to each day of non-compliance)
  • Applying for an injunction with the High Court
  • Confiscating equipment
  • Charging a lump sum

If charged a lump sum for non-compliance, the amount of the sum is decided by the court and is dependent upon the precise situation. For those breaking a noise-related abatement order within their home, a fine of up to £5,000 can be charged. For those breaking it within a business/factory, the fine can be considerably larger (up to £20,000).

Can I Appeal an Abatement Notice?

Those who have been issued an abatement notice can appeal. Those who wish to appeal must do so within the first 21 days of receiving the notice. You may be successful in your appeal if this notice was issued to the incorrect person. You may also be successful in your appeal if the notice is not backed by legal tests showing that the noise is a valid statutory nuisance.

Those who have applied, as the gov.uk website states, “the best practical means” to try and stop the nuisance may also be able to use this as an appeal for both an abatement notice and as a defence when prosecuted for non-compliance with said notice.

When appealing for an abatement, it’s vital that you ensure you have valid grounds to make the appeal (such as those mentioned above.) If you do not have valid grounds, you must follow the requirements issued to you by the abatement notice and any penalties that may have also been applied for non-compliance to avoid further issues.