How we investigate Noise Complaints
On receipt of your complaint, we may ask you for some additional information. The council will liaise with registered social and private landlords and other agencies about your complaint.
Your complaint will be allocated to a specific Officer and you will be given their name and contact telephone number.
Initially we will to write to the person or organisation you are complaining about to advise them that a complaint has been made, without mentioning where the complaint has come from, to give them the chance to address the situation. This very often results in an improvement in the situation however there may be no improvement at all, indeed on rare occasions the situation may get worse.
You will receive an acknowledgement of your complaint and a diary sheet for you to record the disturbances you are experiencing during the next few weeks. The diary sheet should then be returned to your named Officer. Please note the diary sheet may be used as evidence in any legal action so it is important that it is completed accurately and with care.
If the diary sheet is not returned, no further action can be taken.
What happens then?
The Officer will assess the information on the diary sheet to determine the extent of the disturbance and times it is likely to occur. They will either visit to try and witness the noise themselves or install noise monitoring equipment in your property, to gather evidence of the noise occurring. This evidence gathering will provide information to assess whether the noise is a Statutory Nuisance. Visits will be made at the times noted on your diary sheet. If the noise occurs in the evening or at night, we will pre-arrange visits with you.
If we are satisfied that the noise is a Statutory Nuisance - 'an unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of property', an Abatement Notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 will be served on the person causing the problem. Where the notice requires work to be carried out, such as installation of an acoustic enclosure or simply to lower the volume on the television or stereo, a set timescale is given. Failure to comply with the notice after that time is a criminal offence and the person could be prosecuted. If the notice is ignored, we can also prosecute for failing to comply with the notice. In appropriate cases, we can also obtain a warrant from a Magistrate to seize all noise-making equipment, such as stereos, televisions, mixing desks, computers and radios.
What if the noise isn't a nuisance?
Not all noise is a nuisance; it may just be an annoyance or inconvenience. We must look at recent case Law as well as any evidence we have collected, to decide if formal action is appropriate, proportionate and in the public interest.
There are some occasions where the council is unable to take action, particularly where the noise occurs intermittently or is not judged to be a Statutory Nuisance. If the council decides that formal action cannot be taken, you will be informed and you will be given advice about taking action yourself.
Environmental Health Officers and Environmental Protection Officers are recognised experts with regard to investigating and actioning noise complaints and their professional judgement is very important - if they consider that a nuisance is being caused a Magistrate will normally accept their view. However in some cases the Officer may be sympathetic to the effect the noise is having on you, but unable to say it would represent a nuisance to the "average" person.
Local authorities take noise problems very seriously and will do their best to help.
Last updated: 19/05/2011
Pages in Noise Nuisance
- 1. What can I do if I am suffering a noise problem?
- 2. Reporting a Noise Nuisance
- 3. You are here: How we investigate Noise Complaints
- 4. Taking your own action and alternatives to legal action
- 5. Burglar Alarms
- 6. Transport and Noise in the Street