Noise and nuisance


A nuisance may be anything that can adversely affect a person or their enjoyment of their home or premises. Noise is one of the most common forms of nuisance. It is defined as unwanted sound that, when noise reaches certain levels and intensities, can be annoying and adversely impact people's mental or physical health. Local authorities are responsible for controlling and dealing with complaints about noise. The majority of legislation and guidance regarding noise pollution is issued by the UK government.

You can click on the headings below for an overview of UK policy across the four nations, and where to go for further information.


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Recurring noise or nuisance


In the first instance, you may wish to contact the noisy establishment or neighbour, in case they aren’t aware of the issue. If it persists, note down dates and times to show a pattern of nuisance issues.
Using this note of the time of nuisance incidents, you can then report this to your Local Council (usually to Environmental Health department):

Report in England & Wales
Northern Ireland – contact your council
Scotland – report noise issue

Local Authority powers to curb noise and nuisance

Environmental health officers investigate complaints to local councils about noise and other nuisance. They assess the noise or nuisance level from the premises that the complaint is about and decide whether it is “prejudicial to health or a nuisance”, in which case it is a "statutory nuisance" under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Even if the noise or nuisance does not affect your health (for example, by disturbing your sleep), it can be regarded as a nuisance if the level of noise or nuisance is unreasonable for your neighbourhood. The council can serve an “abatement notice" on the person making the noise or nuisance. This could require the nuisance activity to stop, demand steps to reduce the nuisance (such as insulation or volume control) or restrict the times of day that the nuisance activity can take place.

The notice can be served on the landlord or owner of the premises if the problem relates to the condition of the premises. The person named on the notice has 21 days to challenge it in a magistrates’ court (or in Scotland, the sheriff court), after which they can be fined for each day that the nuisance continues. Usually, there is no need for you to go to court. Local authorities are allowed to do “whatever is necessary” to enforce the notice. This includes confiscating any equipment that is causing the nuisance, so once the council has taken action the nuisance should stop.

Local authorities also have separate powers to tackle anti-social behaviour including noise from council tenants and local residents under Part 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. If you are not satisfied with the steps your local authority has taken, ask the environmental health department why the noise or other behaviour has not stopped. If you are still unhappy you can complain to the local government and social care ombudsman, or you can take action yourself through the courts.


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