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What is a noise nuisance?

No home is soundproof, and it is normal for you and your neighbours to hear each other. It is only when a noise goes beyond what is ‘normal’ that it becomes a nuisance.

Noise nuisance is broadly defined as excessive noise that causes stops your normal "quiet enjoyment" of your property. This is known as a ‘statutory nuisance’.

Under Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, we have the power to deal with a noise nuisance which is persistent and unreasonable. The level of noise, its timing and how long it lasts may be taken into consideration when deciding whether a nuisance has occurred.

In most cases, we will only investigate noises coming from private land or property, but there are some exceptions. One example is a car alarm from a car parked in the road.

Types of noise we can deal with:

  • Noisy neighbours
  • Loud music
  • Barking dogs
  • Construction sites
  • Burglar and car alarms
  • Pubs and nightclubs
  • Industrial and commercial noise, e.g. a restaurant kitchen extractor

Noises that are unlikely to be a statutory nuisance:

  • Normal living noise
  • Noise caused by poor sound insulation (if the person/s is behaving responsibly)
  • A one-off party

Noises that we have no power to deal with:

  • Road traffic/engine noise on the public highway
  • People shouting, laughing or screaming on a public road or footpath
  • Air traffic noise
  • Emergency roadworks at night carried out by utility companies
  • Young children playing

Noise levels

The law does not specify a maximum noise level (decibel level) that is considered a nuisance. Each case is judged on what might be reasonable and normal for the situation.

We take into consideration factors such as:

  • when the noise is happening (noise can be a nuisance at any time of the day or night)
  • duration of the noise
  • how often it is happening
  • type of noise
  • the volume of the noise
  • there is social acceptance (for example, bonfire night or church bells)

Page last reviewed: 5 October 2020