Dealing With Noise Nuisance

Photo of annoyed young woman unable to fall asleep because of loud neighbors

How councils deal with complaints about noise at night, intruder alarms, construction noise and loudspeakers in the street. Councils must look into complaints about noise that could be a ‘statutory nuisance’ (covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990).

For the noise to count as a statutory nuisance it must do one of the following:

  • Unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises
  • Injure health or be likely to injure health
  • If they agree that a statutory nuisance is happening or will happen in the future, councils must serve an abatement notice. This requires whoever’s responsible to stop or restrict the noise. The notice will usually be served on the person responsible but can also be served on the owner or occupier of the premises.

The abatement notice can be delayed for up to 7 days while the council tries to get the person responsible to stop or restrict the noise.

Councils are responsible for looking into complaints about noise from:

  • Premises including land like gardens and certain vessels (for example, loud music or barking dogs)
  • Vehicles, machinery or equipment in the street (for example, music from car stereos)

Statutory noise nuisance laws don’t apply to noise from: traffic or planes (they do apply to model planes), political demonstrations and demonstrations about a cause or premises occupied by the armed forces or visiting forces.

Councils can decide what level of service they provide to deal with noise complaints, for example, whether to have officers on call at night.

Noise Complaints

Noise at Night: Warning Notices

Councils can investigate complaints of statutory nuisance to tackle noise produced at any time of day or night. They may also issue warning notices in response to complaints about noise above permitted levels from 11pm to 7am. These warning notices can be used by councils for noise that’s not a statutory nuisance.

The warning notice must tell the recipient:

  • that the noise is coming from the premises between 11pm and 7am
  • that the noise exceeds, or may exceed permitted levels as measured from within the complainant’s dwelling
  • that the noise must be reduced to below the permitted level in a specified period (this must be at least 10 minutes after the notice is served and must end by 7am)
  • what time the notice is issued.

Noise From Other Premises

If the noise comes from other premises (not a dwelling), the notice must say that the person responsible for the premises may be guilty of an offence if noise exceeding permitted levels is made in the period specified.

If Noise Isn’t Reduced

If the council thinks the noise still exceeds the permitted level after the specified period and wants to prosecute, they must measure the noise level from within the dwelling of the person who’s complained.

Permitted Noise Levels

The permitted noise level using A-weighted decibels (the unit environmental noise is usually measured in) is:

  • 34 dBA (decibels adjusted) if the underlying level of noise is no more than 24 dBA
  • 10 dBA above the underlying level of noise if this is more than 24 dBA.

Penalties For Not Complying With a Warning Notice

If someone doesn’t comply with a warning notice without a reasonable excuse, councils can:

  • Give a fixed penalty notice (FPN) giving them the chance to pay a fine (up to £110 for dwellings and £500 for licensed premises) within 14 days, instead of being prosecuted.
  • Prosecute them if they don’t issue an FPN or if the person responsible doesn’t pay the fine on time (if convicted they can get a fine of up to £1,000 for dwellings and an unlimited amount for licensed premises), remove noise-making equipment like loudspeakers.


Noise From Intruder Alarms

To deal with noise caused by problems with intruder alarms, councils can issue both: an abatement notice requiring the noise to stop (councils must do this if the alarm is causing a statutory nuisance) a warning notice (for noise between 11pm to 7am).

Alarm Notification Areas

In alarm notification areas, owners or occupiers with an alarm must give the council details of a key holder who can enter the property and turn off the alarm.

To set up an alarm notification area councils must:

  • Advertise the proposed notification area in a local newspaper or newsletter, allowing at least 28 days for comments.
  • Review comments. Notify all premises in the affected area, highlighting the date the notification area starts (which must be at least 28 days from the notification date), by: letter and advertising in a local newspaper.

If the occupier or owner fails to give the council details of a key holder, the council can do one of the following:

  • issue a fixed penalty notice giving them the chance to pay a fine of between £50 and £80 (the default amount is £75) as an alternative to being prosecuted.
  • Prosecute them if they don’t issue an FPN or if the person responsible doesn’t pay the fine on time (if convicted, they
    can be fined up to £1,000).

What Councils Can Do If They Can’t Reach a Key Holder

If councils can’t reach a key holder they can enter properties without force to silence alarms if all the following apply:

  • They’ve taken reasonable steps to contact the key holder to silence the alarm.
  • The alarm has been going off constantly for 20 minutes or 1 hour intermittently, the noise is likely to give people nearby reasonable cause for annoyance. If the council needs to use force to silence an alarm, they need a warrant.

Key Holders In Alarm Notification Areas

Key holders must do all of the following:

  • Have keys to the property and be able to access the alarm, live or be situated near the premises.
  • Know how to turn the alarm off and agree to be a key holder.

For non-residential premises, key holders must be one of the following:

  • The owner or occupier of the premises.
  • Someone acting on behalf of the owner or occupier (if the occupier or owner isn’t an individual, for example is owned by a company) or a key holding company.


Noise From Construction Works

Councils can serve a notice on people carrying out construction or demolition works and tell them how the work should be carried out to avoid a potential statutory noise nuisance..

The notice can specify any of the following:

  • A noise level
  • The plant or machinery that can be used
  • The hours when work can be done
  • Steps that need to be taken to minimise noise

Those failing to comply with the notice can be prosecuted and fined an unlimited amount, with further fines for each day that they fail to comply.


At Cambridge Safety we aim to help the business sector to keep within the bounds of current health, safety and environmental legislation and to improve the overall standards of safety.

To find out more about health and safety in the workplace, please get in touch today.

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