How to resolve a neighbourhood noise nuisance

Excessive noise from neighbours can be annoying, stressful and generally disruptive to the quality of life in a residential area.  This may be because of loud music or a television, barking dogs, shouting, banging doors and DIY activities.  However, no house or flat is totally soundproof and everyone should expect to hear a degree of noise from neighbours.

Often while it may seem difficult, the best way forward is to discuss the problem with your neighbour.  An immediate approach and investigation by the council can lead to a serious breakdown in relations between neighbours and, while our approach seeks to avoid this, formal action should, if possible, be a last resort.

Where we investigate a noise complaint we aim to gain sufficient evidence to prove that a statutory nuisance exists.  If your neighbour does not co-operate and solve the problem, it can take several months to gather sufficient evidence to take the matter to court.  We aim to solve 90% of noise complaints within three months.

Sometimes, a noise which you find very annoying, might not meet the legal requirements required for formal action.  This might be due to:

  • poor sound insulation in your property;
  • you may be especially sensitive to normal acceptable levels of noise; or
  • you might even be suffering medical conditions causing noises in the inner ear for example tinnitus.

What can you do for yourself?

If you are being affected by a noise nuisance, you should consider taking the following steps.  These may resolve the problem amicably and, if they don't, the fact you have taken them will help you in any further city council action

  • Approach your neighbour and politely explain that you are being troubled by their noise.  If appropriate, invite them into your home to hear the level of noise for themselves. Although you might find this difficult, it is surprising how often neighbours are unaware of the problems they are causing.  Most will be glad to do what they can to reduce excessive noise.
  • If the problem seems to be due to inadequate sound insulation there are a number of DIY solutions available to improve it and we can advise you where to find further information.
  • If your initial requests to your neighbour are snubbed or ignored, write to them about the problem.  Refer to your previous approach to them, anything they might have agreed to do, and the effect the noise is having, on you or your family.  Ask them again to stop making a noise nuisance.
  • Start to keep a record of the times you have spoken to your neighbours and copies of the letters you write.  Also, you should keep a diary of the dates and times the nuisance occurs, its duration and the effect it has on you.  This will provide the first level of evidence in the subsequent legal action that may be needed.  Be careful to make records as the events happen, not sometime later and try not to exaggerate.
  • Tell you neighbour every time a nuisance occurs.  If the problem carries on, move on to making a formal complaint to us.

What can we do?

Noise and vibration problems in Stoke-on-Trent are dealt with by Public Protection.

We do not involve ourselves in general neighbourhood disputes and can not resolve matters of anti-social behaviour such as drug and alcohol abuse, swearing and threatening behaviour.  There are other bodies who will deal with these matters, for example

  • Stoke-on-Trent City Council Anti Social Behaviour Team on 0800 561 5610; or
  • Staffordshire Police on 0300 1234455

If you do contact us, we will probably be able to help you, particularly if you have already tried to resolve the problem yourself.  However, to do so officers will have to either witness the noise for themselves or install various types of noise monitoring equipment within your property.

In the first instance, we will write to the neighbour advising them of the alleged problem and the possible legal situation if they fail to reduce any noise nuisance.

The success of our action will rely on you helping in gathering evidence by keeping the diary log forms provided, allowing access and carefully following instructions in respect of noise monitoring devices.  Please return any log forms supplied to you as soon as possible - for daily incidents within one week and for less frequent incidents within two to three weeks.  If it is not returned within four weeks, we will assume that the problem has stopped and the case will be closed.

If officers witness/record the noise, and are satisfied that it is a nuisance in legal terms, they will serve an Abatement Notice on your neighbour under section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.  If the nuisance continues this would then be an offence leading to the possible prosecution of the offender and/or seizure of any noise making equipment.

You should be aware that if this stage is reached your evidence would be essential to the success of any legal action we might take and you may have to appear in court.  However, virtually all of the 1,200 cases we deal with each year are resolved before this stage is reached.

Please note

We can only investigate your noise complaint if you actually live within the city boundary.  If in doubt check that you pay your council tax to us.  If the person causing a noise problem is a city council tenant, the complaint should be made initially to your local centre.