Noise and nuisance is a common problem. Local authorities receive some 180,000 complaints a year relating to noise. With 3000 alone from the Brighton and Hove area. Fortunately, there are remedies available to landlords, occupiers and local authorities.
WHAT IS NUISANCE?
It is a criminal offence to create excessive noise or nuisance that interferes with other people’s rights. This is in relation to the use and enjoyment of their home and community. Such nuisance is often referred to as a public or statutory nuisance. Statutory nuisance is defined as a matter which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance and includes:
- noise emitted from premises such as noisy parties
- noise from vehicles, machinery or equipment in the street
- the state of premise such as verminous conditions
- accumulations or deposits such as rubbish dumping
- smoke, gas, fumes or noise emitted from premises
- nuisance arising from the place or manner in which an animal is kept (e.g. overcrowding)
WHAT ARE THE LANDLORD’S DUTIES?
A landlord has a duty to keep the structure, exterior and other parts of the building in a good state of repair. Also to give their tenant’s the benefit of quiet enjoyment of the property. Allowing premises to fall into a poor condition prejudicial to health can constitute a statutory nuisance. For further information on landlords responsibilities on their rental properties click here.
How to make a noise complaint?
One of the ways to make a noise compliant would be to speak to your local authority. These are known as statutory nuisance under the environmental protection act in 1990. Items that relates to a statutory nuisance which are outlined above.
One of the best ways to deal with this would be to speak to your local environmental health department at the time the nuisance takes place. Or alternatively look to see if the council have a an out of hours number.
The local authority wouldn’t deal with noise complaints that deal with transport and they don’t deal with noise complaints about the street from the general public except for busking.
They also cannot deal with complaints about poor sound installations or everyday noise this includes things like walking, talking, laughing, children playing or babies crying. This is because the current law doesn’t allow them.
They will look at every case in its entirety on an individual basis, will collect evidence and then can serve a statutory notice.
Reporting noise from an alarm.
If you think this relates to a burglar alarm and on a building you might want to find who deals with the block management or any management company. These are commonly known as managing agents and often deal with buildings on behalf of their client such as blocks of flats, etc.
If the alarm goes off for more than 20 minutes you can report it to environmental health.
When reporting a building alarm you will need to tell them the exact address. If you are reporting a car alarm you need to give them the location, make model, colour and registration.
This means they can check their records for any contact details to help them sort out the issue quickly.
Where we can show an alarm is causing a problem they will take steps to contact the responsible person that deals with it. As stated this could be the managing agent, property valuer etc. Where it is not possible they may disable the alarm and make it silent. They will get back any charges for silencing the alarms.
What can they do about a building alarm?
If they can confirm a building alarm is causing a nuisance they can contact the owners and/or managing agents within an hour so they can disable it.
Where an alarm is on the outside of a building, they can hire an alarm engineer to disconnect. Where the alarm is on the inside of a building they can get a warrant from the magistrates to enter the property although this can take a while.
Once they have a warrant to enter they can hire a locksmith and/or alarm engineer to enter the property disable the alarm and then re-secure the premises.
What can they do about a car alarm?
If they can confirm that an alarm on a vehicle is causing an illegal noise nuisance and they cant contact t the owners within an hour, they will try to disable the alarm.
If they cant disable the alarm or re-secure the vehicle they can have the vehicle towed away to secure location.
This can be very expensive for the owner and especially when they cant disable the alarm or move it to a remote location.
What you could do to prevent an alarm causing an issue.
Make sure the alarm has a cut out device call which triggers up to no more than 20 minutes. This should have a manual reset.
Register your house alarm with he local authority. Once you have registered it they will have contact details or at least 2 key holders who will be able to turn it off.
Make sure the registered keeper details on all alarm vehicles are up to date including the phone number so you can be contacted at all times.
What are the permitted hours for people working on a site such as a block of flats? Are people authorised and regulated to do this?
Permitted working hours.
The local authority may approve requests for temporary extended construction hours. The working hours can be increased to 9pm from Monday – Saturday unless there are reasons against this.
Sundays and bank holidays are non-working days.
Some time work has to happen outside these hours. These would usually be mandatory work to restore services, or where there are certain concerns about working during the day, like on train tracks.
Where possible, the person responsible should contact the noise team to let them know as far in advance as possible. You should also notify surrounding residents and businesses.
Apply for private consent for contractors.
Contractors can apply for private consent for their work. This allows us to agree times and methods for the work of the contractor. If the contractor follows the agreement, it usually prevents any legal against about noise from work.
Can I take my own legal action?
Try a mediation. Rather than resort to a lawyer you may wish to try the following;
- Discuss and resolve the matter directly with the responsible person.
- Use the free confidentially local authority mediation service.
WHAT ARE THE TENANT’S DUTIES?
Tenants must ensure their activities or those of visitors should cause damage to the property or disturbance to those living nearby. If the tenant breaks this covenant, a landlord may apply to the court for possession.
Noise is the most common form of nuisance for landlords and tenants. If the tenant or their visitors have caused the noise the landlord has the authority to deal with the problem under the terms of the tenancy. The landlord has the right to evict tenants as the last resort.
Take your own private legal action.
There may be times when even the local authority cannot help you or obtain the necessary evidence to take action on behalf of a person who has made a noise complaint. This may be due to the noise which occurs being intermittent or the council being unable to gather evidence to put through the statutory notice.
You can in these certain circumstances take independent legal action by complaining directly to a magistrates court under section 82 of the environmental protection act 1990. This will be on the grounds that you are agreed by noise amount to a statutory nuisance. The procedure is fairly simple and should not cost much and you don’t need to employ a solicitor but it is advisable to g et some legal advice.
In order to start such an action you would need to do the following;
- Collect evidence by keeping a daily record on account of all disturbances and how you are affected. Information on these type of diaries should include dates, times and duration of noise. They should be an accurate description of the noise itself. They should state what nature and affect it has on yourself. Ie unable to hear your television, unable to sleep, woken up etc. You then need to lay out what action you took at the time ie whether you spoke to the person.
- Establish the name and address of the person responsible for the noise. This may not necessarily be the legal owner, they could have a managing agent, estate agent and/or a private owner.
- Before proceeding to court you should make a written compliant to the person making the noise. You should give them a period of at least 2 weeks in which to stop the noise. You need to let them know you could take legal proceedings through the magistrates court.
- You need to take the evidence to the local magistrates court and make a compliant under the section 82 of the environmental protection act 1990.
- The court will decide, with a clerk therein, whether you have sufficient evidence for a statutory nuisance. If you have the clerk should issue a court summons and a fixed hearing date for approximately 4-6 weeks time but you will have to pay a fee.
- You and any witnesses and the person summons must appear at the court on a given date. In court you will be required to explain your case, produce your diary and any witnesses. The person causing the nuisance will be cross examined by the court.
- If the magistrates are convinced you have a case then an order will be made requiring the defendant to immediately stop doing what they are to create the noise. They may also be fined.
- If an order is ignored you must keep further records and if necessary return to the court. Fines can be up to £5,000 and on a regular basis.
- If you are successful you can apply to the court for costs against the defendant.
It is important to keep written records of the dates, times and duration of the offending noise. As well as a description of its nature and the distress it causes to the occupier.