Noise Nuisance – Legal Remedies

Noise is understandably something that can get under our skin. Constant noise or intermittent noise that is jarring or unpleasant can lead to stress and psychiatric damage requiring therapeutic intervention. What most people want is for the noise to stop.

It is important to keep a log of noise, dates, time of day, duration, volume, where it can be heard, and whether there are periods where it is worse than other days.

If you are suffering from noise nuisance it is important to politely bring it to the attention of the person or organisation causing the noise or who is letting it happen. This should be noted, what was said, the  time and date, to whom it was said, and any response. If that fails, a legal letter can be sent from one of our lawyers. In some instances we can send a letter without disclosing the identity of the person complaining.

If you have received a letter from a lawyer bringing to your attention a noise nuisance, we can assist you by replying on your behalf.

Those suffering from noise nuisance can often bring a civil claim for compensation (damages). In some instances, it may be possible to obtain an injunction. However, injunctive relief is not necessarily a simple remedy to obtain.

Noise might come from businesses through their walls or from an open work yard with moving plant, it may be a neighbour’s or business premises’ loud music, or it may be a child or a barking dog that is causing noise nuisance, by way of example. Whatever the noise, if it is unreasonable it may be actionable.

Local authorities have powers to send a notice to persons or firms causing the noise, and criminal penalties can follow if the noise does not reduce or stop. Before they do so they will take details of the noise concern and may wish to see the diary entries of the noise levels and frequency. If the informal letter does not have a beneficial effect the local authority can send a formal noise abatement notice. An individual who fails to stop or reduce the noise in accordance with the requirements of the notice can be prosecuted for committing a criminal offence.

It should be noted that a person who receives a noise abatement notice has the right to bring an appeal against its issuance, within 21 days. The time limit is generally fixed and so there should be no delay on the part of those who wish to challenge them to take appropriate steps. We can advise on this.

Prosecutions for noise nuisance are usually brought by councils pursuant to The Environmental Protection Act of 1990. We defend people and organisations who are being prosecuted for noise nuisance. See the government’s guidance on: how councils deal with noise complaints.

A fine in the criminal courts can be significant but the financial means of a paying defendant must be taken into account. A criminal behaviour order can also be imposed.

The civil route can be useful because one can make repeated claims for compensation over time, if the perpetrator does not stop, or where the local authority refuses to act or takes insufficient action. One of the problems people see is that the person or organisation that is causing the noise will reduce the volume and frequency for a while, then ramp it back up knowingly or unknowingly, once they feel that the council is no longer interested.

Compensation levels awarded in the civil courts will depend on the nature of the noise, the level of stress or psychiatric damage that is caused by the noise. Medical evidence may be needed to support such a claim.

Steps to deal with noise nuisance

1) Record the noise: audio, video and diary records. (Ensure that any audio recording or videoing is not unlawful.)

2) Contact the local authority about the problem and encourage them to use their powers.

3) Consider civil legal action to sue for damages, and possibly an injunction.

We can advise anyone with a noise problem or facing a complaint of being noisy, on the remedies that may be open to them. Some noise, unfortunately, is part and parcel of life and may be an unintended consequence of running a business or holding a lawful activity. Not all noise nuisance will be actionable. Each case therefore turns on its own facts, and the merits of each case will need to be examined with care.

See our article on Damages Awarded in Dog Barking Nuisance Cases

If you are fed up with noise that has become a nuisance and wish to do something about it, or, if you are facing complaints about noise and are being threatened with legal action, contact Barristers.London without obligation and in strict confidence to discuss our legal advice and representation services. Our fees are competitve.

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