Torbay Council

Cookie Policy

Noise Pollution

We receive hundreds of complaints about noise caused by neighbours each year.  The main problems are:
If you have neighbours you must expect to hear them sometimes. You cannot expect absolute silence. Don't forget, if you can hear them they can probably hear you.
Three reasons why you could be disturbed by noise from neighbours:
  1. They are behaving unreasonably – playing their music or TV too loud.
  2. There is poor sound insulation between the dwellings.
  3. You could have become over-sensitive to their sounds.

What Can You Do?

If your neighbours are Housing Association tenants you can also send a copy of the information to the Housing Manager.

Neighbour Noise Checklist

Here are some tips on how not to create a noise and upset the neighbours.

What will the Council Do?

Community Protection will look at your complaint and noise diary to see what the problem is. If they are able to they will deal with the complaint without revealing your name to the person causing the noise, unless you give permission for it be given.
However, it may take court action to stop the noise and the Council may need you to act as a witness. You should be aware of this, but it may not come to that stage.
Community Protection will usually write to the people alleged to be causing the noise, and explain the situation to them . This usually cures many noise complaints.
If the problem continues and is considered a statutory nuisance an abatement notice will be served and followed up to get the noise stopped this is dependent on their being sufficient evidence. Housing Associations will also consider these problems in relation to the terms of any tenancy agreement in force on their properties, and may be able to take action.
For further information please read our noise policy document in Related Documents.

Taking Your Own Action

In some circumstances the council may be unable to get sufficient evidence to be able to take action on behalf of an individual who has made a complaint. Should this occur, you can take independent action by complaining direct to the Magistrates' Court. This is quite simple and need not cost much; you do need to employ a solicitor, but is advisable to obtain some legal advice.
Before approaching the court, it is a good idea to write to the noise-maker saying that unless the noise is abated by a certain date (e.g. two weeks) you will complain to the Magistrates' Court. Keep a copy of all correspondence. If the noisemaker ignores either a verbal or written request by you to abate the noise, contact the Justices' Clerk's Office at your local Magistrates' Court, explaining that you wish to make a complaint under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
The Clerk of the Court should be able to advise you further. You must give at least three days notice of your intention to complain to the Magistrates' Court, to the person considered responsible for the noise. The notice should provide details of the complaint and may be delivered by hand or by post. A Solicitor can do this for you (a solicitors' letter will show you are serious). You need to prove to the Magistrate, beyond reasonable doubt, that the noise you are complaining about amounts to a nuisance. The diary you keep will be important evidence. Although the law says that only one person needs to be affected for there to be a nuisance, in practice the evidence of other witnesses will strengthen your claim.
A date will be set for the hearing and the person about whom you are complaining, will be summoned to Court. You will be required to explain your problem and produce evidence of the disturbance. You will have to give your own evidence and cross-examine your supporting witnesses to draw out their evidence. The neighbour will be able to cross-examine you and your witnesses and may produce their own evidence. A Solicitor will help, but you can take action on your own. The law relating to business premises is slightly different: they can defend themselves by proving that they are using the "best practicable means" to prevent the noise.
If you prove your case, the Court will make an order requiring the nuisance to be abated, and/or prohibit recurrence of the nuisance. It also has the power at the time the nuisance order is made, to impose a fine on the defendant (currently up to £5,000). If this order is ignored, further Court action will need to be taken; you must therefore continue to keep records of noise nuisance in case it is necessary to return to Court. If you fail to prove your case you may have to pay some of the defendant's expenses in coming to Court.
Private action advice sheet is available: Legal Advice Noise document.

Alternatives to Legal Action

Noise disputes are often resolved informally. Legal action should be a last resort. It is unpleasant and will inevitably further sour the relationship between you and your neighbour. It is very important that you do your best to resolve any problem in a friendly way.

Commercial Noise

Noise from commercial premises is often dealt with in the same way as that from a domestic premises. However, in some cases we may not need to prove a statutory nuisance where the premises holds a public entertainment licence. These licences are issued in order to ensure that the disturbance caused to the general public is kept to a minimum.
Action can be taken against a premises that operates outside of its licensing agreement.

Related Documents

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