What is a Noisy Neighbour?
This sounds like a silly question. Surely, a noisy neighbour is a neighbour who makes too much noise.
But how much noise is ‘too much noise’?
It would be so easy if the definition of ‘too much noise’ was ‘any noise above 70 decibels’. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. There are many factors that contribute to an assessment of ‘too much noise’.
Before we move onto those contributory factors, let’s look at just who it is who might be making this assessment: the Environmental Health Department of your local council.
Your local council’s Environmental Health Department is responsible for health and safety enforcement in businesses, investigating food poisoning outbreaks, pest control, regulating private rented landlords and environmental health services to residents and businesses in the borough. They are also responsible for dealing with noise pollution. In some cases, your local council may even have a specific ‘Noise and Nuisance Team’.
The Proximity of the Noise
Someone playing loud music in a detached house, with a distance of several metres between their property and the next, is far less likely to be considered a noisy neighbour than someone making the equivalent noise in an adjacent apartment in a block of flats.
The Timing of the Noise
If your neighbour is making a racket late at night or in the early hours of the morning, it is more likely to be considered a nuisance. Obviously, this creates problems if you happen to work shift but, unfortunately, noisy neighbour issues are considered in the light of perceived ‘norms’, one of which is: people sleep at night and are awake during the day.
Also, a noise which is sporadic and jarring (but still occurs relatively frequently) is likely to be considered more problematic than a noise which is consistent and predictable.
Noise which only occurs now and then – for example, the occasional party – is unlikely to be pursued by your council. If your neighbour is having a party every other weekend, this may be considered an issue.
The Frequency of the Noise
High-pitched noises (i.e. noises of higher frequency) can be more penetrating and irritating and, as such, are more likely to be considered a nuisance.
Where the Noise is Heard
If the disturbing noise is predominantly heard in a bathroom or kitchen, it is unlikely to be classified as nuisance noise. If it is heard in a living area or bedroom, it will be taken more seriously by the Environmental Health Officers of your local council.
Why is Your Neighbour Noisy?
This is the tricky area of motive. If it can be proved that your neighbour is making noise with malicious intent, the council are likely to attempt to intervene. This can be quite hard to prove. An example of this is when a neighbour leaves a radio blasting out the Kerrang! channel whilst they’re out at work or even on holiday!
The Eggshell Rule
Also known as the ‘Thin Skull Rule’, this applies when the complainant (i.e. the person on the receiving end of noisy neighbour behaviour) is considered overly sensitive. In order for noise to be considered a nuisance, it must be of a nature that a ‘reasonable person’ would be adversely affected by it.
A noisy neighbour is likely to be someone who (according to the Environmental Health Department or Noise and Nuisance Team):
- Lives in an adjoining property with the noise being made in close proximity to a living or sleeping area
- Makes noise during the night or the early hours of the morning
- Is frequently noisy
A noisy neighbour is likely to be considered more of a nuisance if they:
- Make noise frequently but unpredictably
- Create high-pitched or more unpleasant types of noise
- Have malicious motives
Your local council might be less able to help you if:
- You are unusually sensitive to the noise being made