While we’ve tried to note some of the most commonly asked questions we receive, this is not an exhaustive list. If your query has not been answered, please contact our Helpline on 01273 823850 or e-mail us at email@example.com All calls to the Noise Abatement Society may be recorded for training and monitoring purposes.
Please also be aware that the information on this website is provided by the Noise Abatement Society for guidance only and should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. We can’t guarantee the accuracy or content of external websites.
Q: My neighbour insists on doing DIY all weekend. What can I do?
A: Some local authorities recommend that DIY is restricted from between 9am – 7pm during the week, 9am – 5pm on Saturday and 10am – 2pm on Sunday. However it does vary from council to council and they are guidelines rather than law.
In the first instance, it is probably a good idea to talk to your neighbour and ask whether he can limit the DIY to more reasonable hours. Some people just don’t realise that the noise they are making carries through to other people’s houses.
Q: How loud can I play my music in my own home?
A: There is no set level. It will depend whether anyone is likely to be disturbed by the noise. Try closing the door to the room where the music is playing and listening from an adjacent room. If you can still hear your music clearly then it is likely that your neighbour can hear it too.
Be sensitive to music from a stereo in the summer when your neighbours are likely to be in their garden, or have their windows open. Also, be sensitive as to whether your neighbours have young children with earlier bedtimes.
Q: I play a musical instrument, when am I allowed to practise?
A: Again, there are no legally set times for practising your musical instrument, but just be sensitive to your neighbours. You may be delighted to listen to your daughter’s two hour violin recital, but your neighbours may not.
Similarly to playing a radio or stereo, again be sensitive in the summer and to any younger children.
Q: My neighbour keeps having parties and plays loud music until 4 or 5 in the morning. What time can I get them to turn it off?
A: The Noise Act 1996 states that the hours of “night” are 11pm to 7am so technically loud music from a party should be turned off, or at the very least down at 11pm.
However, if you and your neighbour can come to an arrangement as to when the music is turned off, then this will probably save a lot of upset all around. Perhaps you are prepared to let them party until 1am on the odd occasion? And then perhaps they can repay the favour should you want to have a party of your own.
If the parties are constant, and your neighbour is not responding to your requests then you can make a complaint against your neighbour by contacting your local authority in the usual way. See our How To Make A Complaint section.
Q: I live in a flat and my upstairs neighbour has recently installed laminate flooring. I can hear every move they make. Anything I can do?
A: The first thing you should do is check the conditions of the lease. Many leases specifically state that an upstairs flat must be carpeted, particularly in older conversions where the insulation between upstairs and downstairs may not be of the best quality. If your upstairs neighbour is in breach of the conditions of the lease they can simply be made to take the laminate flooring up again.
If the flat is rented then you will need to get in touch with the letting agent or landlord.
DEFRA have produced a report into the development of a guide for the control of noise from laminate and wood floors.
Q: It is possible to insulate cavity walls which divide adjoining residential properties to reduce noise transmission
A: Rockwool Energysaver cavity wall insulation can be used and is an entirely dry system which uses granulated Rockwool blown into an external wall cavity to a predetermined density. Rockwool has the benefit of providing thermal, sound and fire insulation. Click here to find installers in your area.
Q: How can I ensure my alarm doesn't cause a nuisance?
A: Repeated or prolonged ringing of alarms can cause nuisance and distress to neighbours. You should therefore ensure that your alarm is properly maintained and serviced and complies with 4737/BS EN 50131, or BS 7042 (high security systems), or, if it is a wire free alarm, BS 6799 Class 6, as amended by BS DD 244*
*Source: Met Police
The Metropolitan Police website states that ‘all alarm systems should have two keyholders, trained to operate the alarm, able to attend activation within 20 minutes, contactable by telephone and with their own transport.’
You should notify the police in writing of the names and contact details of your two keyholders who can attend to turn off your alarm. You also need to provide to your local authority the details of the police station holding this information.
If your intruder alarm sounds continuously for more than 1 hour then the police or local authority can gain a warrant to enter your premises by force to turn it off.
Q: Can a car alarm be considered a noise nuisance?
A: In the same way as a burglar alarm, a car alarm can be said to be a statutory nuisance. The Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993 includes noise from vehicles:
“noise that is prejudicial to health or a nuisance and is emitted from or caused by a vehicle, machinery or equipment in a street”*
In the same way as an intruder alarm, if a car alarm sounds continuously for more than one hour, and the owner cannot be contacted, then the local authority can authourise works to turn the alarm off, or tow the vehicle to a different location. Usually all costs for this will be incurred by the owner of the vehicle.
Q: I’m at the end of my tether with my noisy neighbours. What is mediation and how does it work?
A: Mediation is a non-legal service were an independent, non-judgemental and totally impartial outsider will listen to the issues of both parties involved and attempt to work out the best course of action for you and your neighbour.
This is done on neutral ground with a view to reaching an amicable compromise and repairing any broken relationships.
This process has been successful in resolving problems especially in less clear cut noise cases such as loud talking, heavy footfalls, running children, door slamming and squeaky floorboards.
For more information on mediation contact:
Community Accord on 01274 431190 or visit their website by clicking the link below http://www.communityaccord.com/content/pages/index.asp
It is possible that your local authority provides a free mediation service but please be aware that mediation is not always a free service and there may be costs incurred.
Q: Noisy firework displays seem to go on for hours these days, are there any regulations in place to control them?
A: There are many regulations in place surrounding fireworks from their manufacture to their sale, to their use in displays under the Fireworks Act 2003 (and 1964 & 1951), the Explosives Act 1875, the Fireworks Regulations 2004, and The Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997.
If you are under 18, you cannot buy the types of fireworks which can be sold only to adults or have them in public places. This includes sparklers.
You are not allowed by law to set off fireworks in the street or other public places, or set off fireworks between 11.00 pm and 7.00 am except on Bonfire Night, New Year’s Day, Chinese New Year or Diwali.
You can let off fireworks until midnight on Bonfire Night and until 1.00 am on New Year’s Day, Chinese New Year or Diwali.
You must have a licence to hold public fireworks displays.
If you are found throwing fireworks in the street, you may be liable for an on-the-spot fine of £80. If found guilty by the courts, you could be fined up to £5,000 and/or be convicted.
If you are using fireworks you must be aware of your neighbours and ensure that you do not cause a nuisance.
Source: Direct Gov, Fireworks Act 2003, Fireworks Regulations 2004, Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997
Q: Do I need to mention my noisy neighbours when I sell my home?
A: When selling your property the solicitor’s questions form provided by your solicitor asking for information on the property may contain a section asking for details of any disputes with neighbours and whether these have been resolved.
So if, for example, you have raised a complaint with your local authority about your neighbour’s constant noisy parties, then that complaint has become a matter of public record and it should be disclosed.
However, whether you are buying or selling any such issues should be discussed with your solicitor or conveyancer and you should follow their expert legal advice.
Q: Building work is waking me up in the morning. What can I do?
A: The Control of Pollution Act 1974 allows each local authority to specify conditions under which construction work can be carried out. It allows them to specify the hours, the noise levels and even the machinery used on the site.
It states that the local authority shall have regard “to the need to protect any persons in the locality in which the premises in question are situation from the effects of noise.”*
You would need therefore to contact your local authority to find out what hours it has allowed the construction company to carry out its works. All building work will also have needed a planning application and there may even have been a consultation meeting with local residents regarding the length and nature of the building work. Again, your local authority will be able to help you with this. Contact their planning department for information about the planning application.
The hours allowed for building works may be 7.30am – 5.30pm Monday to Friday, 7.30am – 1pm on Saturdays and not at all on Sundays or Bank Holidays, but these vary from local authority to local authority.
Failure by a construction company to comply with their designated hours can lead to them being fined.
If you are being disturbed by construction noise outside of your local authority’s designated times then you will need to contact their Environmental Health Team.
Noise at work
Q: I find the noise at work intolerable. What can I do?
A: There are strict regulations concerning noise in the work place. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, came into force in April 2006 and it governs the exposure of employees to noise at work.
It sets out the daily or weekly personal noise exposure for an employee and the peak sound pressure allowed and states that an employer must ensure that risk from noise is “eliminated or reduced to as a low a level as is reasonably practical.”*
It also gives instructions as to the availability to hearing protection and health surveillance.
The Health and Safety Executive has published a selection of leaflets on noise in the workplace, click on the link below.
Health and Safety Executive Infoline: 0845 345 0055, www.hse.gov.uk
Q: What can I do about noise from road vehicles where I live?
A: It depends on what kind of noise you are suffering.
If it is general traffic noise, the UK Government set up the Cleaner Vehicles Task Force in 1997 to encourage people to buy and make vehicles which are among other things, quieter. And there have been mandatory noise standards in place since 1968.
Noise emission limits for cars have been tightened from 82 dB(A) in 1976 to the current 74 dB(A), and 91 dB(A) to 80 dB(A) for large buses and lorries*
*Source: The Department For Transport – The Environmental Impact of Road Vehicles in Use
Our roads are getting busier and often the only answer is hedges or fencing. If it is a recently constructed road then you can contact the Highways Agency and see if you are eligible for compensation. See our FAQ below relating to property values.
If it is noise from ‘boy racers’ holding races and speed trials then they are breaking the law and you can contact the police: Section 12 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 prohibits any race or speed trial on public roads in Great Britain unless is has been granted permission by the local authority.
If you live in a rural area and are being troubled by motorbikes/quad bikes on the footpaths and bridleways, again this is illegal, under Section 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 which states:
“if without lawful authority a person drives a motor vehicle— (a) on to or upon any common land, moorland or land of any other description, not being land forming part of a road, or (b) on any road being a footpath or bridleway, he is guilty of an offence.”*
The right to hold motorbike trials can be applied for to the local authority but unless permission has been granted this is also illegal.
Try and make sure you have some evidence of the offending vehicle when you contact the police e.g. a vehicle number plate and description
Q: What can I do about the from noise Reversing alarms?
A: If you are suffering from noise from delivery vehicles, waste vehicles or maintenance vehicles then you would need to contact the relevant companies or local authorities.
If your complaint relates to the reversing alarms on a delivery vehicle then please contact the Noise Abatement Society’s office on 01273 823850 or info@ noise-abatement.org with the details of the company as they may be eligible for a free broadband reversing alarm as part of the Noise Abatement Society’s ‘Quietening the Streets with Broadband Sound’ campaign.
Q: My property has plummeted in value since they built a by-pass nearby. What can I do?
A: You may be able to claim compensation under Part I of the Land Compensation Act 1973 for the lost value of your home. Though the claim must be made not less than 1 year after the road has been open to traffic and not more than 7 years after the road has been open.
The claims procedure is outlined on the Highways Agency website: http://www.highways.gov.uk/roads/2568.aspx
The Highways Agency has produced several booklets about land compensation which give more details.
Click on the link below for a PDF version of the relevant booklet (Section 3: Compensation When No Land Is Taken)
The Highways Agency website also contains lots of answers to frequently asked questions regarding proposed road schemes. If you are aware of a proposed road scheme in your area and want to find out more about noise assessments of the scheme and even whether you will be eligible to claim for insulation against the noise then click on the link www.highways.gov.uk/knowledge
If you wish to contact The Highways Agency visit their: Contact Page
Complaints line: 0845 50 40 30 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
To find your local Highways Agency office contact the National Switchboard on 08459 55 65 75 or details of your Local Office can be found online.
Q: What can I do about commercial aircraft? flying over my house?
A: Aircraft noise is not covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990, however it is regulated by both the Civil Aviation Act 1982 and other EU Standards.
The Civil Aviation Act 1982 talks about airports needing to monitor their own noise “for the purpose of avoiding, limiting or mitigating the effect of noise connected with the taking off or landing of aircraft at the aerodrome”*.
This includes limiting the hours during which flights can take off and land; imposing regulations on the noise and emissions from aircraft taking off and landing; and possibly imposing a penalty charges scheme if these regulations are not met.
Policy concerning aviation is governed by the Department for Transport (DfT).
If you have a complaint about aircraft noise then you can try one of the following options:
Contact the DfT
You can e-mail the aviation department at the DfT about reduction of aircraft noise on email@example.com
Department for Transport, Aviation Department, Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DR
They aim to reply to all e-mail and letter enquiries within 20 days.
Or ring the Helpdesk on 020 7944 8300
Q: What can I do about Light aircraft flying over my house?
A: If you are suffering from noise due to light aircraft or helicopters you will need to contact the airfield from which they are taking off and landing directly.
The DfT website also has several articles on the policies, guidelines and research on environmental issues surrounding the aviation industry.
Click on the link below for more information.
The Civil Aviation Authority has published a leaflet about aircraft noise. Click on the link below for more information.
The campaign organisation HACAN ClearSkies is currently campaigning against the third runway at Heathrow and the associated noise and environmental pollution it would create. Click on the link below for more information. http://www.hacan.org.uk/
The websites for each of BAA’s 7 UK airports contain information about any noise relating directly to that airport. Click on the link to the relevant airport and then type ‘noise’ into the search bar on the left hand side of the screen and all the related articles will be displayed for you to peruse at your leisure.
DEFRA has published some recent research into noise action plans for 18 airports in England http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2009/090324a.htm
Insulation grants for aircraft noise
It is sometimes possible to receive a grant for sound-proof insulation if you live near an airport. For example, Manchester airport operated a community relations scheme which ran a Sound Insulation Grant Scheme when building their second runway.
It is worth checking out whether the airport near you operates something of this nature.
Insulation has other environmental benefits for your home alongside the acoustic e.g. thermal and fire insulation
Click here for further information on insulating your home.
Q: I suffer from noise from military aircraft. Who can I complain to?
A: The Ministry of Defence states on its website that it takes all complaints about aircraft noise very seriously. They provide the following information about making a complaint. This information was correct as of April 2009.
You can write to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) at:
Ministry of Defence Directorate of Air Staff
Complaints and Enquiries Unit
Level 5, Zone H
Or telephone your complaint to the MoD on 0207 218 6020
If you live in Wales, southern Scotland, Cumbria and Tynedale or Northern Ireland, you may register your complaint with one of our their three RAF Regional Community Relations Officers (RCRO).
RCRO Southern Scotland
Sqn Ldr (Retd)John Gilbert
Dumfries and Galloway
Telephone: 013873 81156
RAF Community Relations Officer for Wales
Squadron Leader Peter Sinclar RAF R
Telephone: 01874 613889
RCRO Cumbria and Tynedale
Telephone: 01768 891391
HQ NI and 38(Irish) Bde
British Forces Post Office 825
Telephone: 028 92263498
Alternatively you may register your complaint by telephone or in writing to your local Royal Navy, Army Air Corp or RAF flying station.
Or you can fill in their online complaints form.
Click here to go to their complaints page
The Ministry of Defence’s Noise Insulation Grant Scheme (NIGS)
In April 2005 NIGS was formally and indefinitely suspended*
Click here for more information about the scheme as it existed.
Low frequency noise
Q: What can I do about low frequency noise?
A: Low frequency noise is often difficult to detect. DEFRA have produced some very useful reports and leaflets. Click on the link below to view these in a new window.
For further information about a UK project to help sufferers from low frequency noise click on http://www.copingwithnoise.org/
Escalating noise complaints nationally
Q: I feel my noise issue is of national concern. How would I bring it to the attention of the government?
A: One of the easiest ways to bring something to the attention of the government is to start by writing to your local councillor or MP.
If there are a group of you with the same concerns consider starting a petition, though be aware you may need to do a lot of leg work to get a large number of signatures on it and sometimes other people do not feel as passionately about an issue as you might.
When writing a petition you will need to find out exactly who it is you need to be petitioning e.g. what branch of local or national government, what specific company
Make sure that you can describe your cause in a couple of concise sentences so that you can explain it to the people whose signatures you are trying to get.
If you want to petition the Prime Minister directly, or if you want to see if there is already one in circulation about your particular area of concern then you can visit petitions.number10.gov.uk
Another way to bring your concerns to a wider audience is to contact your local press: contact their news desk, or write to the letters page of your local paper. In the case of a complaint however, you would need to prove that you have previously followed all recommended procedures correctly.