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Specific remedies against occupiers

This content applies to England & Wales

Specific remedies for noise caused by an occupier.

Noise at night

It is a common misconception that the police are responsible for dealing with noise at night. Instead, in most situations, the local council's environmental health service is responsible by using its general powers under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (see the page on Using the Environmental Protection Act 1990 for details). In addition, using the Noise Act 1996, councils can take swift action against occupiers of premises who create excessive and continuous noise at night, eg at a party or with music equipment. If appropriate, the council can confiscate equipment causing the noise.

Implementation of the Noise Act 1996 is voluntary; a council is not obliged to take action under the Act.[1] Initially, for the Act to apply, the council had  to first declare that the Act was operative in part or all of its area. The Act then came into operation at least three months after the declaration was made. However, the power to investigate night noise has been made available to all councils whether or not they have adopted the provisions of the Noise Act 1996.[2]

For a complaint to be investigated, it must be made between 11pm and 7am and relate to excessive noise from a property at that time. A council officer, who is likely to be an environmental health officer, must take reasonable steps to investigate the complaint.[3] The officer needs to decide whether, if measured, the noise would exceed the level permitted for the particular situation.[4] If the officer decides it would, then s/he may serve a warning notice.[5]

The warning notice:[6]

  • is served on any person who may be responsible for the noise, or, if not identifiable, is left at the property where the noise is coming from
  • states that the officer considers that the noise exceeds, or may exceed, the permitted level
  • warns that if the noise does not stop exceeding the permitted level in a period no earlier than ten minutes after the notice is served and before 7am, then any person who is responsible for the noise may be guilty of an offence.

If the notice is not complied with, without reasonable excuse, then any person who is responsible for the noise is guilty of an offence and may be fined.[7] As an alternative to prosecution, the council can serve a fixed penalty notice. This notice gives the person responsible for the noise 14 days to pay a penalty, both in cases of domestic premises or licensed premises.[8]

In addition, if the notice is not complied with, then the officer can go into the property and seize the equipment that is causing it. If entry is refused, then the officer can obtain a warrant from a justice of the peace, giving authority to enter the property, by force if necessary. Any person who obstructs the officer is liable to a fine.[9]

Any equipment that is seized by the council can be kept for up to:[10]

  • 28 days
  • if a fixed penalty notice is served, then until the fixed penalty is paid, or
  • if there are court proceedings for an offence, then until the proceedings end or the court orders otherwise.

Antisocial behaviour

Noise can, in some circumstances, be interpreted as a form of antisocial behaviour. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 defines antisocial behaviour as acting in a way that causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to a person not of the same household.[11] Therefore, for noise to be interpreted as antisocial, it is likely to be extreme or to take place in conjunction with other antisocial behaviour. For example, noisy parties that take place as part of a pattern of disruptive behaviour that affects neighbours.

Action can be taken by the local council, registered social landlords, and the police. For more information about the range of legal remedies available see the page on Antisocial behaviour and harassment. An occupier found guilty of antisocial behaviour may, depending on the particular circumstances, be:

  • fined
  • subject to an injunction, such as an antisocial behaviour order[12]
  • imprisoned
  • subject to a curfew order[13] or a parenting order,[14] in the case of groups of children
  • evicted, in the case of a tenant. (For more information, see below.)

Many tenancy agreements have a clause that states that the tenant is to not cause a nuisance or annoyance to neighbours. The grounds on which a possession order can be made against a secure, assured or regulated tenants include a discretionary ground for possession specifically related to antisocial behaviour. In addition, a mandatory ground for possession is available against a secure or assured tenant, where the tenant, or anyone living in or visiting the property, has been convicted of an offence under section 80(4) or 82(8) of the Environmental Health Act 1990 as a result of breaching an abatement notice or court order in relation to noise nuisance committed on or after 20 October 2014. For more information see the relevant pages in the Security of tenure section.

An occupier who is disturbed by noise from a tenant should complain to the landlord of that tenant. The landlord may try to persuade the tenant to desist from such behaviour. If the behaviour continues, or the antisocial behaviour is serious enough, the landlord may attempt to evict the tenant. In one case, a possession order was made due to incidents of antisocial behaviour, which included loud music, as well as drunkenness, rubbish being thrown from balconies and an incident with a machete.[15]

However, if the landlord does not act on the complaint of an occupier, then the occupier does not have a claim in nuisance or negligence against the landlord,[16] or for breach of the covenant for quiet enjoyment.[17] For more information about harassment and antisocial behaviour, see the Harassment and antisocial behaviour section.

Noise as a crime

It is a common misconception that the police are responsible for dealing with noise, eg noisy parties, loud music. Instead, in most situations, the local council's environmental health department is responsible (see the section on Environmental Protection Act 1990 for more information). However, in some situations, the police should be contacted. This could be because the noise:

  • is a type of antisocial behaviour. For more information, see above, and the harassment and antisocial behaviour section
  • is due to the committal of a crime, eg criminal damage
  • is a crime in itself, eg noisy vehicle exhausts or a horn being sounded between 11pm and 7am by a vehicle in a restricted road.[18]

[1] s.1 Noise Act 1996.

[2] s.1 Noise Act 1996 as amended by s.42 Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003

[3] s.2 Noise Act 1996.

[4] s.5 Noise Act 1996 and Department of Environment Circular 8/1997.

[5] s.2(4) Noise Act 1996.

[6] s.3 Noise Act 1996.

[7] s.4 Noise Act 1996.

[8] s.8 Noise Act 1996 as amended by s.84 Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

[9] s.10 Noise Act 1996.

[10] Sch.1 Noise Act 1996.

[11] s.1(a) Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

[12] s.14 Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

[13] s.11 Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

[14] s.8(2) Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

[15] Camden LBC v Gilsenan (1998) CA; 31 HLR 81.

[16] Mowan v Wandsworth LBC [2000], CA.

[17] O'Leary v LB Islington (1981); 9 HLR 81.

[18] Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986.

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