How to take action against different types of noise
Occupiers may be able to take action over noise caused by disrepair at the occupier's own property or noise such as aircraft, building sites, burglar alarms, or entertainment.
Noise in breach of repairing obligations
Most tenancies have express and implied terms that oblige the landlord to carry out certain repairs.
An express term is a term that is stated explicitly in the tenancy agreement, for example to keep the property in good repair. An implied term is one that is implied by a statute or common law. The most common example is a landlord's obligation under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the property, and keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the property for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation, space heating and heating water.
Noise is not likely to be covered directly by an express term or an implied term of the tenancy. However, a noise may be due to something in disrepair, which the landlord is obliged to repair, for example a faulty boiler.
Claims under the Defective Premises Act 1972
Noise may be caused by negligent work which has been carried out to the property or because the property was built negligently.
In either situation, the occupier may be able to make a claim for damages for negligence against the landlord or, if the property is owner-occupied, against whoever carried out the work, by using the Defective Premises Act 1972.
Noise due to non-compliance with building regulations
When a property is built or converted, or major works carried out, then the builder, which may include the owner of the premises, must comply with the Building Regulations issued under the Building Act 1984. Part E in Schedule 1 to the current regulations is about resistance to the passage of the sound. The Secretary of State has issued the related technical guidance in Approved Document E.
If there is noise due to non-compliance with Approved Document E, the occupier may be able to compel the builder to carry out the work necessary to ensure the situation is put right. For more information, an occupier should contact a Building Control officer at the local council.
Noise from aircraft
Action cannot be taken against noise from aircraft on the basis that it is a statutory nuisance.
Instead, under the Civil Aviation Act 1982:
the Civil Aviation Authority, when exercising its licensing functions, takes account of environmental matters, including noise
most civil airports are required to establish suitable consultation facilities with users, nearby local authorities and local representative organisations
the Secretary of State has the power to require airport managers to offer insulation grants to occupiers of nearby properties affected by noise from the airport
A local council can make bye-laws relating to the control of noise at airports. Some airports have direct responsibility for noise control and complaints.
The building or extension of an airport requires consent under the planning regulations. In dealing with the application for planning consent, the council consults local householders and a public inquiry may be held. This gives local householders the opportunity to state formally any objections they may have about noise levels. This may be more effective when done through a residents' or tenants' association.
Noise from building sites
When work takes place on a building site, or is due to take place, the council can serve a notice specifying the:
level of noise which may be emitted from the premises or at any specified point on those premises, or during specified hours
plant or machinery to be used
hours when work can take place
Complaints about noisy building sites should be made to the local council's environmental health department.
Noise from burglar alarms
A council can use powers in the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993 to specifically control burglar alarms. Except in London, these powers can only be used after consultation with the local chief police officer.
The council can require that anyone who installs an alarm on any premises:
fits the alarm with a device that cuts off the alarm after 20 minutes
tells the council within 48 hours of its installation
notifies the police of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the current key-holders
informs the council of which police station has been so notified
Failure to comply is an offence.
If a burglar alarm goes off for more than an hour and it causes an annoyance to people in the vicinity, the council can enter the property to turn it off.
However, the council officer must not use force to enter the property unless they have obtained a warrant to do so and is accompanied by a police officer. The council can recover the cost of silencing the alarm from the occupier of the property.
Action against car alarms can be taken by the local council under the Environment Protection Act 1990, as amended by the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993.
Noise from entertainment venues
Places of entertainment, such as pubs, clubs, and music venues, require an entertainment licence from the local council to operate. This applies to both public venues and private venues that are putting on entertainment for profit or gain.
A private venue that is putting on entertainment that is not for profit or gain may only be controlled by a council using its powers for general problems with noise.
When considering an application for a licence, the council consults local people. If granted, a licence is valid for up to 12 months, after which time a new application must be considered. The licence may include terms about hours of operation and the maximum number of people allowed at the venue, but not specifically about noise.
Residents who are concerned about the possible impact of noise should make their objections known to the council. If problems of noise arise after the licence is granted, residents should inform the council, as it may be that the terms of the licence have been breached in regard to hours of operation or the maximum number of people allowed at the venue.
Noise from loudspeakers in the street
Loudspeakers cannot be played in the street:
between 9pm and 8am, except by the emergency services or if consent has been given by the council
at any time for business purposes, except by vehicles selling perishable foods (for example ice cream vans) which can use loudspeakers between 12pm and 7pm in a way that does not annoy people in the vicinity
Complaints about loudspeakers in the street should be made to the local council's environmental health department.
Generally, there is little that can be done about excessive noise caused by traffic. For example, councils cannot take action under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
If traffic is causing excessive noise on a new or improved road (but not an existing road), occupiers living alongside the road may be eligible for a noise insulation grant. The grant may cover the cost of double glazing the part of the property that faces the road.
Complaints about excessive noise from individual vehicles, for example noisy exhausts or a horn being sounded between 11pm and 7am by a vehicle in a restricted road, should be made to the police.
Last updated: 26 March 2021
Blaenau Gwent BC v Khan, The Times, 4 May 1993.
Building Regulations 2010 SI 2010/2214.
s.79(6) Environmental Protection Act 1990.
ss.5 and 6 Civil Aviation Act 1982.
s.35 Civil Aviation Act 1982.
s.79 Civil Aviation Act 1982.
s.63 Airports Act 1986.
s.60 Control of Pollution Act 1974.
s.9 and Sch.3 Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993.
s.23 London Local Authorities Act 1991.
s.9(1) Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993.
paras 3 and 4, Sch.3 Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993.
paras 6 and 7, Sch.3 Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993.
Part 1 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous) Provisions Act 1982; in London s.52 and Sch.12 London Government Act 1963.
Private Places of Entertainment (Licensing) Act 1967.
s.62 Control of Pollution Act 1974.
s.3A Control of Pollution Act 1974 and Sch.2 Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993.
s.79(6A)(a) Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Part 2, Land Compensation Act 1973; Noise Insulation Regulations 1975 as amended.
Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986.