Noise: Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make an anonymous complaint?
The law that we enforce requires that we show an effect of the actions by one person on another person in their property. Should we need to take legal action the person who receives an abatement notice has a right to an appeal and a fair trial. The Court will expect a person who is accusing another to provide evidence in these circumstances. If it appears to us that the information you give us will become known to the person that you are complaining about then we will consult with you before it is released.
How do I make a complaint?
Contact us with your name and address, the address the noise is coming from and how the noise is affecting the use of your property.
Out of hours noise complaints?
The Council does not operate a 24 hour call out service for the investigation of noise complaints. Once we have received completed diary sheets we can make arrangements to visit out of hours or use recording equipment. If you are contacting us outside of office hours Monday to Friday your complaint will be passed to officers on the next working day.
What happens once I make a complaint?
You will be sent diary sheets to complete for a period of two to three weeks, writing the dates and times on when the noise is occurring. You can also download and print thesheet and start keeping records straight away.
A standard letter will normally be sent to those alleged to have caused a nuisance. Your anonymity will be preserved at this stage; if formal action becomes necessary at a later stage anonymity may not be possible if the case comes to be heard at Magistrates' Court. It must be stressed, that the vast majority of complaints of noise are dealt without going to court.
In most cases mediation can be very effective and powerful in resolving complaints and disputes and we may refer your complaint to mediation. This service is completely free and you can find out more by visiting the Mediation Service (Mediation North Surrey) website .
You must return the log sheet within six weeks of the complaint or we will not proceed any further.
What happens once I return my diary sheets?
If the log sheets to show that a statutory nuisance may be occurring we will investigate. Noise monitoring equipment may be installed to record levels of the noise or officers will arrange the visit to witness and investigate the problem. We have the authority to serve a legal Abatement Notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Reference will be made to your log sheets in determining whether it necessary to serve a Notice.
What constitutes a statutory nuisance?
In making a judgement on whether the noise affecting you is just an inconvenience rather than a statutory nuisance. Reference has to be made to the duration, level and number of times in a set period that nuisance is caused. If, however, the noise were a one off such as a 40th Birthday Party for example, this is less likely to be viewed as a statutory nuisance.
There is no legal right to absolute silence in the UK and there are no legally set noise levels that constitute a nuisance (unlike levels for health and safety in the work place).
Everyone reacts differently to different noise levels, some may have a greater expectation of quiet than others. In determining whether noise is a statutory nuisance, a council officer has to consider if the noise affecting the complainant would similarly affect the 'average person'. They also have to consider case law (i.e. precedents set by the court rulings). Arrangements may also be made by officers to attend out of office hours where this is determined to be necessary.
Can music be played at any level up to 11pm?
No this is a common misconception that you can make as much noise as you like until 11pm. Music played loudly and frequently at any time of the day could be considered to be a nuisance if neighbours cannot hear their own radio/TV at a reasonable level. However, loud music, which is played frequently in the early hours of the morning and causes sleep disturbance is more likely to be viewed as statutory nuisance.
What can be done about firework noise?
It is against the law for members of the public to set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except on certain occasions.
- Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnight
- New Year's Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, the cut off is 1am
The above restrictions are enforced by the police.
The law says you must not set off or throw fireworks (including sparklers) in the street or other public places, these offences should be reported to the police.