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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Noise and nuisance problems

Your local council is responsible for dealing with complaints about noise and nuisance behaviour. 

Help with noise

Before contacting the council about a noise problem try to resolve it yourself.  Often, people aren’t aware of how loud certain noises are and how sound can carry into other people’s homes. If there’s a residents’ association in your building or community it may be able to help you resolve the noise problems.

The Environmental Health Department of your local council is responsible for investigating and dealing with noise complaints.  The council needs evidence to take action, so you should contact them when the noise is at its worst.  You’ll need to give your name and address to the council but these won’t be shared with the person you’re complaining about. If the noise persists the council may visit to monitor the noise levels or give you recording equipment so you can do this.  The council can issue a Noise Abatement Order against a person who is persistently noisy.  If this order is broken the council can take the person to court where they could be fined up to £5,000.

Night time noise

People causing unreasonable noise at night can be given a warning notice by the council. If the warning is ignored, and the noise continues the council can issue a £110 spot fine. Councils have a responsibility to investigate any complaints about noise at night.  Your local council may have a Night Time Noise hotline to deal with these complaints.

Acceptable levels of noise

People have a right to behave normally in their homes.  Living in apartments and flats can be noisy, particularly if there’s someone living above you, but you may have to learn to live with certain noise; like footsteps, doors closing and the noise of a vacuum.  If you have to regularly raise the volume of your television beyond an acceptable level to drown out noise from a neighbour, you may have a reason to complain.

Barking dogs

Training is the best way of dealing with a dog that continually barks.  If your dog is disturbing neighbours, see if you can find a local trainer who may be able to sort out the problem. Talk to your neighbours if their dog is constantly barking. They may not know that their dog barks when they are out of the house.

If negotiation doesn't work you may have to contact your local council for help. Your council may have an action plan for dealing with these complaints. The council can issue a Noise Abatement Notice and take your neighbours to court if they refuse to comply with this notice.

Pubs and clubs

There are levels of acceptable noise which you should expect if you live near an entertainment venue. However, the council can take action against licenced premises that cause excessive noise between 11pm and 7am. This includes premises holding an entertainment, liquor licence and certain registered clubs. If a premises is making excessive noise the council can serve them with a warning notice asking them to reduce the noise within ten minutes.

If the council belives that the noise is excessive, there are a number of actions which can be taken

  • the venue owner may be fined or prosecuted
  • the entertainment licence may be revoked
  • the council may recommend structural changes to improve sound proofing in the venue.

Building work

Building work should be carried out during normal working hours.  If extensive work is being done near your home, speak to the contractor to find out when noisy work is scheduled to happen and how long this is likely to go on for.

If you’re planning a DIY project that could cause noise for your neighbours, tell them that you are going to be carrying out some work and try to keep noisy work to reasonable hours when your neighbours can be expected to be out of their homes If your neighbours have small children you may need to restrict your DIY even further.

Environmental issues and statutory nuisances

If you're worried about an environmental issue, your local council may be able to help you. The Environmental Health Department of your council can deal with issues such as:

  • fly tipping
  • vermin
  • build up of rubbish and
  • drainage and sewage problems.

The council also has the power to investigate complaints about certain types of nuisances, known as statutory nuisances.  This includes problems with drainage, fumes and smoke, industrial and trade waste or smells and noises caused by vehicles or machinery on a street. You can get a full list of statutory nuisances in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011.   

If the council gets a complaint about something that could be a health and safety issue or a statutory nuisance, an Environmental Health Officer should come out to inspect and investigate that complaint.  Although the Environmental Health Office may not be able to fix the problem immediately, in some cases, they can force the property owner to carry out any remedial action. Failure to comply with an order made by the Environmental Health Office can result in a fine.