Public health nuisances
The council has a statutory duty to investigate complaints regarding noise and nuisances such as smoke, fumes or commercial odours.
Unless the persons causing the noise are potentially intimidating or threatening it is often a good idea for you to speak to neighbours to resolve noise problems first. Involving the council may lead to bad feeling between neighbours.
To minimise neighbourhood disputes we do not reveal complainants' details to the persons causing the noise but neighbours often guess who has complained.
We have formal powers to deal with many types of noise, especially if the noise is excessive, affects the habitable parts of residential premises and is likely to happen regularly. These include:
- televisions and stereos
- DIY at unreasonable hours
- intruder alarms
- car alarms from stationary vehicles
- entertainment noise at commercial premises
- construction noise outside the permitted hours of 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 1pm on Saturday. Please see the construction site guidelines.
Poor sound insulation between adjoining properties is a cause of many complaints throughout the country.
It may make everyday sounds of ordinary living intolerable, such as from children playing. It is a particular problem in premises originally constructed as single dwellings, which have subsequently been converted into self- contained flats.
The case law makes complaints of impact noise such as footfalls, furniture moving, children playing, occasional intermittent banging and raised voices very difficult to prove as a formal nuisance.
Dealing with noise nuisance
Noise can be a nuisance during the day or night. If a noise is witnessed and likely to be a nuisance, the investigating officer will try to resolve the situation informally.
If this informal approach is ineffective and the noise is excessive and likely to recur it is deemed a "nuisance". A statutory notice will be served under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requiring the abatement of the noise nuisance.
If the nuisance is not stopped within the time specified in the notice, the council can and do carry out the necessary work to stop the noise. This may include taking away stereos, drum kits, amplifiers, TV's and other noise making equipment.
The owner or occupier of the premises will then be charged for the cost of the work (including VAT) plus the council's administration. The owner or occupier can also be prosecuted.
Examples of noise that may not lead to formal nuisance action but can be annoying include:
- normal everyday living noises such as children playing, kitchen appliances, footfalls, other impact noise and intermittent sounds of voices which are audible due to poor sound insulation
- one-off rare celebrations such as birthday parties and barbecues that end before 11pm
- dogs barking occasionally - to prove nuisance the dog must be barking constantly over prolonged periods of time, or at night
- noise from persons in the street, anti-social and abusive behaviour can lead to breaches of the peace and offences under the Public Order Act which are enforced by the Police.
If you are affected by a noise nuisance and talking to your neighbours has not resolved the issue then please contact the noise service when the noise nuisance is ongoing so that an officer may witness the noise you are experiencing to ascertain whether a statutory noise nuisance exists.
During normal office hours please telephone 020 8359 7995
Out of Hours nuisance service please telephone 020 8359 2000 at the following times:
- Wednesday 20.00 hours to Thursday 01.00 hours
- Friday 20:00 hours to Saturday 04:00 hours
- Saturday 10:00 hours - Sunday 04:00 hours
- Sunday 10:00 hours - Monday 03:00 hours
When contacting the out of hours service by telephone, there is a recorded message. Option 2 gives direct contact to the noise and nuisance officer. If the officer is busy and not able to answer please leave your contact details, and a description of where the nuisance is occurring for officers to investigate. The times of the service may vary due to the demand which increases in the summer months.
If you are mainly disturbed during the night on days when we do not have an active service, we provide a voicemail service 020 8359 2000. However we can only respond to these messages the following working day. This may result in a proactive visit or communication with the alleged perpetrator aimed at resolving the noise nuisance.
We are able to accept email and text complaints, but are not able to process them for an immediate response therefore to report an ongoing noise nuisance please contact the service by telephone as detailed above.
If the noise is ongoing at the time of your call an officer will aim to visit you or at least respond to your call within one hour.
Advice on minimising noise nuisance when laying laminate flooring by using acoustic underlay and sealant can be found on the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) website under the Guide for the control of noise from laminate flooring surfaces.
Barnet Homes Residents
If you are a Barnet Homes resident and you are subject to noise nuisance it may be worth contacting Barnet Homes and asking to speak to the anti-social behaviour officer for your area. They may be able to deal with noise nuisances that are not covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
If the Environmental Health section is unable to help with the type of noise problem that you are troubled by, it is possible for you to take private action through the court system.
You would have to contact the Clerk at Barnet Magistrates Court to arrange a time to provide the necessary evidence to prove your case in accordance with S.82 of The Environmental Protection Act 1990. Further information may be available by contacting the Environmental Health Department.