Night hours are 11.00 pm until 7.00 am. To reduce noise nuisance from houses and premises, the law defines a maximum amount of noise which is acceptable during night hours.
When noise exceeds the permitted level, the district council can investigate and take action against the neighbour or other noise source.
Resolving problems with noise
If possible, talk to the person causing the noise. People often reduce the noise once they realise it's causing annoyance
You can use mediation to resolve the matter. In mediation an independent, third party listens to your views and your neighbour’s to help you reach an agreement.
It is important to try and resolve matters informally. This demonstrates to a court you have acted reasonably if later you need to take legal action.
Complaining about noise to the council
If informal attempts don’t work, you can complain about noise to your local council:
Under the Noise Act, when a council investigates a noise complaint about a neighbour, entertainment venue, pub, club or restaurant during night hours, they can:
- issue a warning
- issue a fixed penalty notice
- seize noisemaking equipment
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act gives district councils authority to deal with noise from land and premises, which they consider:
- damaging to health
- causing a statutory nuisance
A statutory nuisance is more than an annoyance or irritation. It is a disturbance that interferes significantly with your right to enjoy your home.
If you complain about noise to the council, an environmental health officer can investigate. They can assess the noise level.
If a noise nuisance exists, the council can serve an Abatement Notice on the person making the noise or the owner or occupier of the premises.
The notice requires either of the following:
- the noise must stop
- the noise is limited to certain hours
Using the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, district councils can make all or part of a district an alarm notification area. This applies to security alarms in occupied and empty residential and commercial premises.
The owner or occupier must have a nominated keyholder and give the keyholder’s contact details to the district council.
To check if you live in an alarm notification area, contact your council.
Noise and planning applications
Most buildings or developments need planning permission. Noise can be treated as an important consideration by planners making a planning decision.
When planners assess a planning application where noise is identified as an important consideration, the developer applying for planning permission might need to send in a noise report to the planners.
The report assesses potential noise impacts on health and well being and recommends how to lessen or remove noise impacts.
Sometimes a building or development, such as proposed renewable energy facilities, waste plants, quarries and transport networks, may require environmental impact assessment.
The developer must send in an environmental statement to planners. The statement should deal with identified noise issues.
Objecting to a planning application
Anyone can send in a written comment on any aspect of a planning application, as a supporter or objector. For people concerned about noise issues linked to a planning application, they can comment on the noise report or environmental statement.
Planners can grant planning permission with or without conditions for a building or development. Conditional planning permission can include the necessary measures that need to be taken to lessen potential unacceptable loud noise.
If a developer does not apply the measures, planners can take enforcement action.
To run music events, a pub or club must hold an entertainment licence. If you’re disturbed by loud music or patrons at pubs and clubs, you can report this to the district council.
If the council issues a warning about noise which the venue ignores, the council can take action against a venue for breaking their entertainment licence.
The council can impose a fine, prosecute the venue or withdraw the venue’s entertainment licence.
Noise from loudspeakers
Police, ambulance and fire brigade can use loudspeakers at any time, day or night. For other organisations, there are restrictions.
It is illegal to use loudspeakers for:
Chimes from ice cream vans are only allowed between 12 noon and 7.00 pm.
Complaints about dogs barking
It can be annoying and disturbing to hear a dog’s constant bark, howl or whine.
If a neighbour’s barking dog disturbs you or causes a nuisance, you can complain to the dog warden in your council.
Legal action about noise
You can take legal action in the magistrates’ court if:
- you don’t complain to the district council about noise
- the district council doesn’t do anything about your complaint
You don’t need a solicitor but you should ask Advice NI for help in preparing your complaint. You need to prove that the noise is a statutory nuisance.