Last updated: January 13, 2022 at 15:43 pm
There is nothing worse than going to bed at the end of a long day and not being able to sleep due to noise you can’t control. It’s even worse when the noise is caused by an inconsiderate neighbour playing music too loud late at night.
So, if your sleep is being disrupted, what can you do about it? Are neighbours permitted to play music loudly at night?
Is It Illegal to Play Loud Music Later Than 11pm?
There is legislation that covers noise pollution in the UK. It is called the Noise Act (1996), and it specifies that for noise purposes, nighttime lasts from 11 pm to 7 am. Any excessive noise within that time is not permitted, and the government, local councils and environmental health consider it to be anti-social behaviour. Anti-social behaviour is illegal, and therefore, loud music should also be seen as illegal.
Please note, if you’re suffering from excessively loud music from a neighbour’s home during the day and at night, don’t feel like you can only act after 11 pm. If the volume is substantially affecting your enjoyment of your home or may injure your health, action can be taken too.
For noise to be deemed excessive at night, either you or the environmental health department need to take decibel readings inside your home. If the ambient noise in the immediate vicinity of your home is 24 dBA or less, noise louder than 34 dBA breaches the law. If the ambient noise is more than 24 dBA, anything more than 10 dBA above it is excessive.
Of course, this does not just apply to music. TV noise, housework, DIY, dogs barking, burglar alarms or loud arguments are all covered. If either you or environmental health records sufficient evidence, the noise can be termed as a statutory noise nuisance, and there are several legal penalties and remedies available.
What You Can Do
Before you take any action at all, consider how much of a problem the noise is and if it’s worth potentially damaging your relationship with your neighbours. Before you do anything, consider these questions.
- Are your neighbours ordinarily noisy? If the answer is no, it may be worth gritting your teeth just this once. If the noise goes on past midnight, you can reassess
- Do you know if someone in the home is celebrating a special birthday, 18th, 21st, or 40th? Again, if so, it might be worth letting it go for the sake of neighbour harmony
- Is it the first sunny day of the year, and they’re having a barbecue? The weather is unpredictable here in good old Blighty, so it will likely not be an issue often
- Are the parents out, and their children are making the noise? The parents may well be back at a reasonable hour and put a stop to the music
If none of these situations applies, then it is time to act. Start with the mildest reaction first, and if possible, do not go round when you’re upset. You’re more likely to start shouting, which could escalate the situation unnecessarily.
Step 1: Try a Friendly Chat
It may seem unbelievable to you, but sometimes others can be unaware of how much noise they’re making, especially if alcohol is involved. Try going around the next day and explaining politely that the music was intruding on your home. Ask if they could reduce the level a little in future.
If you think that parties may be a more regular event, you should ask how often they’ll be going on and if they can inform you beforehand when the party will begin and end. That way, you have the option of going out for the evening, so you don’t have to put up with the noise.
Step 2: Keep a Diary
If a friendly chat hasn’t worked and your neighbours are playing loud music regularly, you can complain to the environmental health department. However, for them to uphold your complaint, they will need evidence of the scale of the problem.
Start by noting the times and dates your neighbours play loud music. Although environmental health will need to measure the noise levels themselves, adding your own measurements can strengthen your case. There are lots of sound meter apps available for your smartphone, and most of them are free. They may not be super accurate, but they will at least give you a guide level to note down.
If you contact your neighbours about the noise, note this too. It helps to demonstrate that you’ve tried to resolve the matter amicably. As crazy as it sounds, it might be worth sending a letter to them by recorded delivery and adding a copy of the letter to your diary too. If you speak to your neighbours about the noise, they can deny ever speaking to you about it. A recorded letter is harder to argue with.
Step 3: Present Your Evidence to Environmental Health
Contact your local office and make a formal complaint about the noise issues you’ve been experiencing. Hand over the evidence you’ve collected. If you’re not the only home affected, then you and your neighbours could make a joint complaint. The more evidence there is, the more likely it is something will be done.
Don’t be upset if environmental health needs you to take sound readings with their equipment or come out themselves. As this is an official procedure, there will be processes they must follow.
If you’ve lost a lot of sleep and are tired, it can be tempting to want to get your own back. You might think about running the hoover around at 7 am or beginning loud DIY at 9 am when you know they’re trying to lie in.
However, this is likely to prompt a tit for tat battle that may also land you in hot water. As difficult as it may be, count to 10 and go through official channels.
If your neighbour’s music is still blaring away in the early hours and they refuse to turn it down, then the police are an option. Do not call 999 because as upsetting as loud music can be it is not an emergency!
Instead, call 101, explain the situation and ask if an officer can come out and instruct them to turn off the music. It will take longer for them to respond, but misuse of 999 is not a matter the police take lightly.
Until the police arrive, or if it’s just a one-off and you’re trying to cope, there are a few things you can do.
- Put on a pair of noise cancelling headphones
- If your bedroom joins onto them, try sleeping in a bedroom on the other side of the house
The most obvious fix is to move, but you may not want to or be able to do this. Check out how to soundproof your bedroom for advice on stopping unwanted noise entering your home.