Case Law Update: You Snooze, You (Don’t) Lose – ‘Ordinary Noise’ and ASB

In October 2022, the Housing Ombudsman published its Report, ‘Spotlight on Noise Complaints: Time to be Heard’. Using data gathered from previous cases, the Report introduced a number of “practical and cost-effective recommendations” for landlords dealing with noise issues. You can access MSB’s article here for further details.  

The Report collates a number of stark statistics, such as:

  • Of 181 noise cases considered by the Ombudsman in 2021 – 2022, a 43% maladministration rate was found across all cases.
  • 76% of landlords surveyed treated noise under their anti-social behaviour (‘ASB’) policy.

To quote the Report: “At the heart of our findings is a fundamental unfairness: most noise reports concern household noise…and yet most landlords handle it under their ASB policy. So, things like movement, intermittent music or the washing machine running at night…are viewed through the lens of ASB…. It is time for landlords to develop a strategy for handling non-statutory noise seriously, sensitively, and proportionately”.

The recent case of LB Lambeth v Fanfair, as reported by Giles Peaker of Nearly Legal here, underlines the continuing relevance of the Ombudsman’s recommendations.

A large number of noise complaints were made against Ms Fanfair by an upstairs neighbour, but the video evidence disclosed in support was of poor quality and consisted of only 3 clips. Ms Fanfair countered that she was using her home normally, but the building had poor sound insulation. One complaint she had received referred to ‘snoring’. It was conceded during mediation that insulation was needed but this was not fitted, and Ms Fanfair reported being told that it was impossible to install without access to the complainant’s property.

Lambeth issued proceedings under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 and was able to obtain an interim injunction against Ms Fanfair. Ms Fanfair filed evidence from herself and two other neighbours in response, denying that the noise exceeded normal ‘everyday’ noise. The matter was adjourned to allow Lambeth to disclose further evidence and conduct sound testing. They initially failed to do so, which then saw the interim injunction be discharged and further adjournments and an unless order followed. An expert report eventually found that the flat did indeed suffer from poor sound insulation, which may result in disturbance from everyday noise.

At the conclusion of the matter, Ms Fanfair was awarded her costs.

The case serves as a salient reminder of why it is important to evaluate the quality of evidence at the outset before an injunction application is issued. By running (and continuing) a case with a weak evidential foundation, the claimant in this case has incurred considerable cost. The case also highlights the dangers of taking a ‘blanket’ approach to noise complaints, and of equating ordinary noise (such as snoring) with ASB.

If you have any questions about noise nuisance cases or need any assistance in drafting policies, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Louise Murphy, Head of Social Housing, on We thank Nearly Legal for their note of the case.

Law is correct as at 4th May 2023.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure that the law in this article is correct, it is intended to give a general overview of the law for educational purposes. You are respectfully reminded that it is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. No liability is accepted for any error or omission contained herein.

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