Spotlight on noise complaints: Time to be heard

In October, the Housing Ombudsman published its most recent spotlight report, with a focus on noise complaints. The report pulls together findings from the review of over 800 noise related cases dealt with over the last three years, as well as the responses received by the Ombudsman’s request for evidence and interviews with staff and residents.

Following repairs, noise is one of the biggest areas of complaint and has become of even greater significance due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman said:

“Noise is a significant driver of complaints after repairs – and it costs.  It costs individuals their mental health and well-being and it costs landlords in protracted and often futile interventions, multi-agency liaison and staff morale. These costs are underestimated and may be avoidable, to some extent, by adopting the different approaches set out in this report.”

Some of the key findings highlighted the need for strategies to be developed to deal with non-statutory noise nuisance seriously, sensitively, and proportionately. The research also found that noise often falls under the same umbrella as Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) because there is no more-suited framework in place for it despite most complaints concerning household noise.

The report identified 32 recommendations, including the following:

  • Revising the decent homes standard to fully reflect the causes of noise nuisance than can affect residents.
  • Identifying when noise transference is the issue to prevent complaints escalating into ASB by focusing on prevention.
  • Updating void standards to ensure that carpets are not removed unless in poor condition, but that hard flooring is removed, and that there is adequate insulation from transference noise such as anti-vibration mats under white goods.
  • Adopting a proactive good neighbourhood management policy separate to the ASB policy to maintain good neighbourhood relationships.
  • Introducing a triage system to identify whether noise is ASB or should be dealt with under the neighbourhood management policy.
  • Mediation should be introduced as part of the good neighbourhood management policy.
  • Landlords should consider increased estate presence to provide early intervention when noise is reported.
  • Landlords should consider and build multiagency relationships with the police and environmental health.
  • The need for better communication and good records along with resident engagement.
  • The need to manage expectations.
  • Information sharing at allocation stage to ensure the Property is suitable for the applicant such as considering whether it is appropriate to put a family with young children above ground level in a property where there have previously been complaints of noise transference.
  • Considering insulation to prevent noise transference, particularly where these options are also being explored through net zero programmes.
  • Providing information leaflets on what can cause neighbour disagreements to new tenants.
  • Noise recordings should always be listened to be the case handler to make sure any investigation is robust.

Further information can be found in the full report, here.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions about noise nuisance cases, or need any assistance in drafting policies.

Law is correct as of 24th October 2022.

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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