What you can do about noise pollution

John Beausang and Yvonne Rayne, Cork city’s Citizens Information Managers, explain the steps you can take if noise becomes an issue in your life
What you can do about noise pollution

Noisy neighbours, parties, alarms, and dogs are among the most common noise pollution issues

A BIT of peace and quiet is essential to our health and wellbeing. What can you do if noise is an issue for you? How do you know if noise you’re experiencing constitutes unreasonable noise?

The simple answer to that is that if neighbourhood noise is affecting your quality of life, then you have a right to complain.

Here, we outline some of the main types of noise that can cause a nuisance, and the legislation that deals with such noise...

The main legislation is the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992, which defines environmental pollution as including noise that is a nuisance, or that would endanger human health or damage property or damage the environment.

It provides for various actions to be taken to prevent or limit noise pollution. Local authorities have powers under the Act to require measures to be taken to prevent or limit noise, and you can report a noise nuisance to the Environment Section of the relevant local authority.

Domestic noise

Gardaí have the power to arrest a person for breach of the peace in a public place. They may ask someone to lower the noise coming from a dwelling but don’t have the power to enter a dwelling with the intention of simply asking someone to lower the noise. If the noise is persistent, you may complain to the District Court.

Rented dwellings

If the noise is coming from a rented dwelling and you don’t get a satisfactory response from the tenants, you can complain to the landlord - whether this is a private landlord, local authority or housing association. People renting from private landlords or housing associations have certain obligations, including not engaging in antisocial behaviour, which includes persistent noise that interferes with the peaceful occupation of other dwellings.

You may complain to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) if a private landlord or a housing association fails to enforce the tenant’s obligations in respect of noise.

Under the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, tenants of local authority housing are obliged to avoid any nuisance (including noise) to the occupiers of any other dwelling. If the noise persists, the tenants are in breach of their tenancy agreement and the local authority can take steps to enforce the terms of the agreement

Alarms

Installers of alarm systems are required to have licences from the Private Security Authority. In order to get a licence, they have to adhere to certain standards, including maximum times for the sounding of external alarms - under the European standard, it is 15 minutes. The local authority, the EPA or an individual may take action under the EPA Act to deal with breaches of these standards.

Dogs

Section 25 of the Control of Dogs Act 1986 deals with nuisance by barking dogs. If you don’t get a satisfactory response from the owner, you may complain to the District Court, using the form prescribed under the Control of Dogs Act. These are available from local authorities or your local CIC has one.

So what can the court do? It may make an order requiring the occupier of the premises in which the dog is kept to abate the nuisance by exercising due control over a dog. The court may limit the number of dogs kept on a premises or even direct that a dog be delivered to a dog warden to be dealt with as unwanted.

Noise from commercial premises, processes or works

The Act gives power to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take steps to ensure compliance with the terms of a notice to control noise in relation to any premises, process or works and to recover the cost of such an action. The EPA can require the person or body to take specific measures to prevent or limit noise. Anyone required to take such specific measures by the EPA must do so or face prosecution.

Local authorities have similar powers to the EPA in relation to premises, processes and works other than those that require licensing under the Act. The local authority may serve a notice on the person in charge of, for example, pubs, discos, processes or works, requiring the person in charge to take whatever measures are set out in the notice in order to prevent or limit noise. The local authority may prosecute for failure to comply with the notice.

Alternatively, it may take steps itself to ensure compliance and then recover the costs of these from the person in charge.

Pubs can only sell liquor if they have a licence, which is renewed annually by the courts. Anyone may object to the granting of a licence on various grounds, including that the activity of the premises was not being conducted in a peaceable and orderly manner. The EPA has the power to serve notices in respect of activities it licenses, such as waste disposal activities and activities that require Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) licences.

Complaints under the EPA Act

While the law does not specifically mention an exact level or standard of noise that is illegal, it is clear that if neighbourhood noise is affecting your quality of life, you have a right to complain. If you plan to complain about excessive noise, it is generally recommended you keep a detailed diary of times it occurred, the duration and, if possible, levels involved.

You should first approach the person or business causing the noise, explain that it is a nuisance and try to come to a mutually acceptable solution.

Applying to the District Court

If this does not work, the Act allows any person, a local authority or the EPA to complain to the District Court about a noise that is ‘so loud, so continuous, so repeated, of such duration or pitch or occurring at such times as to give reasonable cause for annoyance to a person in any premises in the neighbourhood or to a person lawfully using any public place’ and seek an order to deal with the noise nuisance. There is a small fee.

South Munster Citizens Information phone lines in Cork city are monitored from 10am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

The office in Cornmarket Street is open to the public from 10am to 12.30pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the Blackpool office is open to the public each morning from 10am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.

Full details for all Citizens Information Centres and their opening times are available on our website.

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