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Noise Nuisance - Domestic

Noise from neighbours is a common source of disturbance. The most frequent complaints are about barking dogs, loud music or TV, shouting and banging doors. Living in a neighbourhood means that from time to time neighbours will disturb each other.

In law, a statutory noise nuisance is noise beyond what is reasonably tolerable. There are no set times in the day when loud noise is specifically allowed or prohibited. If excessive noise is causing a statutory nuisance to others then it is a nuisance regardless of when it happens. A number of factors are taken into account to determine  whether noise amounts to a statutory nuisance or not. This includes the volume of the noise, the length of time the noise continues for, the frequency, time of day and the type of property you live in. For example, you would expect to hear more noise from neighbours in a flat than from a detached house. The assessment is based on what is reasonable for an ordinary person to expect and is carried out by trained Environmental Health staff. The assessment does not take special account of or make special allowances for people who work shifts, are unwell or who are sensitive to noise.  ‘Normal’ household noise from domestic activities is not likely to be considered to be a statutory nuisance. 


If you are being disturbed by noise from a neighbour, you should first try approaching your neighbour and explain the issues politely. You may find this difficult, but often people are unaware that they are causing a problem. For example, noise from a barking dog when the owners are out. Most neighbours will be helpful and will do what they can to reduce noise. However, approach the matter carefully if you think your neighbour might react angrily to a complaint. If your neighbour is a tenant, discuss your problem with the landlord. Most Tenancy Management Agreements require that tenants do not cause a nuisance to neighbours and landlords should take appropriate action where necessary. Where there is a noise incident outwith office hours and requires immediate action, contact Police Scotland on 101.


If the problem continues, you may contact Environmental Health at Orkney Islands Council and request that the matter is investigated. Normally you will be asked to keep a diary for a specified period and will be expected to record dates, times and cause of the noise as well as the effect it has on you. A letter will be sent to your neighbour/s to make them aware of the complaint. This often results in an improved situation. If there is no improvement, an Environmental Health Officer may visit your house at a time when it is likely the noise will be witnessed.

If an Environmental Health Officer is satisfied that a statutory noise nuisance exists, an Abatement Notice will be served on the person responsible for the noise. This will require that the noise is stopped or restricted. If the terms of the notice are breached, it becomes an offence and a Fixed Penalty Notice may be served or a report sent to the Procurator Fiscal. A successful prosecution may result in a fine.

In some cases the Environmental Health Officer may be sympathetic to the effect the noise is having on you, but does not consider that it is sufficient to amount to a statutory nuisance.


You can take independent action by complaining directly to the Sheriff Court referring to the following legislation;-

  • Environmental Protection Act 1990 – section 82 – Summary proceeding by persons aggrieved by statutory nuisance


  • Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, section 49 (with reference to noise etc from dogs (or other creatures) causing alarm or annoyance)


In either case it is recommended that you approach the Clerk to the Sheriff’s Court for further advice and to consider taking legal advice.

This independent action can be taken whether you complain to the Council or not and can be taken even if the Council has refused to serve an abatement notice.

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