Tag Archives: noise

Let’s Talk

The kids continue to run until way after 11 at night.  Since they moved in my daughter struggles to fall asleep and wakes up scared when the loud “bangs” sound so late.”  ‘Sam’

Anti-social behaviour takes so many different forms.  We all have different levels of tolerance to it – since it is defined as causing harassment, alarm or distress, we will all define different behaviour as anti-social.

This case study shows a situation where a 2 year old girl is experiencing alarm and distress which in turn is distressing to her parents.  However, it strikes us that it is also a clear situation where mediation needs to be the way forward to solve the problem.  Finding a way to talk through the issues is key.

The neighbour in the flat above has two children who run up and down the house “all day long”.  Sam feels he is already making compromises by sacrificing his daughter’s nap, knowing he can’t expect them to be quiet in the middle of the day, but after 9pm the noise becomes a problem.

He says he has spoken to them repeatedly as well as leaving a polite note.  His daughter “struggles to fall asleep and wakes up scared when the loud ‘bangs’ sound so late“.

Meanwhile, the neighbours accuse Sam of being intolerant, saying: “they complain too much and should move to a country house if they need their daughter to sleep“.

Let’s Talk

We recently looked at the value of considering mediation in situations of anti-social behaviour.   Mediation brings the two parties that are in conflict together with an independent person present to hear both sides of the story.

Everyone will have a different take on the situation when reading this story.  Many will empathise with Sam’s struggle to get his daughter to sleep and it is certainly concerning that she is waking alarmed with the noise.  Others will feel it is too intolerant and that noise is a natural result of living in a ground floor flat.

The fact of the matter is that both Sam and his neighbours live there, and want to enjoy their homes.  In situations like these the opportunity to talk together, with someone independent to help ensure both parties can fully explain their perspective, holds huge value.  Tension and frustration is damaging to our health but in a situation involving noise like this, that is unlikely to be classified as a statutory nuisance, there is very little available to agencies to resolve the situation.  This is a place for mediation to try and figure out how to live well together for the benefit of everyone.

Why me?

This is having a profound effect upon my life and feels extremely unfair.” ‘Amber’, London

The cry of ‘Why me?’ is a common one in all areas of crime and anti-social behaviour. We would also suggest it is not a helpful route of thought to take. That is because there is often no answer to the question. Why do some people go through life never experiencing any anti-social behaviour? Why do others get unlucky with where they live, either with their neighbours or more generally in the local area? Why should someone have to invest time in sorting out a problem they never looked for?

Yet, to get results in ASB and bring peace back to your home, you will have to. The best thing is to accept this fact and channel your frustration and perhaps even anger into getting results. ‘Amber’ is a victim of noise disturbance as well as littering and verbal aggression and abuse. The music is loud enough to hurt her ears and the slamming and stamping is so severe the walls shake. Her experience on reporting ASB is that the agencies move the problem back and forth. Police refer her to the Council ASB team, the Council ASB team refer her to the Police, Environmental Health to the ASB team and so on.

I am stressed and cannot relax in my own home. I get very little sleep and have had to use annual leave at short notice sometimes after being kept awake – until 5am some days. I feel the system is weighted toward the tenants who cannot be evicted all that quickly despite non-payment of rent. This is having a profound effect upon my life and feels extremely unfair. Why should my work reputation and employment and health be at risk because of the behaviour of these people?”

Our Comments

Amber is quite right. Why should her work and health be at risk because of the ASB of these people? It is not right that she is being passed from one agency to another when there is new legislation in place to make it easier to act. The agencies MUST decide who is going to take the lead on this case and use the tools available to them. Environmental Health can look at a noise abatement order, the ASB team an Injunction perhaps. We would advise Amber not to dwell on the ‘Why me?’ question and instead carry on fighting. Tenants can be evicted more easily now if they do not respond to warnings. Don’t let agencies fob you off. Be persistent and force a case review by activating the Community Trigger.

Those Summer Nights

Summer brings an increase in anti-social behaviour. With warmer weather and longer days there are more people out and about, gathering together on street corners and parks, or in their homes. This is all wonderful. In the last week alone I have attended an evening BBQ, hosted a dinner party including pre-dinner drinks out in the garden, and been part of a big family group enjoying a picnic and games in the local park. I love the chance to be out and about and enjoy that atmosphere of friendship and fun together. The problem comes when either a gathering gets out of hand, or when the initial motivation was one of causing nuisance in the first place. Agencies report a clear increase in alcohol-related incidents in the summer. Not only can this create noise as well as littering, it can intimidate other people and become a nuisance that would deter others from using community spaces. We need to be considerate of others when we gather with our friends.

Being Considerate of Others

Keep in mind:

bullet Not everyone is on holiday – your neighbours may be getting up for work the next morning and need their sleep.

bullet Remember that if you have opened your windows in the warm weather, any household noise will be amplified

bullet In the warm weather, bad smells are exacerbated so remember to dispose of waste properly including cleaning up after your dog! Perhaps it’s time to attack that untidy garden
too.

bullet We all spend more time out in the garden in the summer – sometimes disputes arise between neighbours with regard to boundary hedges and fences – try and use the opportunity of being out in your garden more to approach your neighbor and build up a relationship, not to pick a fight.

bullet Take a deep breath when the noise from children and teenagers gets too loud. We were all children once and it is good to see them outside enjoying some fresh air, rather than stuck in front of computer games all day long. Let’s get the best out of these current warm days.

Summer is often all too short – let’s enjoy it responsibly and try and be reasonable. If you are struggling (and tempers can flare much quicker in the hot weather) see our tips on coping with frustration and anger.

Ensuring Great Summer Holidays

Children will get bored if they are just at home all summer. Many areas have free activities going on for children of all ages – why not ask at your local library and see what’s on offer? If you live in a flat or house with poor insulation, be considerate of your neighbours if your children are inside all summer. It might be worth getting out and meeting your neighbours and taking the opportunity to apologise in advance for the nuisance your children could cause with their noise (or balls going over the fence, etc). This can be powerful – instead of allowing resentment to grow in your neighbour’s mind, you build a relationship instead, or improve a strained one.

Community Action

If there is an issue going on in your street or more widely in your community, the summer can be a good time to get out and find out what other residents think. It could lead to positive steps to make a difference in your area – perhaps form a Neighbourhood Watch or Residents’ Association. There is power in numbers and you may be eligible to activate the Community Trigger if nothing is happening in your local area. You may also decide it is worth gathering signatures for a petition to push for action.

Suffering Anti-Social Behaviour?

If you are suffering as a result of anti-social behavior, especially one that is alcohol-related, then report it to the relevant agency. Most are at the ready in the summer, with different operations to focus on tackling anti-social behaviour so do not be afraid to contact them for help.

Church Challenge

How can you deal with something out of your control? I have a very stressful job and need my rest. ‘Alice’, London

Noise nuisance is not just an issue between neighbours in residential houses. Some of us are unlucky enough to live next to particularly noisy premises – and these aren’t always what you might think. ‘Alice’ has a church hall behind her property. The problem doesn’t lie with its normal Sunday morning services, however, but when they hire the hall out on weekends. Then it becomes a venue for all-night parties.

Alice has had meetings and discussions with the church and they have previously been given abatement notices but they are failing to follow the rules and seem to ignore advice from the local authority and police. Alice has even suffered harassment by text message as a result of requesting the volume of music be turned down. This has been ongoing now for 3 years.

Alice expresses her frustration eloquently: “How can you deal with something that is out of your control? I have a very stressful and responsible job. I need my rest and when people have been warned and given advice yet it still continues the only way is to keep reporting it, but if that doesn’t work, what can I do? It is extremely frustrating and not fair that I have to live with it.”

Alice gets very anxious, her health has been affected and she gets very angry that she has followed all the steps to get the situation resolved yet nothing is working.

Alice should not have to suffer in this way – if the church is ignoring warning and abatement notices, there is more that agencies can do such as issue fines or seize the sound equipment (such as occurred this week in York: http://www.minsterfm.com/news/local/1995442/action-on-noisy-neighbours-in-york/). Activating the Community Trigger could force the agencies to take that next step.

Noise Nightmare

It has been nearly eight years and I am still here … but flagging.  ‘Janet’, Luton

Many of us hear some noise from next-door from time-to-time.  Many of us make noise which at times can be particularly loud – especially when children are around, or when we need to do some DIY, or perhaps we get into an argument and voices are raised, or we have the odd celebratory party.  We must all learn to be tolerant of our neighbours and reasonable in what we consider excessive noise.

However, for some people, those noisy moments can suddenly turn into an intolerable Noise Nightmare.  A nightmare that threatens to take over every area of their lives, a nightmare that means their home is no longer a relaxing and enjoyable place to be.

This week is Noise Action Week – here are some true stories of people suffering today with their own personal noise nightmare:

1.    ‘Janet’ in Luton knows all about how a noise nightmare can go on for years.  “It has been nearly eight years and I am still here … but flagging” she says.  Next door has large parties on a regular basis, especially weekends.  They are out in the garden with teenagers screaming and shouting up to 3 or 4am.  They also harass her by throwing stones at her windows.  ‘Janet’ feels like they are more supported by the Council as Council tenants – she as a home owner is unable to move (because she would need to declare the ongoing dispute with her neighbours) and must suffer alone.  “I wish I had more support“, she tells us, “but people get bored with hearing about it.”

2.    A couple of pensioners in Stockport, one aged 77 with heart problems, cannot sleep in their own bedroom due to the noise from next door’s radio.  They are sharing a single bed in their other bedroom.  They are unable to watch their television and feel their conversations are being overheard and telephone listened into.  They are at the end of their tether and feel they can’t take it anymore.

3.    Another couple in Stoke-on-Trent are unable to watch their TV because their neighbour has her TV on so loud.  Add to that the fact her dogs are barking and she lets them bark constantly all day long.  As a result they feel stressed and on edge and are not sleeping properly, which in turn will affect their ability to cope.  “Even when we get an odd moment of peace,” they say, “we can’t enjoy it as we just sit wondering when the next incident is going to be.”  Their noise nightmare continues – they spoke directly to her first but she was aggressive and abusive.  They turned to the local agencies but were not taken seriously and told the noise wasn’t loud enough and to ‘just ignore her’.

4.    Fred in Bristol hears constant intermittent loud banging on a daily basis with a cacophony of noise – internal and external doors banging, running across the floor, jumping from a height, thudding on his wall when they are playing X-box – all of which can go on until late at night.  Fred feels trapped because although the Council was willing to accept his complaint, he was too scared to follow it through as an older person living on his own.  He accepts part of the issue will be the laminate flooring and no soft furnishings to absorb the noise, but his house is where he spends all his time, making his noise nightmare particularly difficult to cope with.

To submit your story to us please complete our survey – the more people we hear from, the louder a voice we can give you as we meet with frontline agencies to improve the way the legislation works for you.

Tips when in a Noise Nightmare

  1.  Stay calm and don’t retaliate.  See our tips on controlling frustration and fury.
  2. Gather Evidence to build up a picture of the problem.
  3. Don’t suffer in silence.  Report it and find out what help is available to you.  You may feel frightened but you are entitled to support.
  4. If no-one is taking you seriously but you are still suffering, perhaps it’s time to activate the Community Trigger and insist on a multi-agency review of your case.
  5. For more information about noise see these pages: http://asbhelp.co.uk/noisy-neighbours-noise/ and http://asbhelp.co.uk/measuring-noise/.

Passing the Buck

For the last two and a half years I have been subject to excessive noise. The Council have told me they cannot help.” ‘Janet’, Cheshire.

Many victims of anti-social behaviour complain about how they are passed from one agency to other. In some areas of the country agencies seem very keen to pass the buck and let someone else deal cheap online pharmacy with the issue. In worst cases, a victim is passed back and forth between two agencies (frequently Council or Housing Association and the Police) with no action being taken by either of them. For this reason we set up our Act Now! Guide to help you go to the right agency for the problem you are experiencing. However, you may need determination and perseverance to get results as ‘Janet’ in Cheshire discovered.

For the last two and a half years I have been subject to excessive noise” she explained. “This has later included intimidating behaviour. I am at the end of my tether and I do not know what else I can do. My health has deteriorated. My self-confidence has been shot to pieces. I do not feel able to open the door unless I know someone is coming. I do not go out into the garden. I keep all my windows and blinds shut constantly.

A noise issue, Janet correctly contacted the Council, even more appropriate because  the perpetrators are also Council tenants. Since first reporting it, she has clearly been given the run around from the Council. They ignored her complaints for over a year until neighbours on the other side also complained. 9 months after that there was a promise of sound-proofing but this is no longer happening and the Council never bothered to inform Janet about this. The last time she called, the ASB Officer was away on 3 weeks annual leave and no one else could help her.

Is it any wonder Janet says “a happy peaceful sanctuary of your own home is no longer possible as no-one cares“? Indeed she now says “the Council have told me they cannot help“.

Our Comments

First of all, the Council cannot possibly be allowed to say they can’t help when they are exactly the agency to deal with their own tenants and noise issues. If the Council is doing nothing, we believe Janet should activate her local Community Trigger and insist on a case review. This would also bring the Police to the table to discuss the situation, especially important given there is intimidation involved too. We cannot let the agencies that are there to protect and assist us be allowed to fob us off, pass the buck, and do nothing. Keep sharing your stories so we can shout louder.

Misinformed

The Council has said they can get audio recording equipment into my flat BUT they would have to ask the perpetrators first for their agreement which I am not comfortable with.” ‘Yvette’, Yorkshire

When ‘Yvette’ moved into her new Council flat, a housing officer told her it should be nice and peaceful (which was what she had requested) because the other residents were all elderly people. When she moved in, she found there were no old people in the flats at all. The Council had completely misinformed her.

Since February 2015 the tenants and friends of tenants in the opposite flat have been knocking on Yvette’s door, rattling it, sometimes banging on it and shouting at her, particularly early morning, evenings, at night and weekends. She also hears separate knocking coming through the walls.

I am tired nearly all the time and I have had to give up my job and go on sick for stress. I have filled in an application form for a housing transfer with the Council but am worried how long it will be before they make me an offer because of how it is affecting my health in the meantime. I am spending money on hostel accommodation to get away from it so not paying my bills as well.

Yvette has filled in diary sheets for the noise nuisance and emails the Council with updates on the situation. “The Council has said they can get audio recording equipment into my flat BUT they would have to ask the perpetrators first for their agreement which I am not comfortable with” she explained.

Our Advice

Yvette has done all the right things. The problem is noise issue and both she and the perpetrators are Council tenants so the Council is the right place to seek help.

We would question the Council’s position on needing to ask permission before installing noise equipment as other Councils have explained how discreetly such equipment can be installed by plain clothes officers to protect the complainant. www.asbhelp.co.uk/tips-getting-evidence

The fact that the Council misinformed her about the other residents is cause for complaint and should be mentioned as part of pushing for a move, and complained about through the Council complaint channels if Yvette feels she has the energy to do that. She could mention the debt being incurred by staying in hotels which has been a knock-on effect of this error by the Council.

We hope a move has now been arranged. If the Council are stalling, Yvette could consider involving the police on the grounds of the verbal abuse she is receiving (harassment and intimidation, not just noise nuisance) or activate the Community Trigger which would lead to a multi-agency review of the whole case which would involve the police too.

Never give up!

Never give up and stand up to the people that make your life hell. Angela, Cambridgeshire

Renting privately, Angela found her life turned into a nightmare when anti-social neighbours decided to hold late night parties. There was banging on Angela’s bedroom walls, constant slamming of doors, shouting, running up and down the stairs and name calling. Angela’s son has special needs and it was so bad he became scared of going to bed. It was a constant nightmare because the family would be woken at all hours by constant bashing on their walls.

Angela reported the problems to the police and Local Authority and within a year of reporting it the problem was resolved … by eviction of the tenants leaving an empty house! Prior to this, however, was 3 years where she tried to cope with the behaviour and go round to the house and ask them to stop. “Never give up and stand up to the people that make your life hell”, Angela advises victims.

We advise you to report earlier rather than later so the process of  stopping that anti-social behaviour can start as soon as possible.

[Source: online survey]

Crucial to contact the Right Department

The anti-social behaviour team was useless. They just kept visiting and asking the person to stop making noise. They didn’t seem to know what they were doing. John, Surrey

John owns his house and was distressed to find himself the victim of anti-social behaviour in the residential area with drug dealers on the streets, litter, and noise from neighbouring houses into the early hours of the morning.

He tried to tackle the matter himself first, asking the neighbour verbally and in writing to stop. When the problem continued, he turned to the Local Authority with frustrating results:

“The anti-social behaviour team was useless. They just kept visiting and asking the person to stop making noise. They didn’t seem to know what they were doing.”

John could not sleep nor could he relax as he was thinking about it all the time. Thankfully things were resolved once he spoke to the right people within his Local Authority: Environmental Health.

His advice to victims of ASB is:

“Make sure you speak to the right people at the council. I contacted Environmental Health at the council who were separate from the ASBO team. They resolved my issues in about 3 weeks…they seemed to know what they were doing.”

[Source: online survey]

 

Tired and frustrated at lack of Support

“Discovering that no authority had the right to enter the property and turn off the music which had been left playing was extremely shocking and demoralising. If you cannot find respite from the world at home where does that leave you?” JA, Leicester

JA  owns his house but it soon became a place where could no longer feel at home, thanks to the behaviour of his neighbours. They played music loudly at all times of the day and into the early hours. Once they left music playing and left the house for the evening. The authorities had no right to enter the property and stop the music making life unbearable for JA.

The neighbours were also spitting from the 3rd floor of the house into the yard, foul and abusive language. “We were tired and frustrated at the lack of support. Discovering that no authority had the right to enter the property and turn off the music which had been left playing was extremely shocking and demoralising. It could have continued for months day and night….. If you cannot find respite from the world at home where does that leave you?

Finally the original problem tenants were moved. Yet JA has new problem neighbours, talking loudly through the night until 5 am. They are waiting for similar action to be taken.

[Source: online survey]