Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 25 Mar 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: There is no evidence of fault in how the Council dealt with Mr C’s reports about noise and anti-social behaviour from a neighbouring property.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr C, complains that the Council failed to take appropriate action after he reported antisocial behaviour from his neighbours.
- Mr C says he suffered from noise nuisance, intimidation and abuse from his neighbours, but no action was taken.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- As part of the investigation, I have:
- considered the complaint and information received from Mr C; and
- reviewed and considered information received from the Council; and
- spoke with Mr C about his complaint.
What I found
Relevant legal considerations
- The Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires local authorities to investigate complaints about noise that could be a statutory nuisance. For a noise to count as a statutory nuisance it must:
- unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises; or
- injure health or be likely to injure health.
- If an officer decides a statutory nuisance is happening, or will happen in the future, councils must serve an abatement notice. This requires whoever is responsible to stop or restrict the noise. If someone does not comply with an abatement notice they can be prosecuted and fined.
- Alternatively, local authorities can also consider taking action to prevent nuisance noise using powers in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. These include serving a Community Protection Notice where noise is having a persistent and detrimental effect on a locality.
- The Council has a range of actions available to it including advice, the issuing of an enforcement notice and prosecution.
- The Council also has the option of issuing a Community Protection Notice. However, only after a warning has been issued and it is satisfied the behaviour is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life on those in the locality, is persistent and is unreasonable.
- In January 2019, Mr C contacted the Council to report that the neighbours were shouting, using foul language and banging on his wall. Mr C also contacted the police about the same issues.
- The Council wrote to the landlord of Mr C’s neighbour, informing them a report had been received, advising them that action may be taken and asking them to take steps to address the issue.
- The police issued a Community Protection Warning Notice to Mr C’s neighbour, on behalf of the Council, informing the neighbour of the complaint and advising them that further action may be taken if the issue continues.
- The Council wrote to Mr C informing him that it had sent the letter to his neighbour. The Council also provided Mr C with diary sheets, on which it asked Mr C to record any noise observations for 3 weeks.
- Mr C completed the diary sheets. Mr C recorded that a person dropping his neighbour off intimidated him. Mr C also recorded an incident of banging in February, and one of loud music in March.
- The Council did not consider it had enough evidence to take any further enforcement action, or to justify installing noise monitoring equipment.
- Mr C contacted the Council and asked for it to act. He said he wanted the Council to issue a Community Protection Notice to his neighbours.
- The Council told Mr C that in order to consider issuing a notice to his neighbours, the Council would need to see evidence of the anti-social behaviour. It explained that evidence could be in the form of audio or video footage, CCTV or photographs.
- The Ombudsman cannot question the outcome of a Council’s decision that has not been affected by fault. Nor can we substitute our opinion for the Council’s professional judgement.
- The Council investigated Mr C’s reports of noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour by considering the diary sheets he provided and concluded it did not have enough information to justify the installation of noise monitoring equipment.
- The Council did however issue Mr C’s neighbours with a Community Protection Notice Warning. It subsequently told Mr C that it would need to see further evidence of anti-social behaviour, before it could consider proceeding with the issuing of a formal notice.
- Mr C feels the Council did not properly investigate his concerns properly and should have taken formal action. However, I have seen no evidence of fault in how it considered the matter. We cannot question the Council’s decision where it is made without fault
- I have concluded my investigation on the basis that there was no fault in how the Council dealt with the matter.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman