The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr D says the Council failed to properly investigate a noise nuisance caused by a neighbour’s building works in 2019. The Ombudsman has not found any evidence of fault by the Council. He has completed the investigation and not upheld the complaint.
- The complainant (whom I refer to as Mr D) says the Council has failed to properly investigate his reports of a noise nuisance caused by building works to a neighbouring property.
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
- I have considered the information provided by Mr D. I asked the Council questions and carefully examined its response including the noise nuisance case file.
- I shared my draft decision with both parties.
What I found
- On 10 April 2019 Mr D sent the Council an online report about noise being caused during the day by building works to a neighbouring property. The Council allocated the case to an Investigating Officer (Officer) in the Environmental Health Team. The Officer called Mr D several times but did not get a response and was unable to leave a message. On 1 May Mr D sent the Council a further noise report about the same issue. The Officer called Mr D but got no response. On 8 May he visited the site, but Mr D was not home. He did speak to the builders at the neighbouring property and checked they were working within approved hours. Mr D sent another noise report a few days later. The Council made further checks about the builders working at the correct time. Mr D continued to send the Council reports and the Officer carried out a second site visit in June. He did not witness any noticeable building noise and no noise nuisance. The Officer wrote to Mr D on 2 July. He explained that typical constriction work hours were from 7.30 am to 5pm on a weekday. Because the works Mr D complained about were happening within those hours and no nuisance had been witnessed the Council did not see there was a Statutory Noise Nuisance.
- The next day Mr D contacted the Council repeating his noise reports and saying the noise woke him up after 8am. The Council responded and reiterated that works were within allowed hours and were standard building works. Mr D continued to submit reports to the Council. The Officer wrote to him on 8 July with a Statutory Nuisance Event Log (Event Log) to complete and return. Mr D sent the Council ten more reports in the remainder of July. On 30 July the Council received a completed Event Log. The Officer reviewed the Event Log on 2 August. The noise reported by Mr D consisted primarily of brief periods of standard building works noise and happened within the allowed hours. The Council did not find evidence of a statutory noise nuisance. On 15 August the Officer wrote to Mr D explaining his decision and that he would close the case.
- In September Mr D sent the Council several noise reports. He did not supply any evidence of incidents that would constitute a statutory noise nuisance. At the start of October Mr D told the Council works had started at 7.20 am. The Officer wrote to the neighbour and builders advising that works must take place within the agreed hours. Mr D then submitted another 11 reports to the Council about daytime noise in October. The Council decided that due to the volume of reports it would look at all communications from Mr D and keep his case open. If Mr D provided new evidence to support a statutory noise nuisance the Council would investigate further.
- In November Mr D told the Council works had started before 7.30 am. The Officer checked evidence and found that was not correct. Mr D sent the Council a further 18 reports in November all about daytime noise. He continued to send reports through to January 2020. The Council considered each report and found none of them constituted new evidence of a potential statutory noise nuisance.
What should have happened
- When the Council receives a noise report from a resident the case is logged and allocated to an Investigating Officer. The Officer will call the resident to discuss the case if possible and assess if the case is likely to be considered a statutory noise nuisance. A statutory noise nuisance is not defined within legislation. Instead Officers have to consider the nature of the noise, when it happens and the duration. If someone is sensitive to noise that is not sufficient for the Council to class an event as a statutory noise nuisance. Building works within allowed hours would not automatically be a statutory noise nuisance. Only if there were additional extended periods of excessive noise, for example, might the Council look to investigate a case further.
- If the Officer, after considering the information, has doubts about whether there is a statutory nuisance it will send the resident a Noise Event Log to complete and return. The Event Log shows when the noise happens, the type of noise and duration. If the Council do not find evidence in the Event Log of a statutory noise nuisance it will close the case and notify the resident. If further investigation is needed the Council will carry out monitoring which can include the use of a digital recorder.
Was there fault by the Council
- Mr D says the Council has not dealt with his case properly and should take action against his neighbour. Having considered all the evidence, I find the Council has acted in line with its policies and procedures and is not at fault. An Officer has looked at all the reports submitted by Mr D and carried out site visits. No statutory noise nuisance has been witnessed. Furthermore, the noise reported by Mr D would not constitute a statutory nuisance on which the Council could take formal enforcement. The Council has already explained this to Mr D. In the absence of any evidence of a statutory noise nuisance there is no duty on the Council to do anything further.
- I appreciate Mr D strongly disagrees with the Council’s decisions on his case. However, the Ombudsman will not question the merits of those decisions because there is no evidence of fault by the Council.
- I have completed the investigation and not upheld the complaint.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman