The Housing Ombudsman has carried out an investigation into the origins of noise complaints and the most effective way of dealing with them with particular reference to social Landlords.
Noise complaints have increased sharply in recent years. Part is undoubtably as a side effect of the pandemic. More people working from home, more chance of noise being created or indeed being affected by noise. The report concluded that there is a significant amount of maladministration in dealing with complaints of this kind. Often, they are categorised as anti-social behaviour when in fact there are a lot of potential causes and remedies. 76% of landlords when responding to the call for evidence said they dealt with all noise reports under their anti-social behaviour policy but that on investigation the nature of the noise complaint amounted to nothing more than household noise. The handling of the complaint in this manner was found to likely have an adverse effect to the mental health and ongoing relationship between the parties. Landlords are therefore encouraged to work on prevention instead of quickly attributing blame.
The investigation identified 32 recommendations including:
A call for the Decent Homes standard to be revised to fully reflect the causes that can result in residents experiencing noise nuisance. By focusing exclusively on external noise, and primarily noise from vehicles or factories, it does not reflect modern living for most residents.
Updating void standards to ensure that carpets are not removed unless in poor condition and hard flooring is removed when there have been reports of noise linked to the property, that properties have adequate insulation from transference noise and anti-vibration mats are fitted into the washing machine space as standard.
Adopting a proactive good neighbourhood management policy, distinct to the ASB policy, with clear options for maintaining good neighbourhood relationships, such as mediation and information sharing, and reviewing the presence of staff on estates.
Adopting a triage methodology to identify if a noise report should be handled under the ASB policy or the neighbourhood management policy, and reviewing ASB policies to ensure they are realistic and practicable.
Ensuring that residents who make noise reports are given information about their right to make a complaint if they are dissatisfied with the landlord’s proposal for handling the situation or the actions taken to address the situation.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ way of dealing with noise complaints which this report confirmed. There is clearly now an expectation for policies to be updated to account for modern practices. Even if this report was targeted at social landlords, private landlords would be well advised to take heed of the findings and adjust accordingly.
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