Noisy neighbours can be a real nuisance and the pandemic saw 1,000 noise complaints a day during the pandemic. This is equivalent of 40 an hour across the UK, according to new research from Churchill Home Insurance.

The research was conducted via an FOIA request to all local councils across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Of the 381 local councils, of which 272, 71.4 per cent, responded and 269, 70.6 per cent, did so with usable data.

Between April 2020 and March 2021, nearly 370,000 noise complaints were made which is 28 per cent more than the previous year which saw 289,000 complaints being made. Most councils, 86 per cent, reported that noise complaints had increased in 2020/21 in comparison to 2019/20.

Noise from neighbours has negatively impacted the mental health of almost a third of Brits, 32 per cent, some 16.7 million people, according to research done by Opinium amongst 2,000 UK adults between 23rd – 27th July 2021.

Neighbours playing music was seen as the worst noise for mental health, 34 per cent, followed by the noise from children, 30 per cent. Garden noise also came out at 30 per cent while parties was slightly lower at 29 per cent and neighbours coming and going at antisocial hours was 24 per cent.

Nearly half, 43 per cent, of Brits, 22.7 million people, believe they are more aware of noisy neighbours now compared to before the pandemic. More than a third, 39 per cent, are more aware of their own noise now. 

Only 11 per cent of those affected by increased neighbour noise reported it to their local council.

Based on a total of 370,000 noise complaints reported to councils in the last year, this suggests as much as 3.3 million noise issues were caused in 2020/21, an average of more than 9,000 a day and much more than those officially recorded.

In almost five million cases, 29 per cent, the victim spoke to their neighbour about the issue but in less than a third, 29 per cent, of these cases they successfully put a stop to the noise. Other common actions taken were contacting the neighbour’s landlord, 16 per cent, and reporting them to the police, 14 per cent.

Steven Williams, Head of Churchill home insurance, said: “The pandemic has seen us confined to our homes which means we’ve probably all become very aware of noises around us. As we go into more of a ‘new normal’, many of us will carry on working from home, at least part of the time, so noisy neighbours will continue to be really disruptive.

“It may be the case that neighbours don’t realise they are being noisy so the first step should always be speaking to them and explaining the problem. If that doesn’t work and they carry on, then keep a record of the type of noise and time of day and speak to your local council about raising a potential noise complaint.”

Psychologist Donna Dawson, says: "The past 18 months have seen our behaviour change in so many ways. With most of us being limited to our homes on a daily basis, it is understandable that noise complaints have risen. Even small changes in sound can cause increased anxiety and stress for many people, especially if it disrupts home life and makes it difficult to relax, work or look after family. 

“When subjected to ongoing noise that is out of your control, there are a few techniques which might help you cope. These include moving to another room if possible and use a distraction of your own, such as TV, music or radio; use earplugs to deaden the strength of the sound; take deep breaths from your diaphragm on a slow count of ten on both the inhale and exhale to relax yourself; and even try some vigorous exercise, like jumping jacks, to burn off those stress hormones.

“It is always best to try speaking to a neighbour if you feel their noise is unreasonable, but do so when you are not feeling anxious or angry at the time."

Regional findings

People are most likely to have been affected by noise in London, where half, 51 per cent, of people have been negatively impacted by their neighbours, followed by those in the Northeast, 37 per cent, South West and Scotland, both 34 per cent.

Six of the top 10 councils with the highest number of noise complaints were in London, with Newham reaching 16,300, Islington hitting 15,900 and Kensington and Chelsea both at 15,500, making them the capital’s noise complaint hotspots. Kensington and Chelsea saw the greatest number of neighbour noise complaints per capita, with 99 for every 1,000 inhabitants.

Where does West Midlands sit on the list? 

Birmingham was in the top 10 for number of neighbour noise complaints in 2020/21, with 10,100 complaints received by councils.

Dudley in the West Midlands, saw 3,240 complaints being made to councils.

North Lanarkshire, the only Scottish council which made it into the top 10, received 9.100 noise complaints last year.

While some councils received a lot of complaints, others received much less. For example, Wiltshire received just nine complaints last year, North Kesteven received 13 and Tamworth received 37.

On a broader regional basis, London accounted for more than a third, 34 per cent, of all noise complaints last year, with an average of 38 complaints for every 1,000 households.

If we were to look at it on a household basis, this is ahead of the West Midlands, 22 per 1,000, Scotland, 15 per 1,000, and the South East, 12 per 1,000.

Northern Ireland was the only region that did not see an increase in noise complaints in 2020/21 compared to the previous year.