Lockdown: ‘Noisy neighbours are ruining my life’

A man covering his head with a pillowImage copyright Getty Images

“We hate every sound coming from over the fence. It’s like she’s invading our house.”

Since the UK went into lockdown because of coronavirus, Amy’s not been getting the peace and quiet she might have expected.

And she’s directing the blame squarely at one person – her neighbour.

“She’ll have people around all the time, drinking, having a laugh and leaving in the middle of the night,” Amy tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

And it looks like Amy’s not alone.

Newsbeat contacted 103 councils in the UK and asked if they’d been getting more noise complaints since the lockdown began in March. We got responses from 51 councils and 44 of those reported some kind of rise.

Not every council had the exact data to hand, and the figures covered different time periods and types of complaint.

It does suggest, though, that more people being at home is causing problems in some communities.

‘It’s loud the whole time’

Dan’s issue with his neighbours has been going on for more than a year.

“They have the most volatile arguments, even throwing things at each other and screaming at the top of their lungs”, he says.

In the past he’s resorted to calling the police but he says the problem hasn’t gone away and, for him, lockdown has made everything worse.

“It’s hard enough to concentrate when working from home. But the constant arguing makes it hard to get anything done.

“I’ve been in video calls with clients and they’ve actually commented on the argument they can hear in the background.”

Neither Dan nor Amy wanted to be identified.

From the data seen by Newsbeat, Leeds City Council recorded the biggest rise.

It had 1,171 noise complaints in April, compared to 780 over the same period last year.

Stroud Council had 57 noise complaints between 22 March and 20 April this year – many more than the 14 it received during the same period in 2019.

It’s one of a number of councils who’ve been posting online encouraging residents to “be considerate”.

But, ask people like Amy, and they’ll tell you the message isn’t getting through.

She says her neighbour is not only breaking lockdown rules by having people over, but is “ruining their life to a degree” with noise.

Amy doesn’t know how to deal with the problem.

“All of a sudden, it’s super loud music, screaming and water fights. You can’t concentrate, even after closing the window,” she says.

“My husband doesn’t want to officially complain to avoid neighbourly conflict – we’ve never hung out with her before so we don’t know how to approach her.”

What can you do?

Communication is key, according to Dan Saunders. He’s head of the Association of Noise Consultants and is often involved in dealing with complaints.

“Just because you can hear your neighbour doesn’t mean the noise is excessive,” he explains, adding that it’s “not unreasonable” to assume that any rise in complaints might have something to do with the fact that so many people are spending a lot more time at home.

And even though it can be hard, he says talking to your neighbours has to be the first step.

“Explain the situation. We’re all human beings so it’s key to resolve the dispute between yourselves before making a complaint.”

Image copyright Dan Saunders
Image caption Dan Saunders says: “People are more aware of their neighbours during lockdown.”

He adds that filing a noise complaint can be a long process “especially with local authorities under pressure”.

If talking doesn’t work, then he advises keeping a diary to note down exactly what’s happening.

But ultimately, you may have to file an official complaint – like Dan did.

He’s now reported his neighbours to their management company and the council.

And since complaining, things in recent days have been a bit quieter.

“So it’s fingers crossed that it continues,” he says.

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Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

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