Under Irish law, you are entitled to bring complaints about specific neighbourhood noise to the District Court.
Noise such as that coming from other homes, workshops or local businesses that is continuous, repeated, loud and occurring at such times and of such duration that it affects the quality of life of the person is covered in Irish law.
The law in Ireland governing this area is (Section 108) of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 and the Environmental Protection Agency Act (Noise) Regulations 1994 (SI No. 179 of 1994). While the law does not specifically mention an exact level or standard of noise that is illegal, it is clear that if neighbourhood noise is affecting the quality of life of a citizen, then you have a right to complain. Your local authority has the power to investigate complaints about neighbourhood noise and also has specialist equipment that measures levels of sound.
A European standard for external intruder alarms replaced all current national standards in September, 2003. The new standard incorporates stricter controls regarding minimum and maximum duration for the sounding of alarms. The new limits are 90 seconds minimum and 15 minutes maximum. However, the new controls only apply to alarms fitted from September, 2003.
EU Directive 2002/49/EC deals with the assessment and management of environmental noise. This Directive applies to noise from industrial activity and from road, rail and air traffic. It does not apply to domestic noise. The directive is implemented in Ireland by the Environmental Noise Regulations 2006 (SI 140/2006).
You should approach the person or business causing the noise and explain that it is a nuisance and try to come to a mutually acceptable solution. If this does not work, your local authority has the same power as individuals to bring noise complaints to the District Court. In addition, local authorities have similar powers to the Environmental Protection Agency in relation to premises, processes and works other than those that require licensing under the Environmental Protection Agency Act. The Environmental Protection Agency can require the person or body to take specific measures to prevent or limit noise. Anyone required to take such specific measures by the Environmental Protection Agency must do so or face prosecution.
If you wish to make a complaint to the District Court, you are not required to be represented by a solicitor, however, you may engage the assistance of a solicitor to help prepare your noise complaint and present this in court. You should consult with the Clerk of your local District Court about an appointment for the hearing of your case and refer precisely to the law relating to your case (Section 108 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 and the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (Noise) Regulations 1994 (SI No. 179 of 1994).
The appointment for the hearing of your case must be at least 7 days later than the date on which you inform the person responsible for the noise nuisance that you will be taking your case to court. You must use a Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 - noise form of notice to inform the person or business that you will be taking them to court. It is important that you use this form of notice only and that you complete it fully and accurately.
The District Court will call both parties together and listens to both sides of the case. If the court finds in your favour, it can order the person or body to limit the noise, reduce the level of noise or stop the noise completely. Any Orders made by the court must be complied with.
The maximum fine for conviction on breach of noise regulations is €3,000 or 12 months in prison or both.
Approach the person or business responsible for the noise and try to reach a mutually acceptable solution. You may find that they were not aware of the nuisance and in most cases, this will resolve the problem.
If you have tried to resolve the problem amicably and this has not worked, you may then refer your complaint to your local authority, or you can take your complaint directly to your local District Court or the Environmental Protection Authority.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.