Shared homes students and noise

In recent weeks we’ve come across several stories where students living in shared houses – HMOs – are causing noise problems in communities. In  Durham  regular student parties have led to residents changing the rooms they sleep in to avoid noise. One is even reported to be sleeping in his bath in an effort to get some peace. In Brighton residents are calling for tighter regulation on houses occupied by students to reduce the blight of  noise from parties and loss of family housing. Even Ambleside in the Lake District is suffering from student noise blight. It might be that tenants in a particular property are prone to regular parties. Or in areas where there is a concentration of student housing, one off noisy nights in different houses can repeatedly keep a neighbourhood awake.

Across the UK there are 60 cities that are home in term time to over 10,00 students – who make up over 5% of the population, and another 24 were at least one university is based. Many of these areas have neighbourhoods frequently disturbed by student noise. Now most students are quietly studying for exams – however once exams are over its party time, and neighbourhoods are blighted by a burst of end of term parties (at a time when younger students may still be studying for GCSEs and A levels).  Residents in these neighbourhoods are accustomed to disturbed sleep and local councils and universities have employed a range of strategies to tackle the problem.

Reducing noise in the community

The timing of Noise Action Week is ideal for promoting initiatives to raise awareness of the impacts of noise and introduce strategies to reduce its impact.  Student housing providers and univerisities/colleges should be keen to maintain a good relationship with their host town, although some are better than others at reminding their students to keep the noise down in the community.

Many student housing providers give guidance on dealing with noisy neighbours in student accommodation, but when students are dispersed in rented housing in the community, the problem can be more difficult to deal with.  Strategies have been introduced by both universities and local authorities in affected areas to manage the problem. Examples of this include:

  • Newcastle University – procedure for dealing with complaints about noise and anti social behaviour using a nuisance protocol which can result in fines from £30 – £300
  • In Hertfordshire the University funds a partnership with Welwyn Hatfield Council and Hertfordshire Police to run extra noise patrols at the beginning and end of the academic year which prevents any noise problems escalating
  • In Brighton and Hove planning controls have been introduced to prevent some neighbourhoods becoming dominated by student housing – and associated noise and other nuisance impacts

With 27% of young people going into higher education straight from school and 49% over all, many are living away from the restrictions of home for the first time. As our examples above demonstrate, this can lead to over exuberant behaviour and upset neighbours. Noise from student housing is far from a niche problem. While in some areas measures are in place to prevent issues from escalating, there are many places where support for neighbours affected could be improved. Partnerships between the university, local authority and police service (as exemplified in Hertfordshire) can promote quieter communities. Involving landlords can help too by ensuring conditions on behaviour are written into housing contracts.

We’ve put together a Noise_Action_Week_sample_student_noise_protocol for managing noise from private rented accommodation based on one used by a local authority in a university city.  Noise Action Week is a great opportunity for reminding students of their responsibilities in the community – as many first years will be looking for their first homes off campus for their next year.

For students, we’ve also got ten tips to avoid waking the neighbours in the post exam party season.

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