University Complaints Addresses
If you believe the noise you're hearing is caused by students, complain to their university, citing the property address. If you're unsure whether they're students or which university they are with, email both universities, asking them to check if they have students registered at this address and, if so, to take appropriate action.
University of Bristol
Community Liaison Officer
University of the West of England
Community Liaison Manager
University of Bristol Information
Rules for Student Behaviour in the Community
This is the document that matters. Of particular relevance: "Disciplinary action may be taken in the case of: ... Excessive noise that causes a disturbance to other residents at any time of day or night." (my emphasis).
Guidance to Students: Community Living Page
This page contains guidelines, including the following paragraphs in a section headed "Parties".
Houses in residential areas are not suitable for large, late, loud parties. Everyone is entitled to socialise in their own home but not at the expense of others, and neighbours should not be expected to tolerate this level of disturbance. Holding a house party that disturbs your neighbours and incurs complaints could mean you will be:
Fined £100 per housemate
Required to attend and pay for an anti-social behaviour impact awareness session [This may now have been discontinued, AW]
Required to write a letter of apology to your neighbours
Reported to your Head of School
Your party is likely to be unacceptable to your neighbours if you are considering any of the following:
Hiring a DJ or professional sound equipment
Hiring door staff
Inviting more than three guests per housemate (this could also be a health and safety/fire hazard and breach your tenancy agreement)
Loud past 10pm on week nights
Loud past midnight on Friday or Saturday nights
Soundproofing the walls and windows (this could also create a fire hazard)
Notes: 1 —The pages cited above are part of the UoB website, so may be changed without notice. If there is any discrepancy, the live text prevails.
2 — The midnight cutoff suggested in the guidance above is problematic: It may encourage students to disregard clauses in their tenancy agreements that require "quiet" by 11pm or earlier. Residents are not bound to accept the suggested times.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)
Most students live in rented accommodation in which several tenants share facilities such as bathrooms, a kitchen and usually a communal living room. All so-called HMOs are subject to legislation as regards fire safety and basic facilities. The largest of them, "large" or "mandatory" HMOs accommodating five people or more, are also subject to licensing under a national scheme that is administered locally by the Private Housing Team at Bristol City Council.
HMO licensees are subject to licence conditions and a code of good management (see links below) that require, among other things, that landlords "take reasonable steps to minimise any nuisance, alarm, harassment or distress that may be caused to neighbours by the way the property is used."
The significance of the HMO legislation in terms of noise is simple: to hold a big party, you need a big house. So the worst of the noise events residents suffer mostly take place in "mandatory" HMOs.
Landlords who fail to take the "reasonable steps" noted above could theoretically be fined, or could lose their licences. In practice that is virtually unknown. Note that there is no mechanism in the law requiring councils to take into account public opinion or complaints when approving or renewing licences. (New HMOs also require planning permission. That process does involve public consultation, but it is completely separate from the licensing process.)
Equally theoretically, occupiers also are under legal duties. Principally, they must not "hinder or frustrate the manager in the performance of his duties" . The full wording can be seen in the 2006 regulations cited below. Bristol City Council said in 2018 it had never prosecuted anyone under this legislation.
In 2019, BCC also introduced "additional licensing", which means that smaller HMOs are also now subject to licensing on similar terms to mandatory HMOs. This scheme applies in the 12 inner-city wards of Bristol.
Housing Act 2004 ... the main legislation that sets up HMO licensing. See Part 2.
HMO Management Regulations 2006 ... includes duties of occupiers--section 10. See also the Explanatory Note for a reference to action on breaches.
Code of Good Management Practice .... Part of the additional conditions that apply to HMOs in the Bristol area (authorities have some leeway to tailor conditions to the circumstances in their own areas). In addition to the "reasonable steps" duty mentioned above, the code states: "The landlord agrees to offer occupiers of the immediately neighbouring properties a contact telephone number, address or e-mail address to report any problems."
Licence Conditions ... (this is the BCC landing page for all HMO licensing documents; scroll down to find the conditions PDF.) Individual conditions of particular interest are:
4 & 5, licence holders (landlords) must seek references for new tenants;
6 landlords "Must issue new tenants/occupiers with a tenancy/written agreement that include clauses that will allow the licence holder to take reasonable steps to tackle anti-social behaviour";
7 "Must have facilities, such as a telephone number, email address or postal address, to receive and respond to initial complaints about the behaviour of tenants or their visitors";
8 "Must take all reasonable steps to deal with anti-social behaviour perpetrated by occupiers and/or visitors to the property";
9 "Must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the property is not used for illegal or immoral purposes";
11 "Must ensure that the property is inspected on a regular basis to assess if there is evidence of anti-social behaviour ; this should be at least quarterly, but more frequently if anti-social behaviour has been established".
Note also the footnote to condition 11: "Anti-social behaviour: Behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household (This includes noise nuisance)."
HMO Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). This is an important document, adopted in November 2020, that introduces new rules to limit the spread of HMOs in Bristol. It also contains some useful references to potential voluntary measures to reduce noise nuisance from HMOs. See page 18, section 6.3 Sound Reduction Measures, where you will find the following list (submitted by me in the second round of public consultation and adopted in full):
"In all circumstances applicants should consider on a voluntary basis the provision of a range of easy to install sound reduction measures where appropriate. Measures could include:
Use of soft-closers on internal doors and external doors;
Replacement of door knockers with doorbells/keyless systems;
Sound-deadening material on stair treads;
Location/design of bathroom sanitary ware to avoid noise transmission through party walls;
Plan layouts that avoid positioning of communal rooms opposite bedrooms in adjoining properties and restriction of access to elevated external areas (i.e. balconies, roofs).
Noise mitigation where access to properties is from the rear via external steps and walkways (such as HMOs above commercial premises). These can include enclosed lobbies and walkways or creation of an entrance on the main street."
How to Get Landlord Details for an HMO
Contact details for the owner (who is probably the licence holder) and the managing agent, if any, can be obtained by looking at the Pinpoint Map (scroll down to next heading).
(It's no longer necessary to email Bristol City Council's Private Housing Team to get this information. This change was implemented in the summer of 2021.)
Pinpoint should also be the first port of call if you want to check whether an HMO has a current licence—see also the comments in the next section.
The Pinpoint Map
To see the location of HMOs and details of the licences of individual properties go to the Pinpoint map, http://maps.bristol.gov.uk/pinpoint.
Click the "Housing and property" tab on the left hand side. Then in the list that opens, tick the left-hand box against "Property Licence - Mandatory HMO". (A "Mandatory" HMO is one occupied by five or more unrelated people sharing facilities.) As you zoom in on the map, green icons will appear that indicate which houses are Mandatory HMOs.
Since 2019 Bristol has also required licences for smaller HMOs shared by 3 or 4 people. This scheme currently (2021) applies only in 12 inner-city wards. There are many more of these smaller HMOs than the first group. To view them, select "Property Licence - Additional HMO" in the left-hand panel.
If you selected both Mandatory and Additional HMOs, you will now have a map densely populated with green and blue icons. Zoom in to street level to see more detail.
Click an icon to see when the property was licensed, and for how many people. This panel now also includes the name and address of the landlord and similar information for the managing agents, if any.
Contacting landlords and agents. The panel contains only postal addresses, so to contact a landlord you will have to write a letter and mail it. However, if the landlord is a company, an internet search may yield an email address. Or you may be able to find an email address for the managing agent (if there is an agent—not all landlords have one). You could email a letter to the agents and ask them to forward it to the landlord. Or you could simply deal with the agents themselves. The Noise Pages recommends that, either way, you insist that the landlord be made aware of your letter. It's the licence holder—presumably the landlord—who bears the legal obligations set out in the HMO licence.
If an address is not identified as an HMO. If you know an address is in use as an HMO but it isn't identified as such on Pinpoint, don't take this as indicating the property is being used as an HMO illegally. Icons tend to disappear for a while when a new licence is being processed, either for purposes of renewal (licences last for five years) or amendment (if, for example, the property has been sold to a new landlord). Pinpoint is based on a master register that is periodically updated by Bristol City Council. If you have serious concerns that an property is in use illegally as an HMO (that is, does not have an HMO licence) contact BCC's
Private Housing Team to clarify. (See the email address below.)
Bristol City Council
Neighbourhood Enforcement (includes noise enforcement). Phone: 0117 922 2500 during office hours -- 5pm Mon - Thu, 4-30pm Friday.
If you see anything wrong or out of date on this page, or if there is something you would like me to add--for example, details of your residents' association--please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org