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
Describes the university's "local rules" governing student conduct in the community. See also the other web links below.
Selected key points:
"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.*
Non-compliance with local council waste and recycling collection procedures.
Any other behaviour that causes danger or distress."
*Note from me, for the avoidance of doubt: Earlier guidance about 10pm and midnight cut-offs for noise has been withdrawn by the university. As noted, its rules refer to excessive noise "at any time". An 11pm cut-off applied in halls also doesn't apply in the community. The "any time" rule covers daytime as well as night-time noise. The scope of these rules is wide: they cover behaviour in the street (eg, while walking home) as well as what happens in and around privately rented flats and houses.
Penalties can include the following (selected from an extensive list and edited for brevity):
"The requirement to write a letter of apology ...
A fine not exceeding £250;
The requirement to perform unpaid services for the University or local community for a maximum of 20 hours;
In the case of serious or repeated misconduct, referral to a Disciplinary Committee appointed under Section 7 of the [Student Disciplinary] Regulations, which in addition to the penalties above may exclude, suspend or expel a student "
Guidance to Students: Community Living Page
Covers noise, waste, and other matters, including links to some of the other documents mentioned here.
Selected key point: "You can avoid the risk of receiving noise complaints by: ... not holding large gatherings or house parties in your property — use pubs, clubs and halls for hire"
Students on the Move - From Halls to House
Aimed at second-years moving out of halls and into the community. Tips on being a good neighbour, etc.
Selected key points:
• "Noise can be considered excessive at any time of the day or night.
• You are responsible for the behaviour of your visitors.
• There are no ‘student areas’ in Bristol."
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)
Most students live in rented accommodation in which several tenants share facilities such as bathrooms, kitchen and communal living room. All so-called HMOs are subject to legislation as regards fire safety and basic facilities. Most HMOs in inner-city areas of Bristol also need to obtain a licence from the Private Housing Service at Bristol City Council.
There are essentially two types HMO licence categories: "Mandatory" HMOs housing five or more unrelated people sharing facilities and "Additional" HMOs housing three or four unrelated sharers. Either type can apply to houses or flats.
"Mandatory" HMOs, regardless of where they are, have required a licence since 2006 under a national scheme that is administered locally by PHS.
"Additional" HMOs arise where local authorities use discretionary powers to impose licensing for smaller HMOs. BCC introduced this in 2019 in 12 inner-city wards (including Redland, Cotham, Clifton Down and Clifton). In 2022 it extended "additional" licensing to Bedminster, Brislington West and Horfield. (Not to be confused with "selective" licensing, which also applies in Bedminster and Brislington West but not Horfield.)
HMO licensees are subject to licence conditions and a code of good management (see links below) that require, among other things, that landlords "take all reasonable and practicable steps to prevent or reduce anti-social behaviour by persons occupying or visiting the
house." (See document links below.)
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 also that there is no mechanism in 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 these rules. Few people know they exist.
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 licence conditions PDF. (There are now different versions for different schemes, so be careful to select the right one). Using the Mandatory licence conditions as a reference, individual clauses of particular interest are:
8.5: must "issue new tenants with a tenancy or written agreement that include clauses that will allow the licence holder to take reasonable steps to tackle anti-social behaviour";
9.3: licence holders (landlords) or their property managers must seek references for new tenants;
11.1: must "take all reasonable and practicable steps to prevent or reduce anti-social behaviour by persons occupying or visiting the
11.2: must "take all reasonable steps to ensure that the property is not used for illegal or immoral purposes";
11.3: must "take all reasonable steps to keep the external appearance of the property in a reasonable condition taking into account its age of the property, character and locality and keep the exterior of the property free from graffiti and fly posters";
11.4: must "arrange inspections of the property 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";
11.5: must "provide the occupants of adjoining properties direct contact details such as a telephone number to enable them to inform the licence holder of problems such as complaints about the behaviour of the tenants or their visitors".
Note also the footnoted definition of ASB: "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 email@example.com