Noise Pollution - What is legal and what isn't?

I live in a little suburb in Randburg called Windsor East.  What a nightmare it has become.  There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t feel my head banging against a brick wall.  If I am lucky, I can get away with about 5 to 6 hours sleep a day so I am generally dead tired and absolutely exhausted from lack of sleep.  Weekends are the worst because the noise can go on all day and all night and generally Sunday night is party night and I often don’t get to sleep until 02:00 in the morning

My understanding has always been that noise pollution is illegal but after not having too much luck with 10111 and Linden Police Station, I started doing a bit of research and this is what I found.

There are 2 different kinds of noise – disturbing noise vs noise nuisance.

  • A Disturbing Noise is objective – a scientifically measurable noise level and generally compared to the existing ambient noise level. 

  • A Noise Nuisance is a subjective measure and is defined as any noise that “disturbs or impairs or may disturb or impair the convenience or peace of any person.

According to Wikipedia

Noise pollution is the disturbing or excessive noise that may harm the activity or balance of human or animal life. 

Hi noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects in humans, a right in blood pressure and an increase in stress and vasoconstriction and an increased incidence of coronary artery disease

Human health

Noise pollution affects both health and behaviour.  Unwanted sound (noise) can damage psychological health.  Noise pollution can cause trouble, hypertension, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects.  Furthermore, stress and hypertension are the leading causes to  health problems.

Sound becomes unwanted when it either interferes with normal activities such as sleeping, conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one’s quality of life.

Noise pollution is also a cause of annoyance (which can lead to violence)

The Law

Hat I have been able to determine is that there are 2 laws – the municipal by-law and then there is Provincial legislation.  More specifically the Environment Conservation Act, 1989 (Act 73 of 1989) – Noise control regulations, 1999.

What I have found is that even our law enforcers are quite ignorant when it comes to the two different definitions and the two different laws which is why it is quite possible that most of the population are ignorant about both laws.

What most people seem to be aware of is the Municipal By-law which governs “Disturbing Noise”.  I haven’t found much info on this because this kind of noise doesn’t really bother me but essentially this is normal loud party music (which is NOT enhanced with a sub-woofer / equaliser and all you can hear is MUSIC, etc.  This kind of “party” noise is generally tolerated until 22:00 on a Friday and / or Saturday evening before you can take steps against the perpetrator.  Keep in mind though that partying / drinking on the pavement is illegal so you can always use this to get the cops out when the noise becomes a bit rough oh and the person having the party does need permission from his / her neighbours in advance of the party.  Generally SAPS deals with these noise issues and there are steps to follow if this becomes a nasty habit of a neighbour.

Noise Nuisance is a totally different kettle of fish.  This is when it feels as though your head is being bashed against a brick wall.  The doef doef doef you get from these boom boxes on wheels.  This noise is ILLEGAL at ALL times and is enforceable at any time of the day / night by ALL law enforcers.  This is where the Environment Conservation Act comes into play.  And to be specific, sections 8, 9 and 12.

Please note that due to the volume of information, I have only included what I feel specifically of interest in this situation.  You are more than welcome to fill in the gaps by looking for the into on the net.

Section 8 - Prohibition of Disturbing Noise

No person shall make, produce or cause a disturbing noise, or allow it to be made, produced or caused by any person, animal, machine, device or apparatus or any combination thereof.

Section 9 – Prohibition of Noise Nuisance

No person shall:

  1. operate or play, or allow to be operated or played, a radio, television set, drum, musical instrument, sound amplifier, loudspeaker system or similar device producing, reproducing or amplifying sound so as to cause a noise nuisance;

  2. …..

  3. allow an animal owned or controlled by him or her to cause a noise nuisance

  4. discharge fireworks in a residential area I a manner which m ay cause a noise nuisance

  5. build, make, construct, repair, rebuild, modify, operate or test a vehicle, vessel, aircraft or object on or near residential premises, or allow it to be built, made, constructed, repaired, rebuilt, modified, operated or tested, if this may cause a noise nuisance (keep in mind all the backyard mechanics)

  6. ….

  7. ….

There are a few more paragraphs which you may find interesting as well but I didn’t think they were specifically relevant here.

Section 12 – Motor vehicles

  1. No person may drive a vehicle, or allow it to be driven, on a public road, if the sound level at the measuring point measured in accordance with the procedure prescribed in SABS 0181 exceeds:

    1. In the case of a non-exempted vehicle, the sound level specified in Table 1 of SBS 0281 for that type of vehicle; or

    2. In the case of an exempted vehicle, the applicable reference sound level indicated in the tables of Annexure A to SABS 0281, for that type of vehicle by more than 5 dBA

  2. A local authority may:

    1. In order to determine whether a vehicle being used on any road in the area of jurisdiction of that local authority, including a private, provincial or national road crossing its area of jurisdiction, complies with the provisions of these regulations, instruct the owner or person in control of the vehicle:

      1. To have any appropriate inspection or test conducted on the vehicle as the local authority may deem necessary, on a date and at a time and place determined by the local authority in writing

      2. To stop the vehicle or cause it to be stopped

    2. Subject to the provisions of subregulations (3) and (4) and the application provisions of any other law, attach a vehicle if the sound level of such vehicle exceeds the sound level referred to in subregulation (1) by more than 5 dBA

Section 18 - Penalties

Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with a provision of these regulations shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding R20,000, or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or to both such find and such imprisonment and …… (I’m sure you can find the rest on the net)

Section 20 – Application of regulations

  1. All local authorities shall apply these regulations,…….(you know the drill)

Now I have found many times that when I contact 10111 to complain then they try and spin this crap that I have to contact SAPS but I have learned a few tricks.  What many people don’t seem to realise, this noise is exactly the same as being tortured / bullied – which is illegal.  Most important to remember, the Constitution guarantees that you have the right to freedom in your own home.  You have the right to read a book when you want to.  You have the right to choose what you want to listen to.  You have the right to sleep when you want to and this noise affects these rights.

On the internet you can search for “SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for Noise Nuisances”

This will give you the procedures to follow.

This is what I did because I just kept hitting a brick wall:

I had this really problem neighbour.  Over Christmas and New Year the noise was so loud that I couldn’t sleep for 48 hours and phoning 10111 and Linden Police Station didn’t get me anywhere.  The noise was almost permanent.  He was even partying during the week so I wasn’t getting any sleep at all.  He would even start a party at 03:00 on a weekday.  I had had enough so I started by arming myself with the necessary information.

When I phone 10111 I report a violation of my constitutional rights – that seems to get them to listen and I started keeping a diary of the dates, times and reference numbers.  Then I went and laid a criminal complaint.  Initially, nothing happened until one Sunday when I phoned Linden Police Station and spoke to 3 different Sergeants and they all told me that this person was allowed to make as much noise as he wanted and if I had a complaint then I should speak to the Captain.

Well, next day after work I did go to speak to the Captain but he wasn’t in and I was told to make an appointment but I spoke to someone else, explained the situation, showed him the documentation I relating to the Noise Control Regulations.  Then I gave him the names of the 3 sergents and told him what they had said.  Then things changed and the noise stopped but not totally.  They still take the odd chance now again. I go stand in the street and take photographs and log a call with 10111.  If I am lucky, the noise stops.  I now have a new neighbour in a different block of units who has started the same kind of thing so looks as though I’m going to laying another criminal charge soon.

For info, here are a few extracts from the Bill of Rights (you can do a bit of research on the net fill in the blanks):

9.         Equality

  1. Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law

  2. Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms.  To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons …

12.       Freedom and security of the person

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right:

    1. ..

    2. ..

    3. Not to be tortured in any way

I also downloaded a reporting from the WHO – Guidelines for Community Noise

These are a few of the topics they discuss in the report but I’m not going to go into detail.

  • Noise-induced hearing impairment

  • Speech intelligibility – is adversely affected by noise

  • Interference with speak perception

  • Hearing impairment

  • Reading acquisition – chronic exposure to noise during early childhood appears to impair reading acquisition and reduces motivational capabilities.

  • Social behaviour

  • Communication,

  • Disturbance of rest and sleep

  • Psychophysiological, mental-health and

  • Performance – It has been shown, mainly in workers and children, that noise can adversely affect performance of cognitive tasks. Reading, attention, problem solving and memorisation are among the cognitive effects most strongly affected by noise.

  • Effects on residential behaviour and annoyance - Noise above 80dBA may also reduce helping behaviour and increase aggressive behaviour.  There is particular concern that high-level continuous noise exposures may increase the susceptibility of schoolchildren to feelings of helplessness.  Stronger reactions have been observed when noise is accompanied by vibrations and contains low-frequency components, or when the noise contains impulses, such as with shooting noise.

Sorry if the grammar is not perfect and if there are spelling mistakes but I did try to focus more on content than the grammar.

If you are one of the guilty – learn respect for others.  That way, other people may respect you in return.

If you are one of the victims, contact me on Facebook and I’ll email you some of the documents I have.  You can do something so please don’t let these bullies continue to get away with this torture.

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