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Noise pollution from restaurant next door - extractor fan running overnight

(75 Posts)
QueenStromba Sun 13-Dec-15 17:49:27

We can hear the extractor fan from the restaurant next door in every room of the flat - it's kind of like living in an airplane but quieter. It's always bothered me but I figured it was just part of living in a town centre. Recently though they've been running the fans all night rather than just 8.30am to 11pm. I get to sleep by listening to audio books to drown the noise out but if I wake up in the night I can't do that without waking DH up and so end up laying there awake until I either fall asleep from exhaustion or give up and get up. I have a health condition which is worsened by lack of sleep (probably fibromyalgia but I don't have a firm diagnosis yet) so losing out on a chunk of sleep a couple of times a week is starting to really damage my health and have a massive effect on my life.

I did go in to talk to them last week but I assumed that they had been just forgetting to turn the fan off so I was thrown when they told me that they needed it on because they were cooking overnight. I'm going to go back and talk to the general manager and want to try and work this out amicably but I'd like to know where I stand legally in case they try to fob me off. It's not very loud but can be heard over traffic noise during the day and sounds a lot louder a night when there is no other noise. If I can't get any joy from the restaurant are the council likely to do something about it?

wowfudge Mon 14-Dec-15 13:43:38

Yes, speak to the Council. One of the major reasons restaurants and take aways usually have restricted opening hours is because of noise and disruption for local residents. You should be able to check the planning/licensing arrangements for them to see whether they are infringing any of the rules. Environmental Health can help too.

In addition, having worked for a commercial property management company, I can tell you that noisy extraction equipment can be down to a build up of grease and can be a sign it needs to be cleaned and serviced. Fire regs govern the cleaning of extraction equipment as the build up of grease close to industrial cooking equipment is a fire hazard.

It may need other maintenance work - is there a chimney and is it securely supported/fixed to the side of the building?

Another thing to note is that the business may be in breach of it's insurance as very many business premises cannot be occupied through the night - this is stop people from living in places unsuitable as homes.

Do you know if the business owner owns or leases the premises? If he leases them contact the landlord or managing agent - it's likely to be a breach of the lease to operate through the night.

QueenStromba Mon 14-Dec-15 14:14:09

Thank you - I was just about to give up and repost in Chat. I don't know if they own the building or not. I looked up their planning permission and there were conditions given in relation to the noise of the extractor fan:

"The kitchen ventilation system shall meet the following standards:
Noise from the fan motor, and air noise from the ductwork and exhaust flue shall not increase the
background noise level by more than 2 dB(A)L90 (dB (A)) (5 minute measurement period) and there shall
be no increase in any one-third octave band between 50Hertz and 160Hertz when measured at the
boundary of the nearest noise sensitive property."

I think that means that we shouldn't be able to hear it at all since a 2db change isn't a perceptible change in volume although it might depend on the time of day, which part of the boundary they measured etc (the front is a main road but it's quieter at the back).

Unfortunately the only time constraints listed are that deliveries must be between 7am and 7pm.

I think by cooking overnight they mean leaving things on to slow cook.

QueenStromba Mon 14-Dec-15 16:20:52

Just talked to the general manager and he said that it should be on a timer and turn off at about midnight so he's going to have a look at it. He didn't seem in the least bit bothered that the sound is bothering me during the day so it looks like I might need to go the environmental health/planning dept route.

wowfudge Mon 14-Dec-15 22:49:39

Okay so see if it does go off at midnight following your conversation. I think you will need to contact environmental health if you believe it is noisier than it should be - they can check the noise level and also take enforcement action, so worth doing.

QueenStromba Tue 15-Dec-15 08:22:54

Well it didn't turn off and kept me awake until about 4am. On my way out to a hospital appointment, having to bring my husband now because I'm barely capable of stringing a sentence together.

wowfudge Tue 15-Dec-15 11:28:30

Your recourse is to EH at the Council. Keep a detailed diary of the noise, disruption and conversations. Try to record the extractor noise if you can.

QueenStromba Mon 28-Dec-15 20:37:52

Still not resolved sad They managed to turn it off on the 15th and over Christmas but it has been on every other night. DH and I have been at least half a dozen times between us. They've at least figured out that their timer is broken and have told us today that an engineer is coming next week. In the mean time they apparently can't turn it off manually overnight without permission from head office and they have to get permission each time. If it gets left on from now on I'll be all over the company's social media, trip advisor etc since it will be them actually not giving a fuck that they're torturing me rather than incompetence. I'm also phoning the general manager and assistant general manager on their mobiles every time I'm awake in the middle of the night because of the fan. The general manager is out of the country and probably not in anything near our time zone but I find it helps to vent my rage.

A man from environmental health is coming on Monday - I'm really hoping he makes them do something about the daytime noise as well as night time.

cupcakesandwine Mon 28-Dec-15 21:16:53

Environmental health is probably the best route as it is free (make sure you have logged your detailed complaints in writing with them re both day and night) but I suspect this is also a legal nuisance and you can sue them for it. If it is loud enough that you can hear it during the day as well as the night, I'd say they need a different ventilation system. If you don't get satisfaction from EH, talk to a solicitor about sending them a letter. You might also contact the planning department of your council and suggest that the planning regs are being breached.

cupcakesandwine Mon 28-Dec-15 21:18:17

Sorry, meant to say are there any other neighbours who might be affected? If so, I'd really suggest that you have a co-ordinated series of letters to both Environmental Health and the planners.

QueenStromba Tue 29-Dec-15 15:58:52

Thanks cupcakes. It's possible that we're the only flat affected and nobody lives in the flats below us anyway so probably the best we could do is get our landlord to send a letter too. The council are shut til Monday anyway so I may as well wait to see what the man from EH says when he comes.

I'm sitting in my living room and it's like I'm sitting next to an old combi boiler that's trying to heat the radiators and water for the taps at the same time. We've always been able to hear it (we moved in a couple of months after they opened so the ventilation system would have been new then) - I think it used to be quieter but I might just be more sensitive to it now.

They turned it off last night - hopefully they'll keep turning it off.

MooseTrap Wed 30-Dec-15 13:39:23

gah, I'd be annoyed too. It's the type of noise that is incredibly irritating.

Make sure you keep a log of every meeting, phone call etc, etc just in case it ends up in court. Make sure you are always reasonable and polite.
I'd write (recorded delivery) plus emails to the head office etc.

Good luck.

QueenStromba Wed 30-Dec-15 21:00:33

Thanks Moose. I think it's the constantness of it that's the most annoying bit. Even when they do turn it off it's on from about 8am to 11pm. I need a lot of sleep because of my fibromyalgia so it's on the whole time I'm awake and while I'm trying to get to sleep. Christmas was bloody lovely - the fan was off from 4.30pm on the 24th until the morning of the 27th.

They turned it off again last night which was good because I woke up a few times in the night - getting back to sleep takes forever with it on.

Blu Wed 30-Dec-15 21:24:32

The thing about the background noise in the conditions: that is in essence a time constraint because there is so little background noise at night. They are almost certainly breaching the terms of their planning permission.

Use this thread to compile a log of the times over the whole Christmad period when they have kept it in all night and / or it has been audible. Tell both the licensing and the environmental departments at the council, and copy in your local ward councillors and the ones with responsibility for licensing and for environmental health.

Good luck!

QueenStromba Thu 31-Dec-15 09:07:34

Thanks Blu.

It was on again last night - just as I was starting to think that they'd sorted it out. I've just made up a log of when I spoke to them and when the fan was turned off (way quicker than when it was turned on as they've only managed to turn it off on four occasions this month). No point logging when I can hear it as that's all the time when it's on - it was audible over storm Frank yesterday (and we have skylights which make the rain even louder) and I can hear it over our extractor fan (different tones) when I'm in the shower despite the bathroom being the least affected room.

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 09:15:31

Are you still in the initial period of your tenancy? It sounds as if you need to make plans to move, for the sake of your health.

For night time, have you tried ear plugs or white noise? It sounds incredibly loud if you can hear it over the storm or your own extractor fan, though.

QueenStromba Thu 31-Dec-15 10:32:09

We could move but we really don't want to. Our landlords are fantastic (they came to our wedding), short of our landlords going bankrupt we can stay here as long as we like (we were planning to stay until we can afford to buy), we have two cats which would make finding a new place difficult, we're close to DH's work and an easy commute to the place I do some work for, moving is expensive and I don't have the energy for it at the moment.

Earplugs don't work for me, they hurt my ears and I'm a side sleeper so they rub against the pillow which sounds really loud. In the past I've tried just having one ear plug in but I turn over a lot in my sleep as I end up in a lot of pain if I stay in the same position for too long. I'll try the white noise next time it's keeping me awake - I just installed an app on my phone.

AnchorDownDeepBreath Thu 31-Dec-15 10:45:02

Is your husband as affected by the noise?

I'm wondering if your fibromyalgia could be making it worse - noise intolerance isn't an uncommon symptom, and constant or almost-constant noises are supposed to be the worst triggers. Then as your fibro flares as a result of the noise, the noise becomes more intolerable. The only real solution is to move away from the noise though - it's unlikely, if this is what it is, that the restaurant would ever be suitable to live next to. I have a friend who fibro that used to live near a train track with one train an hour between 9am and 9pm - no freight trains or anything - but during one bad flare she developed noise intolerance and she couldn't live there after that, every time the noise went past it set her off. They had to sell the house sad She did make a good recovery when she moved somewhere very quiet, though.

The only way that I can think of to test that is to ask your husband or a good friend who visited often if they think that the noise is louder, and ask them for an honest answer? You still might not get one, because it's quite a leading question, but hopefully you'd get an idea of whether the increase should be enough to make it as bad as it is for you. It's possible that them extending the hours and running it over night combined with your flare at the moment has caused an intolerance.

If it's not the case, Environmental Health will come to record the sound - they left four recording boxes at different points in our flat when they came to us a few years ago, and collected them three days later. It took them four weeks to analyse the data, and then they wrote to the landlord of the building and let them know that the noise level was too loud. The landlord did nothing so got a few letters, over about two months, and a few fines, and then Environmental Health got us released from our rental contract so we could move. They intended to take the landlord to court over the noise pollution but as it's a low-priority case, they didn't expect it to be quick.

If it is a health thing, you might find that spending some nights away helps, if you've got somewhere quiet that you could stay. Although I expect, with fibro being the git that it is, it would return as soon as you were home.

To be honest, it may be that your only solution is to move whether they are being too loud or not - in my experience, the council is relatively toothless and they'll probably get a lot of warnings, then fines, before court action is even suggested, and then that can take a while. And if it's within allowable ranges, your intolerance is only likely to get worse the more you are exposed to it.

Castrovalva Thu 31-Dec-15 11:04:13

If the ear plugs are sticking out you might not be using them properly. (I use them at work and to sleep in)

You have to scrunch them right up, especially if you are fairly petite, they seem to be made for strapping great blokes, and are longer than you would need them to be.

Or it might be worth visiting a specialist and getting a pair custom made.

QueenStromba Thu 31-Dec-15 12:34:50

I've always been very sound sensitive and a problem sleeper so it's affecting me more than DH. He thinks it is getting louder though. We don't really have anyone who's spent much time here to ask except maybe the landlord. I might have a chat with him anyway to see if there's a possibility of us moving into one of their other flats.

I've been in to talk to them again and made notes this time which I think scared them a bit. I talked to the manager that gave us the impression that the fan was supposed to be running all night. She refused to give me her name or contact details for head office. She asked why I wanted her name and I told her it was for my complaint to head office and the council and for my potential law suit. I made sure to notify her that I have an illness which is being made worse by the fan. She thinks that they just forgot to turn the fan off last night and doesn't know anything about the engineer coming to fix it. I also noted that I could hear their music outside of their patio seating area which is a breech of their planning permission.

They close at four today so at least I won't have the bedtime stress of will they or won't they turn the fan off. I'll probably pop back down at about 4.30 and sit in their garden until they turn it off.

QueenStromba Thu 31-Dec-15 17:03:51

It's off!!! I think I might crack the bubbly open early smile

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 17:05:45

My god - you absolutely must. Bottle drained and straight off to bed!

QueenStromba Thu 31-Dec-15 17:33:21

Cava duly opened.

Even better news - their head of European operations just rang me. I think heads might be rolling. Massive charm offensive, agrees that only turning the fan off five times this month is not good enough, promises that their engineer will get straight on it once he's back from holiday so it should be all sorted out within a week (timer plus making the fan quieter), this is his top priority and I'm to call him on his mobile if I have any problems. Plus I was dead nice to him because I knew who he was from my googling to try and figure out who to complain to next and was quite impressed that they escalated it so high up. I didn't have to complain at all other than mention the actual number of times they've managed to turn the fans off this month. He caught me just in time because I've found the emails for the CEOs and was going to email them either today or tomorrow.

tribpot Thu 31-Dec-15 17:39:19

Blimey. Do you think it really was him, or some underling pretending to be him to try and get you not to have the place condemned on Monday? I kind of hope the fan goes off tomorrow night so that you can call him at midnight to see if it's really true, but are they closed for the weekend as they were last weekend?

If you've got his email, I might follow up with a 'really appreciate your call today, many thanks' email, not least in case you get a 'who the hell are you?' type response back!

QueenStromba Thu 31-Dec-15 17:53:23

I'm sure it is him - right accent, very good with people, polished etc. If it was an underling pretending to be him then they're completely wasted in their job.

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