IV. Common types of nuisance: Noise

A. Nuisance

Making noise or causing noise to be made that materially interferes with the ordinary comfort of the neighbouring inhabitants is an actionable nuisance.

A resident in a noisy district must put up with a certain amount of noise, and the standard of ordinary comfort will differ according to the situation of the property and the class of people who inhabit it. The test is whether the addition of a fresh noise is so substantial that it creates a legal nuisance.

For a general explanation of civil liability relating to nuisance, please refer to Private nuisance > A. What constitutes an actionable nuisance?

B. Criminal liability

1. Noise at any time

It is an offence if a person at any time in any domestic premises does any of the following in a way which creates noise that is a source of annoyance to any person ( section 5(1) and (2) of the Noise Control Ordinance ( Cap. 400 )) :–

    1. plays or operates any musical or other instrument, including any record or cassette player or radio or television apparatus;
    2. uses any loud-speaker, megaphone, or other device or instrument for magnifying sound;
    3. plays any game or engages in any pastime;
    4. carries on a trade or business;
    5. operates, or causes or permits to be operated, any air-conditioning or ventilating system or part thereof.

Any person who commits this offence is liable to a fine of $10,000.

2. Noise at night or on a general holiday

It is an offence for a person between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., or at any time on a general holiday in any domestic premises to make or cause to be made any noise which is a source of annoyance to any person ( section 4(1) of the Noise Control Ordinance ).

Sometimes, even if you are not the person who makes noise, you will be charged if you permit other people to make noise at your home. It is an offence if the owner, tenant, occupier or person in charge of any domestic premises between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., or at any time on a general holiday knowingly permits or suffers noise which is a source of annoyance to any person to emanate from those domestic premises ( section 4(2) of the Noise Control Ordinance ).

The maximum penalty for this is a fine of $10,000.

The difference between the two above offences is that section 4 provides control over all noise sources at night (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) or on a general holiday, while section 5 provides control over particular noise sources, namely musical instruments, ventilating systems, animals, birds, or shouting to attract attention to goods for sale at any time of the day or night.

3. Are there any regulations for noise arising from domestic renovation works?

Yes. No powered mechanical equipment can be used to carry out renovation works from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. or any time on a general holiday, unless a valid construction noise permit has been issued by the Noise Control Authority for this ( section 6(1) of the Noise Control Ordinance ).

However, if an owner or tenant of domestic premises carries out small works on his own with a portable mechanical device, this is exempted. The exemption is subject, however, to section 4 of the Noise Control Ordinance , which stipulates that between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., and at any time on a general holiday, no one in any domestic premises should make any noise which is a source of annoyance to any other person. Therefore, neither owners nor tenants should carry out renovation works during those times.

4. Assistance

If your neighbours are committing any of the above offences, you can report them to the police, who are responsible for handling cases concerning noise from domestic premises.