South African law, through the Environment Conservation Act 73 of 1989 and municipal by-laws, protect recipients of intolerable noise pollution.

The Regulations define noise disturbance as follows: “Any sound which disturbs or impairs or may disturb or impair the convenience or peace of any person” and “disturbing noise” as “a noise level that exceeds the ambient sound level measured continuously at the same measuring point by 7 decibels or more.”

A resident in a town, and more particularly a resident in a residential neighbourhood, is entitled to the ordinary comfort and convenience of his home, and if owing to the actions of his neighbour he is subjected to annoyance or inconvenience greater than that to which a normal person must be expected to submit in contact with his fellow-men, then he has a legal remedy.”

The urban myth says you can make noise until 10pm on a week night and 12pm on a weekend but, in actual fact most municipalities have by-laws in place that focus on the number of decibels rendered rather than the actual time frame in which noise is made.

Municipal by-laws govern disturbing noise. An example of this kind of noise would be loud party music. This kind of party noise is generally tolerated until 10pm on a Friday and/or Saturday evening before you can take steps against the perpetrator/s. SAPS will generally deal with these noise issues if there are complaints from neighbours and there are steps to follow if it becomes a nasty habit of a neighbour.

Noise nuisance is a totally different animal. This kind of noise makes you reach for the Panados and can include playing loud music or a musical instrument or operating a television set loudly, operating machinery or power tools that cause a noise nuisance, shouting and talking loudly, allowing an animal to become a noise nuisance, operating a vehicle that causes a noise nuisance an driving a vehicle on a public road in a manner that causes a noise nuisance. This noise is illegal at all times and is enforceable at any time of the day.

In terms of section 25 of the Act, The Regulations define noise disturbance as follows: “Any sound which disturbs or impairs or may disturb or impair the convenience or peace of any person” and “disturbing noise” as “a noise level that exceeds the ambient sound level measured continuously at the same measuring point by 7 decibels or more.”