If you hear a burglar alarm going off, you can report it to the Police, so that evidence of criminal activity can be investigated. But sometimes, burglar alarms go off because of a fault in the system, causing a noise problem for neighbours.
We receive many complaints about the noise caused by burglar alarms, especially those that go off at night when their owners are away. Always try to speak to the householder or business first before contacting us - they may not be aware of the problem.
What you should do if you own an alarm
If you protect your property (commercial or domestic) by installing or taking over an alarm system, you have a responsibility to ensure it does not become a noise nuisance.
All alarms should be fitted with an automatic cut-out device which will disconnect the sounder within 20 minutes of being activated. It can be supplemented with a flashing light that will continue to operate after the sounder has stopped to alert the public and police.
All owners of newly adopted or installed alarm systems must:
- inform the local police station in writing of the names, addresses and contact telephone numbers of at least two 'nominated key holders' who can be called upon to de-activate the alarm in the absence of the owner
- notify the Environmental Health Department of the installation of the system and of the name of the police station that holds the key holder information
To make sure you don’t have a problem with your alarm, you should:
- ensure the alarm is regularly maintained
- ensure the alarm’s cut-out device is set it to a maximum of 20 minutes - you also need to ensure the alarm will not go off again, unless a different sensor is set off
- before you go away, give the keyholders details to your neighbours so if the alarm goes off, they can contact them
If you’re affected by a nuisance alarm
Always try to speak to the householder or business first and make them aware of the problem. They may not know the alarm is sounding whilst they are away from the premises, and it is an easy problem to fix.
If you can’t contact them or the situation doesn’t improve you can contact us.
Making a complaint
If an alarm is sounding for an extended period, please contact us as soon as possible so we can try to locate a keyholder or find out when the occupants are likely to be returning to the premises.
If the alarm is still causing a problem, we’ll visit the property to make an assessment and speak to neighbours to find out how the noise is affecting or likely to affect them. If we’re satisfied that there is a problem with the alarm, we’ll arrange for it to be disabled – we will try to make sure this is done on the same day.
If the alarm has stopped or is infrequent, we can still write to the owners advising of the complaint and giving them more information about maintaining the alarm in the future.
How we can act
New laws mean that the council has the power to act when:
- the alarm has been sounding continuously for more than 20 minutes or intermittently for more than an hour
- the noise is likely to give people living or working nearby reasonable cause for annoyance
We have the power to enter premises to disable the alarm. In most cases we will only need to disconnect the wiring to the external alarm box and will recover the costs of disabling the alarm from the occupier. If we need to physically enter the building, we must obtain a warrant.
If you have an alarm fitted to your vehicle, by law you have a duty to ensure that it will not cause a noise nuisance to local residents. Allowing a vehicle alarm to sound frequently or for a prolonged period could constitute a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, details of which you can view on the Legislation UK website.
Under this act, North Yorkshire Council may serve a noise abatement notice, requiring the register keeper of the vehicle to silence the alarm and carry out works to prevent a recurrence of the nuisance.
If, after an hour, the person has not come forward, the Council may de-activate the alarm or remove the vehicle. Full costs of this action will be recovered from the registered keeper of the vehicle and may be in excess of £200.
How to prevent alarms sounding unnecessarily
- Vehicle alarms must be fitted with a 5-minute cut-out device
- Set your alarm to a reasonable level of sensitivity to minimise 'false alarms' (for example by open windows or pets activating sensors)
- Have the alarm serviced regularly