Noise Disturbance

What constitutes as Noise Disturbance?

Noise disturbance refers to any unwanted or excessive sound that disrupts or interferes with an individual’s daily activities, peace, or comfort. It can vary depending on personal preferences, the context, and the specific location.

What factors to consider when determining what constitutes a noise disturbance?

  1. Volume: Excessive volume levels that exceed what is considered reasonable or tolerable in a particular setting can be a source of noise disturbance. For example, loud music, loud conversations, or construction noise during nighttime hours may be considered disruptive.
  2. Duration: The duration of the noise can also contribute to its disruptive nature. Continuous or prolonged noise, especially during sensitive periods like sleeping hours, can be particularly bothersome.
  3. Time of Day: Noise levels that are acceptable during the day may become disturbances during nighttime hours when individuals are typically seeking quieter environments for rest and sleep. Local regulations often define specific quiet hours during which noise should be minimized.
  4. Context and Location: The context and location play a role in determining whether a particular sound is considered a disturbance. For instance, noise that is expected or common in certain areas (e.g., near airports, construction zones, or industrial areas) may be more tolerable than the same noise in a residential neighborhood.
  5. Sensitivity of Individuals: Different individuals have varying levels of sensitivity to noise. Some people may be more easily disturbed by certain sounds due to personal preferences, health conditions, or the need for concentration. Factors such as age, hearing impairments, or the presence of infants or elderly individuals in the vicinity may contribute to increased sensitivity to noise.
  6. Legal Regulations: Local regulations and noise control ordinances can provide guidelines for what is considered a noise disturbance in a specific jurisdiction. These regulations often define permissible noise levels, quiet hours, and restrictions on certain activities that produce excessive noise.


The Bylaws pertaining to Noise Disturbance in South Africa may vary between Municipalities and Provinces.

Below is the Bylaws for Ethekweni Municipality, KZN, South Africa pertaining to Noise Disturbance.

Noise Disturbance levels at night time should not exceed

Outdoors – Night Time – Lreq, n 50dBA
Indoors, with open windows – Night Time – Lreq, n 45dBA

SANS 10103:2008, 3.19 defines the reference time interval as follows

Noise Disturbance Daytime 06:00 to 22:00
Noise Disturbance Night-time 22:00 to 06:00

Ethekweni Municipal Bylaws : Nuisance and Behaviour in Public Places By-Law 2015, Chapter 4 Prohibitive Conduct, Section 8 Noise, reads as follows

(1)  No person may in a public place cause or permit to be caused any disturbance or impairment of the convenience or peace of any person by shouting, screaming or making any other loud or persistent noise or sound, including amplified noise or sound, except where such noise or sound is emanating from–
(a)  an authorised public meeting, gathering, congregation or event; or
(b)  an emergency or rescue announcement, which noise or sound is normally associated with such meeting, gathering, congregation, event or situation and in accordance with the conditions of authorisation of any such meeting, gathering, congregation, event or situation.

(2)  Subject to subsection (1), no person may permit noise or sound from a private residence or business premises in his or her control to be audible to users outside of such premises to such an extent that it reasonably interferes with the use and enjoyment by an owner or occupier of his or her property, except for places of entertainment as defined in the planning scheme on zoned premises where noise or sound is normally associated with the normal use of such place and in accordance with the conditions of authorisation of that business: Provided that no person may permit any noise or sound to emanate from a private residence or business premises.

(3)  Notwithstanding subsections (1) and (2), no person may cause or permit to be caused any disturbance or impairment of the convenience or peace of any person within the following times:
(a)  from Sunday to Thursday, between 21h30 to 07h00; and
(b)  from Friday to Saturday, between 00h00 to 08h00.

(4)  No person may place or position any loudspeaker or any sound equipment at, near or outside the entrance or door of any premises for the purposes of using that loudspeaker or sound equipment to–
(a) make any public announcements;
(b)  invite or lure customers or any persons into that premises or other premises; or
(c)  entertain any person who is in a public place.

(5)  No driver or person in control of a motor-vehicle may permit any amplified sound or noise to emanate from the motor-vehicle such that it is audible at a distance of more than 50 meters.

(6)  No person may blow, or cause to be blown, a hooter of a motor-vehicle in a public place in such a manner or frequency that it creates a nuisance, unless the blowing of a hooter is necessary to alert any pedestrian or any user of another motor-vehicle of any danger or to alert any user of a motor-vehicle to any act or to desist from an act which is connected with the flow of traffic or parking of motor-vehicles.

(7)  No person may rev the engine of a stationary motor-vehicle in such a way that it causes nuisance in a public place: Provided that a person may rev an engine for the purposes of repairing such motor-vehicle which has broken down in or near a public place.

(8)  No person may engage in any construction or cause or allow such construction to occur, in a residential area−
(a)  before 07h00 and after 18h00 from Monday to Saturday; and
(b)  at any time on any Sunday or public holiday, except− 
(i) under circumstances where such construction is necessary in order to preserve property or the life, safety or health of persons; or 
(ii) where a written exemption from paragraphs(a)and(b) were obtained from the Municipality for a specified period of time.
Note that the daytime and night-time times differ from SANS 10103:2008. Since SANS10103:2008

1. Scope – refers to this document as a guideline, the times stated in the Bylaws would apply since the Bylaws were written into law in March 2016.

In summary, the Bylaws state that no person or business may cause public disturbance to the detriment of others.

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