This article is written in conjunction with the IEU Law Society.
By Miguel Yu
To what extent should IE students fear the locally established regulations on noise and nuisance?
A Noisy Night after Irish
After a long night of Irish, you finally arrive home around 2 or 3am, and carelessly decide to start speaking in a loud voice with your friend, who has decided to stay at your place. Boldly, you decide to host a mini-party, watch a film, or listen to music, unaware entirely of the increasingly high volume. The next day, you wake up to an unpleasant warning call from BeyondCampus, as they were notified of the event by your landlord and the police, due to complaints from your neighbors. If it wasn’t the first time, I wish you the best of luck.
This brief narration is so familiar because night activities such as partying, drinking, speaking loudly, etc., have been a stereotype that many locals identify with university students, with whom they share a place to live, work and leisure. While the described story may or may not be exaggerated, it certainly remains a possibility. So what is the law behind this, and what is the rationale?
Noise Pollution Laws
For many fellow Segovia peers living in BeyondCampus flats, most are aware of the municipal regulations on noise and nuisance, which prohibit noise between 10pm and 8am. Within the new Standards and Recommendations, it was mentioned that such regulations were modified. Nonetheless, checking the most recent sources, from the “Boletín Oficial de la Provincia de Segovia” (BOPS), respectfully from March 20th and June 21st of this year, it was stated that no significant changes were made to the norm, as no floors/acoustic devices were newly classified, at regional and national levels (BOPS, 2023; see title V, para. 4 and point 2.9, respectfully). Therefore, older legislation should provide a better insight into the matter.
The Municipal Noise and Vibration Ordinance announced in March 2014’s BOPS, provides insights into current regulation, whereas certain activities are prohibited between 10pm and 8am. (BOPS, 2014; see art. 25; the time range is subjective to each municipality)
Under Title VI, Chapter III, the sanctions in response to possible infractions are given, per national standards:
a) Very serious infractions could lead to fines of 12,001 to 300,000 euros.
b) Serious infractions could lead to fines of 601 to 12,000 euros.
c) Light infractions could lead to fines of 50 to 600 euros.
The Legal Reasoning
With this being said, what are the reasons for laws prohibiting noisy activities during the night? By applying simple logic, it is clear that nighttime, and not just siesta, is a time for resting and recovering. Furthermore, it is much more linked to acoustic contamination, in the words of the “Boletín Oficial del Estado” (BOE), “to prevent, monitor and reduce noise pollution, to avoid and reduce the damage that may arise from it to human health, property, or the environment.”
However, why is acoustic contamination relevant? Acoustic contamination is one of the biggest environmental factors affecting health issues. In Europe alone, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA), it causes 12,000 premature deaths and 48,000 new cases of ischaemic heart disease every year.
With the great variety of causes, we will only outline some principal, and IE relevant, causes of acoustic contamination such as bars and discos, which can reach 110 dB, or a dog’s barking and howling, which can be around 60-80 dB. (Iberdrola, n.d.)
Now, what happens when one is aware of the norm, but doesn’t meet it? After all, some conditions might deliberately force you to make some level of noise during the night, such as returning from a sports training and wanting a warm shower at 11pm. Is that a reason to be reported to the police?
Whether this issue is of concern to the public state, or rather should remain a private issue, is a matter lacking a clear distinction, as per many cases with laws. Thus it will remain a question that will be answered by future situations, and I advise you not to be noisy and become the case that decides it.
All in all, it is general knowledge that one should treat others as one wishes to be treated. So, show some respect, even if you love heavy rock music at 12am. Besides, if the reason is reasonable and one tries their best to demonstrate public responsibility, most people will be comprehensible of individual instances.
For more information I highly recommend researching, as regulations are unique to each circumstance.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.com