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Immission control; avoiding conflicts

Stand: 28.05.2024

There are numerous problem areas in the field of immission control that can lead to complaints from the public. The Office for Environmental Protection and Energy Issues of the City of Erlangen examines the complaints if they fall within its area of responsibility.

In general, there is an obligation to operate a facility (e.g. commercial operations, machines of all kinds, construction sites, leisure facilities, combustion plants, etc.) in such a way that

  • harmful effects on the environment are prevented which are avoidable according to the state of the art,
  • harmful effects on the environment that are unavoidable according to the state of the art are kept to a minimum.

There are several important public law regulations for the assessment of harmful environmental impacts. The City of Erlangen's Office for Environmental Protection and Energy Issues examines complaints on the basis of these regulations. If a complaint is justified, remedial action is taken.

Neighborhood noise - rights and obligations

When sounds become noise

Where many people live together in a confined space, different interests clash. Some people enjoy social gatherings and music, others use machines and equipment for their work, e.g. in commercial operations, for lawn mowing, DIY etc.; for them, the associated noise is usually not a problem. However, the neighbors may be busy at the same time, for example, with an activity that requires a high level of concentration, want to enjoy a quiet time on the terrace or need peace and quiet for a restful sleep; for them, these sounds are disturbing noise.

When such different interests clash, conflicts can easily arise. To avoid this and in the interests of good neighborly relations, it is necessary to show consideration for one another and observe rules. The legislator has created regulations for various situations that help to avoid and manage noise problems in the neighborhood. In the following, the Office for Environmental Protection and Energy of the City of Erlangen provides information on the most important regulations on noise protection.

Rest at night

In general, there is a greater need for peace and quiet during the night from 10 pm to 6 am. Being able to sleep undisturbed is vital and is considered a valuable asset, the protection of which is particularly emphasized. Work and other activities that are carried out at night must take this into account.

Sundays and public holidays

On Sundays and public holidays, noisy work that could interfere with the peace and quiet of public holidays is generally prohibited. This is based on the Bavarian "Law on the Protection of Sundays and Public Holidays" (Public Holidays Act - FTG).

Operating times of devices and machines

Section 7 of the Equipment and Machinery Noise Protection Ordinance (32nd BImSchV) regulates the permitted operating times for 57 different types of outdoor equipment and machinery, e.g. construction machinery, engines, refuse collection vehicles, cleaning machines, gardening equipment and many more (see appendix to the 32nd BImSchV). The time restrictions apply to operation in residential areas (pure, general, special residential areas, small residential areas) and on the grounds of clinics and nursing homes. The aforementioned devices and machines may not be operated outdoors at all on Sundays and public holidays and may not be operated on working days between 8:00 pm and 7:00 am. Additional restrictions apply to leaf blowers, leaf collectors (vacuum cleaners), brush cutters, grass trimmers and grass edge trimmers; they may only be operated in the above-mentioned areas from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. However, if these devices bear the EU Ecolabel (Environmental Flower), they may also be used continuously between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on working days.

Noise from businesses and facilities

Noise can emanate from commercial and other businesses or facilities in a variety of ways, e.g. from ventilation and air conditioning systems, business-related vehicle traffic, other machinery and equipment as well as from music performances and behavioral noise caused by people in restaurants and discotheques. The regulations of the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) apply to these.

Noise immissions from plant-related noise are assessed in accordance with the provisions of the Technical Instructions on Noise Abatement (TA Lärm). This sets out noise immission guide values, graded according to the type of area. This means that it is not possible to demand that no noise be generated. Noise immissions must be accepted to a limited extent. The following noise immission guide values apply 0.5 m in front of the open window of a room requiring protection (living rooms and bedrooms):

Type of areaImmission guide values TA Lärm
Daytime (6 a.m. to 10 p.m.)Night time (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.)
Area for hospital, nursing home45 dB(A)35 dB(A)
Pure residential area50 dB(A)35 dB(A)
General residential area55 dB(A)40 dB(A)
Mixed area60 dB(A)45 dB(A)
Commercial area65 dB(A)50 dB(A)

Construction sites

When operating construction machinery in residential areas and on the grounds of clinics and nursing homes, Section 7 of the German Machine Noise Protection Ordinance (32nd BImSchV) must be observed.

The General Administrative Regulation on Protection against Construction Noise (AVwV Baulärm) applies to the assessment of construction noise. The immission guide values specified therein correspond to those of the TA Lärm. The night-time period for construction noise begins at 8:00 pm and ends at 7:00 am.

Working noises from construction sites are often very loud and disturbing. To protect local residents, low-noise construction machinery should be operated in accordance with the latest noise protection technology. The "Blue Angel" label provides an indication of low-noise construction machinery.

In some cases, it is very difficult to comply with the prescribed noise protection on construction sites if construction work causes considerable noise despite the use of modern, low-noise construction machinery. One solution, for example, is to restrict the daily operating hours; however, this then means that the construction site is in operation for longer. Night work associated with noise emissions can only take place in exceptional cases if it is in the public interest. The immission control authority must be notified in good time in advance so that alternatives can still be examined.

Noise-generating engines

According to Art. 12 of the Bavarian Immission Control Act and the Road Traffic Act, it is prohibited to run noise-generating engines and engines of motor vehicles unnecessarily. It is also not permitted to run motorcycle engines in the immediate vicinity of other people's homes or in the open countryside without necessity.

Housework and gardening

In Erlangen, there are no other special public law regulations for house and garden work beyond the provisions of the Equipment and Machine Noise Protection Ordinance (32nd BImSchV) that serve to protect the neighborhood from noise, e.g. at lunchtime. Protection that goes beyond the provisions of the 32nd BImSchV therefore only exists via Section 117 of the German Administrative Offenses Act (OWiG) - see under "inadmissible noise" - or according to private law regulations, e.g. according to Sections 906 and 1004 of the German Civil Code (BGB) or, in the case of residential complexes, according to the house rules.

Sports facilities

The noise caused by sports facilities is assessed in accordance with the Sports Facilities Noise Protection Ordinance (18. BImSchV). Section 2 of this regulation also contains noise immission guide values for the daytime and nighttime assessment periods and also for quiet periods; the immission guide values are graded according to area, as in the TA Lärm. The assessment times are different on working days and on Sundays and public holidays. Higher noise immission guide values are granted for up to 18 "rare events", e.g. to ensure that league matches with many spectators or other major sporting events can be used. For school and university sports, there is no noise assessment in accordance with the 18th BImSchV.

Playgrounds for children and young people

The Bavarian law on noise protection requirements for children's and youth play facilities (KJG) applies to children's playgrounds and youth play facilities such as football pitches, skate parks or streetball courts. This law regulates the permissibility of immissions caused by noise from children's and youth play facilities in the vicinity of residential buildings. According to the KJG, children's noise is generally to be accepted as socially appropriate. Youth play facilities are assessed in terms of noise according to the Sports Facilities Noise Protection Ordinance (18. BImSchV). However, the regulation on quiet periods does not apply here.

Leisure noise

"Music is often not found beautiful because it is always associated with noise." This rhyme by Wilhelm Busch aptly illustrates the problem of recreational noise. Recreational noise is the noise caused by leisure activities. This includes, for example, open-air concerts, open-air cinemas, open-air theaters, public festivals, street festivals, circus events, etc. (Noise caused during sports activities is not considered recreational noise). Noise protection must be taken into account for these events. In Bavaria, the acoustic assessment of recreational noise is carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Sports Facilities Noise Protection Ordinance. The Leisure Noise Directive applies to the assessment of public festivals.

Celebrating private parties

Those who attend a party can tolerate a lot of noise; those who do not attend often have problems with it. At private parties, consideration must be given to the greater need for peace and quiet during the night. If you are planning a large party, barbecue or similar, it is advisable to inform the neighbors so that they can adjust to this and you can also ask for their understanding.

Unacceptable noise

As a general regulation for noise protection, there is the so-called "disturbance of the peace" regulation in Section 117 of the German Administrative Offenses Act (OWiG): This states that "anyone who, without just cause or to an extent that is unacceptable or avoidable under the circumstances, causes noise that is likely to cause a considerable nuisance to the general public or the neighborhood or to damage the health of another person" is acting in violation of the law. Not every noise-causing action is immediately a disturbance of the peace; it always depends on the particular circumstances of the individual case (noise nuisance during the night that disturbs sleep, for example, is to be assessed much more critically than disturbance during the day). If, in special cases, it is necessary to assess the noise immissions from an acoustic point of view in the event of a conflict, the immission guide values of the existing public law regulations on noise protection are generally used as an alternative, depending on the type of noise source.

Pets

Dogs and other pets (e.g. birds) must be kept in such a way that they do not bark an unreasonable amount or make noises appropriate to their species. As a rule, conflicts in this area must be resolved under private law (exception: if the disturbance is due to animals not being kept in an appropriate manner).

Good neighborliness is quality of life

A conflict-free neighborhood is a part of quality of life. It is therefore worth working towards this. If there is a noise disturbance, it is helpful to talk to each other in order to resolve the problem amicably. It is best to think carefully about what you want to achieve and offer suggestions for solutions before talking to your neighbors. Experience has shown, for example, that it is not helpful to simply confront the neighbors with blanket accusations. If you cannot avoid causing noise yourself, it is always a good idea to warn the neighbors in advance, e.g. in the event of renovation work, a private party or a move. There are cases where it is advisable to arrange times that are less stressful for those affected (e.g. practicing the piano or drums, not hammering and drilling when the neighbors' toddler is at bedtime, etc.).

Who can help with noise nuisance? Who can advise on how to avoid noise?

If the person causing the noise nuisance does not agree, they are entitled to defend themselves. If you cannot get any further with your noise problem on your own, you can contact the immission control authority at the Office for Environmental Protection and Energy Issues. When making a complaint, it is very helpful if the noise can be described as well as possible: Continuous noise, strongly fluctuating, impulsive, regularly or irregularly recurring, how often and at what times occurring, noise with conspicuous tones (low or high). In some cases, it makes sense to keep a log of the noise over a period of days or weeks.

The Office for Environmental Protection and Energy Issues advises companies and citizens on how to avoid noise problems. It is generally much easier and cheaper to take noise protection into account in advance when planning a project than to implement noise protection measures retrospectively once the project has already been commissioned.

In urgent cases, the police can also be called in the event of noise nuisance; it is possible to file a complaint.

The Office for Environmental Protection and Energy Issues is not always the right point of contact for a noise problem, especially if it is a conflict between private individuals. In such a situation, private legal action should be taken. The best way to do this is to contact a lawyer. If necessary, contact the bar association in Nuremberg (www.rak-nbg.de or phone 0911/926 33-0).

It should also be noted that it is generally possible to assert claims under private law in all cases of noise disturbance.

Immission control management

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91052 Erlangen

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