Annoyed by a NOISY neighbour?
Written by Domenica Caridi
It is a fact of life that we all make noise, whether we are talking to others, playing music, entertaining, working around the house or just going about our daily business. What is enjoyable to one person may be annoying to another.
Neighbours who create excessive noise can be especially problematic — you cannot easily escape or shut out the noise and, because you have to see these people on a regular basis, you do not want to rock the boat too much. Here is some advice on how to address noisy neighbours.
What is residential noise?
‘Residential noise’ is noise coming from a residential property and its surroundings. Everyday household activities can cause residential noise. It can include noise from:
stereos or radios
power tools used during home renovations
construction of houses and apartments.
My neighbour's dog barks all the time, driving me crazy. What can I do?
Even your dog or cat can be regarded as a nuisance if they create a noise that persistently or continuously disturbs a neighbour. The Domestic Animals Act 1994 covers noise from dogs or cats. Ongoing issues should be reported to the local council. If the council determines there is a nuisance under the Animals Act, they can give a notice to the owner to prevent the nuisance or can issue a fine for the offence. Court action is also available in some cases.
Residential noise and the law
The Environment Protection Authority of Victoria (EPA) defines noise pollution as sound at a level which is annoying, distracting or physically harmful. It is scientifically proven that prolonged exposure to unwanted noise at any level can be a problem and reduce people’s quality of life.For instance, noise may lead to anxiety, stress, and loss of sleep. Vulnerable people (such as the elderly or ill, parents with young children, shift workers or those who work or study at home) can be the ones most impacted by noise.
Section 48A of the Environment Protection Act 1970 (EP Act) makes it an offence to cause ‘unreasonable’ noise from any residential premises. Residential noise may be considered unreasonable at any time of the day, depending on its volume, intensity and duration, and the time, place and other circumstances in which it is emitted.
The Environment Protection (Residential Noise) Regulations 2018 provide a list of specific items and times when their use is prohibited. For example:
Lawnmowers and other grass-cutting devices may be used Monday to Friday between 7am and 8pm;
Power tools, chainsaws, compressors and hammers may be used between 7am and 8pm Monday to Friday, and between 9am and 8pm on weekends and public holidays;
Domestic air conditioners, evaporative coolers, pumps, domestic heating equipment and vacuum cleaners may be used on weekdays between 7am and 10pm;
Instruments, stereos, radios, televisions, public address systems and any electrically amplified sound, may be used on Saturdays between 9am and 11pm and Sundays between 9am and 10pm.
Residential noise is one of the most common sources of noise for Victorians and the most annoying. Even if it is not always possible to totally eliminate noise, especially in dense urban areas, it is important to be aware of the needs of others.
For more information about dealing with a noisy neighbour, refer to the EPA’s resources on the issue.
Resolving Noise Issues
Often the best approach for dealing with noisy neighbours is to talk to them and work together on a solution to settle the problem. On many occasions, a person may not even know that they are disturbing you, so a polite and direct discussion is the best course of action.
If the noise issues persist, you may wish to consider going to mediation. The Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria specialises in settling differences between neighbours. They can arrange mediation between yourself, the person responsible for the noise issue and a mediator to help solve the problem. Mediators do not take sides, and they will not make a decision about the dispute. Mediators try to make sure that each person has a chance to have their say, keep the discussion on track, and help you come to an agreement where possible. Formal mediation can be a good way to work through the issue together, or you may seek help from police or your local council.
For people living in apartments, their owners’ corporation must have procedures under the Owners Corporations Act 2006
to help deal with grievances. These can facilitate communication between neighbours or when making a formal complaint. Also, under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, renters must avoid disturbing the peace and comfort of their neighbours. Landlords may take action against tenants who break these rules. For more information, contact Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 55 81 81.
If the matter remains unresolved and your neighbour keeps disturbing you, your next step may be to initiate court proceedings before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) or at the Magistrates’ Court asking them for money damages or to order the person to stop the noise ("abate the nuisance," in legal terms).
The information provided in this article is for guidance only and does not constitute legal advice. To request free initial legal advice on an environmental law issue, please call our office on 03 9311 8911 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.