How to deal with neighbourhood noise issues
Many of us have experienced a noisy neighbour at one time or another. We’ve all had our peace or sleep disturbed by a late night party, a non-stop car alarm, a barking dog, or the drone of an early morning power tool.
What to do?
Many people are reluctant to risk causing tension between themselves and their neighbours. After all, the likelihood is that you will run into them on a fairly regular basis.
Unfortunately noise disputes between neighbours can and do occur. Emotions can run high particularly when sleep deprivation is involved.
The Protection of the Environment Operations Act defines offensive noise as being noise that is harmful to somebody outside the premises, or that interferes unreasonably with their comfort. The Act restricts the time that certain activities can take place.
Some key regulations are these;
You can’t play loud music between midnight and 8am on Fridays or Saturdays; or between 10pm and 8am on other days. You can’t operate power tools between 8pm and 7am; or between 8pm and 8am on Sundays/public holidays. For alarms fitted after 1997, house alarms can only sound for 5 minutes; car alarms for 45 seconds (unless there has been an accident/attempted theft).
Sometimes noise that happens within the regulated times can also be deemed offensive.
To resolve any kind of neighbour dispute the advice is always the same; talk to them. They may not even realise there is a problem.
If that seems too daunting, the next port of call is seeking mediation. There are Community Justice Centres (CJCs) throughout NSW with trained mediators who can facilitate a discussion between you and your neighbour to help you reach a solution. And it’s free. Of course, your neighbour will need to agree to come voluntarily. A letter from the CJC asking them to attend mediation with you can help.
Once you have exhausted diplomatic avenues, there are bodies with powers to stop offensive noise. For urgent problems, like late night music, the police can issue a noise abatement direction. For continuing problems you can contact your local council, which can issue a noise control notice, or a nuisance order in the case of a barking dog. On-the-spot fines apply if the noise continues.
As a final resort you can seek a noise abatement order through your local court, which might require you to show evidence, such as signed statements from witnesses to verify that offensive noise occurred. It costs $70 to lodge an application notice. You can represent yourself, but you may need legal advice to help you with the paperwork and evidence. It can be costly.
The best advice? Be mindful of your neighbours. You can’t choose them, but you still have to live with them.