Legal contributor Peter English breaks down your rights when it comes to noise complaints.
By law, every strata scheme must have a set of by-laws to deal with noise. They can be different for each strata scheme.
By-laws are rules voted on and adopted by the strata owners that owners, tenants and, in some cases, visitors must follow. By-laws cover the behaviour of residents and the use of common property.
In addition to noise, they can cover issues such as the keeping of pets in the building, how smoking is regulated, the operation of short-term rental accommodation, parking cars and storing bikes.
If you are a tenant, and your neighbour ignores your request(s) to “tone it down”, take the matter up with the agent and insist that they refer the issue to the owner of the unit and the owners’ corporation.
If the owners’ corporation is satisfied that an owner or occupier (tenant) of a lot has contravened a by-law, the owners corporation can serve a notice requiring the owner or occupier to comply with the by-law.
If the person who receives the notice breaches the notice within 12 months of the notice being served, the owners’ corporation can apply to NCAT for the person to be fined up to $550. In addition, a breach of a by-law by that third party, if they are also a tenant, will likely be a breach of their lease and could lead to their lease being terminated.
Action to enforce a by-law cannot be taken by an individual affected by the noise, it can only be taken by the owners’ corporation. Also, the enforcement of a by-law by the owners’ corporation can only be pursued where there is a noise issue within a particular strata scheme. It is not relevant, for example, where there is construction noise, or party noise, from an adjoining development.
Independently of the by-laws, Local Councils are authorised to take action against parties who are in breach of laws and/or regulations concerning noise.
In some cases, if you have rented premises and your landlord does not act in response to a noise complaint, the landlord may be in breach of the residential tenancy agreement. In that case, you could make an application to NCAT for an order that the landlord stop breaching the residential tenancy agreement (that is, sort the problem out) or, if it’s so bad that you feel you cannot stay in the premises, you may be able to terminate the lease.
For more information, go to https://www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/
Peter English – Director
Surry Partners Lawyers
Cover image: Alex Proimos/Wiki Commons.