The best way to avoid noise complaints is to set a good example by being considerate of those around you. Good communication also goes a long way- if you let your neighbours know that you’re planning on making some noise they can get away from it if they want to, and they’ll be more likely to speak to you about any issues before they get the Police involved.
Here are a few simple tips for keeping the peace in your neighbourhood:
If you’re planning on having a party, let your neighbours know in advance. You could either talk to them in person, or leave a note in their letterbox. Let them know the start and end time, how many people will be coming, and who they can contact if they have any problems.
Limit the use of noisy tools (leaf blowers, lawnmowers, saws, drills etc) to the times when they are allowed (see below). If you’re going to be using them for an extended period of time, let your neighbours know in advance so they can plan to get away if they need to.
Don’t rev your car engine in the driveway, and make sure you turn the stereo down if you’re driving in late at night.
Try to keep the noise down when you’re in your backyard or balcony.
Don’t slam car, garage or house doors.
Try to choose quiet models of tools, pool pumps and air conditioners. When you install them, make sure they’re not too close to your neighbour’s living room or bedroom (if possible).
Be mindful of others when playing music or watching TV- you might think your surround sound home theater with subwoofer is fantastic, but your neighbours might not be so impressed!
Barking is the way that dogs communicate, so it’s natural that they will make some noise. However, excessive barking can be a problem not just for the people who have to listen to it, but also for the dog itself.
If a dog in your neighbourhood is barking more than usual it might be a sign that the dog is being mistreated. If you believe that the dog is:
Being chained up all day, or kept in a yard that is too small
Not getting enough food or water
Not getting any exercise
Being provoked by people or other dogs
Being neglected or abused in any way
You should report this to the RSPCA on 1300 278 3589 (1800 CRUELTY).
If the dog is not being mistreated in any way, but is still being too noisy the first thing you should do is to speak to your neighbour. If they won’t do anything to quiet the dog down, the next step is to complain to the Local Council or Police.
Council Animal Rangers have the power under the Companion Animals Act 1998 to issue a nuisance order. There are a few steps that have to be completed before this can be done:
Firstly, the Ranger will need to gather evidence that the dog is being excessively noisy. If you are going to make a report it would be a good idea to keep a diary of when and for how long the dog is barking. The Ranger may also need to take statements from other neighbours who are being affected by the noise, and visit the property where the dog is kept.
Next, the dog’s owner has to be given 7 days notice that a nuisance order is going to be issued. The notice must specify what aspects of the dog’s behaviour need to change to stop the disturbance from continuing. The owner has 7 days to object to the notice in writing.
After the 7 days has passed, the Ranger will issue a formal nuisance order. The order will be in force for 6 months, and can’t be appealed. During this time, if the dog continues to make excessive noise the owner will be fined ($880 for the first time, $1650 for any further breaches).
Many noisy activities are only allowed at certain times of the day. The Protection of the Environment Operations (Noise Control) Regulation 2008 (‘the POEO Act’) outlines the following restrictions:
If your neighbour is making noise outside of these times, the first thing you should do is talk to them. Having a quick chat can solve most problems. If this doesn’t work you can report them to the Local Council or Police.
An on-the-spot fine of $200 ($400 for companies) may be imposed on anyone who continues to make noise up to 28 days after being warned to stop by an authorised OEH officer, the Police, or a Local Council officer.
Noise Abatement Orders
If the noise fits the definition for ‘offensive’ below, and you are unhappy with the response from either the Local Council or Police you can apply to the court for a Noise Abatement Order.
Under the POEO Act, offensive noise is defined as noise:
a) that, by reason of its level, nature, character or quality, or the time at which it is made, or any other circumstances:
(i) is harmful to (or is likely to be harmful to) a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or
(ii) interferes unreasonably with (or is likely to interfere unreasonably with) the comfort or repose of a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or
b) that is of a level, nature, character or quality prescribed by the regulations or that is made at a time, or in other circumstances, prescribed by the regulations.
Before you can apply for a Noise Abatement Order the Court will want to see that you have at least tried mediation. Therefore, you should make sure that you have done everything you can to resolve the problem by talking it through with your neighbour.
Next, you will need to gather evidence to support your case. This can include a diary of times and dates that the offensive noise has happened, as well as signed statements from other neighbours who have also witnessed the noise. You will need to be able to prove that the noise fits the definition of ‘offensive’, the time/s that the noise has happened, and that it is having a negative effect on you and your neighbours.
To start the court process you will need to go to the Local Court, fill in a form and pay a $70 fee to lodge it. A date will then be set for the hearing. You can choose to have a lawyer represent you in court (it is a good idea to get legal advice, either way). You should also be aware that if you lose the case you might be required to pay court costs.
If the person continues making the offensive noise once a Noise Abatement Order has been granted they can be prosecuted and fined up to $3300.
What Can You Do to Help Prevent Noise Issues?
Disclaimer: This information is a general guide to the law. It should not be relied on as legal advice. If you have a specific legal problem you should consult a lawyer.
It applies to people who live in, or are affected by, the law as it applies in NSW, Australia. The information contained in this publication is current at 1 January 2014.