HELP! 'Neighbours are making my life a living hell’
Welcome to Sisters In Law, news.com.au's weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn tackle your legal rights when it comes to problem neighbours.
QUESTION: For the past year, one of my neighbours has made my life a living hell. We live in a large apartment block, and someone who lives upstairs is constantly stomping, banging and dropping things at all hours of the night. The racket is so loud I'm woken up almost every night and I'm always exhausted - but the problem is, we don't know exactly which apartment is responsible. We have tried leaving polite notes in communal areas and have complained to building management but have been completely ignored. What are our rights when it comes to apartment noise complaints? - Scarlett, Queensland
ANSWER: Noise complaints are some of the most common neighbourhood disputes, especially with apartment living, and at times like this when many people are working from home.
As you can't identify which apartment the noise is coming from, it might take a bit longer than usual to find a remedy.
In normal circumstances, the best way to resolve a noise dispute with a neighbour is to have a face-to-face chat as they may not be aware the noise carries directly down into your apartment.
If you feel safe doing so, you could directly approach the residents in the apartments you believe the noise could be coming from and discuss the matter.
Most neighbourhood noise is regulated by police and local councils. If the noise is "offensive" then police or the council should step in.
While you may be offended by the noises being made, for it to be considered "offensive" and for the police or council to take action, it must be:
• Harmful, or likely to be harmful to a person outside the place where the noise is coming from
• Interferes unreasonably with, or is likely to, the comfort or rest of a person outside the place where the noise is coming from
In your situation, the noises coming from upstairs disrupting your sleep are likely to be considered offensive.
Most councils that deal with noise complaints require you to complete a written complaint form detailing the type of noise, date, time and duration - so start keeping records.
You'll also need to detail where you are in your apartment when it affects you (ie in your bedroom) and how it affects you (ie sleep disturbance).
A diary like this is vital for a council to proceed with its investigation and most councils provide, on their websites, a standard format you can use.
If any other neighbours are affected, it may assist if they make a complaint at the same time that is consistent with the details you have provided.
Continue to persevere and complain to the police.
The police should hopefully attend at a time the offensive noise is occurring and help to identify which apartment it is coming from.
They can issue a warning or a noise abatement direction. If your neighbour doesn't comply with the direction then police can issue a fine.
If you are able to identify the offending neighbour and they are renting the apartment, you can make a complaint about the noise to the owner or leasing agent.
Make this complaint in writing and keep a copy.
Like most states, all tenants in Queensland have terms in their lease that mean they cannot cause a nuisance or interfere with the peace, comfort or privacy of a neighbour.
If the owner warns your neighbour that they are breaching the lease and the noise continues, then they can apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal to stop the breach, or issue a termination notice.
If you find that the owner doesn't want to deal with the issue, there are remedies you can pursue through your Body Corporate or Owner's Corporation.
It is likely that this continued behaviour and any failure of the owner to appropriately address the noise will breach by-laws of the property, which allows you to take action with the support of the Body Corporate manager or building management.
This legal information is general in nature and should not be regarded as specific legal advice or relied upon. Persons requiring particular legal advice should consult a solicitor.
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Originally published as Neighbour making 'life a living hell'