Excessive noise is a disruption that no one needs. If an individual or business has an issue with noise in their local environment, there are steps they can take to resolve the situation. This article discusses what constitutes noise and outlines how to make a formal complaint as well as the remedies available.

Types of Noise

The most common types of noise that warrant a noise complaint in both residential and commercial areas include:

  • Barking Dogs;
  • Noisy Vehicles;
  • Intrusive Alarms;
  • Noise from clubs and pubs;
  • Noise from domestic equipment;
  • Noise from industrial or commercial premises;
  • Garbage and bottle collection; and
  • Noise from construction works.

Making a Noise Complaint

Before going ahead and making any noise complaint, it is sensible that you try to resolve the situation by talking with the source of the noise. For example, if your apartment block neighbour likes to practice their drumming in the early hours of the morning at full volume, you could have a friendly conversation with them about the resulting noise.

If your noise issue involves a neighbour, you can also contact a Community Justice Centre. These centres provide free mediation to resolve neighbourhood disputes.

However, on occasion, a person might need to make a noise complaint to a government body or agency. These include the local council, the NSW Police and (for industrial noise and large transport vehicles) the Environment Protection Agency.

Local Council

The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) (the Act) allows local councils to issue notices that require a recipient to control a source of offensive noise and which advises them what level of noise is permissible. A Noise Control Notice prohibits the occupier of premises or a person carrying on an activity there from causing, permitting or allowing a specified activity that causes noise beyond a specified level. The notice can specify particular days and times when the activity is permissible or ban it entirely.

Similarly, a Prevention Notice requires an occupier or individual carrying out an activity to do so in an environmentally satisfactory manner. This kind of manner includes not carrying out the activity or doing it in a particular way or with certain modifications.

Many local councils permit residents to make a noise complaint online. Before an individual does so, they should keep a log of the noise for approximately ten days to accurately record when it occurs and how long it lasts. The log can assist the council in advising the complainant and investigating the complaint. Be aware that many councils have rules about when noise can occur. For example, a car alarm typically cannot sound for more than forty-five seconds (unless manufactured before 1 September 1997). Knowing these rules will help a prospective complainant better understand their rights.

Typically, a person contacts the council with noise from domestic equipment, musical instruments, motor vehicles, traffic, construction and garbage collections.

For noise issues with pubs and clubs, you should get in touch with the government department responsible for issuing and managing liquor licences. For example, in NSW this is the Office of Liquor, Racing and Gaming (OLRG). Again, it is helpful to keep a log of the noise before contacting the OLRG.

Independent Legal Action

Individuals may have the right to seek a Noise Abatement Order or equivalent in their local court. In NSW, the Act permits people to ask the court to issue such an order when occupiers are subject to offensive noise. Noise is offensive in the following circumstances:

  • It has a strength, nature, duration, character or quality; or
  • Occurs at a time that is harmful to someone outside of the premises; or,
  • Unreasonably interferes with the comfort of a person outside to the premises.

While an individual can appear in court to make the application, they will likely need some professional assistance to understand the law and their likelihood of success.

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If you have any questions about making a noise complaint, get in touch on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form below. 

Carole Hemingway

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