AusFinance Gazette

Noisy Neighbours? Here’s what you can and can’t complain about right now

Did you know that despite council guidelines, residential noise can be deemed unreasonable at any time of the day? It’s really up to the discretion of the powers that be to make the call.

But while the sound of the guy across the road clipping his toenails from his porch every couple of weeks might send shivers down your spine, it definitely won’t send police to his door. That miniature mammal yapping consistently since 6am after being left unattended by its owners might warrant a visit from your local council crusader, though.

As many of us continue to work from home—either partially or fulltime—we’ve become much more aware of our surroundings and the noise our neighbours make. There’s definitely something to be said for cutting each other a bit of slack as we continue to navigate this box-office flop of a year, but if your good nature is being taken for granted and your work or sleep is starting to suffer, it’s worth knowing your options.

Last year in NSW, animals accounted for more than half of neighbourhood noise disputes, with a barking dog reportedly the most common problem. It’s worth noting that you can be a dog lover and still take issue with a particularly ear-splitting pup, and usually it’s the owner at fault, not the dog. If you’re only hearing a howl or growl every couple of hours, suck it up, that’s natural. But barking is considered excessive if it exceeds any of the following: 240 barks per day between 7am-9pm, 35 barks per night between 9pm-7am, regularly exceeds 30 barks per hour during the day, or exceeds 4 barks per hour during the night. Though no one’s expecting you to count each individual yap, keeping a detailed diary of when the barking occurs and for how long will definitely help your cause, as will any video or audio recordings.

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Of course, you should always try to have a civil conversation with your neighbours about the issue before escalating it to authorities, but if A Current Affair ever taught us anything, it’s that Neighbours From Hell live among us. If the problem persists, present your diary of distress to your local council and they may decide to place a nuisance order on the dog, which requires the owner to ‘prevent the nuisance behaviour’ or cop a $275 fine every time they fail to do so.

Meanwhile, if you live in the inner city or Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, you’ve likely noticed your most common parking spot competitor is a tradie’s truck. Since the pandemic began, the Government has introduced a bunch of incentives (like the HomeBuilder grant) to ensure the construction industry keeps moving—and it has. Unfortunately for us site-adjacent dwellers, they’ve also extended work hours under the Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development – Construction Work Days) Order 2020. Now, construction sites can operate on weekends and public holidays under new rules, and also wake you with the soothing sound of a sledgehammer earlier than usual.

Still, if noise from next door’s renovations exceeds the normal work hours (these differ by council but are usually within 7-8am and 5-6pm), you have every right to lodge a complaint. The fastest way to address the problem is to contact the construction company doing the work who would much rather stay on the council’s good side so they can continue building that second story extension they never got a permit for.

If loud music and late-night partying is your issue, kindly remind your neighbours that under COVID restrictions, gatherings over 20 people are illegal anyway. So is fun of any kind. Still, the general rule is that you don’t have to put up with someone else’s questionable music taste before 8am or after midnight on a weekend, or after 10pm on a weeknight. If you’re looking for immediate action, you can call the police who can issue a warning or a noise abatement direction, but keep in mind that once the police leave, you still have to live next door to these people every day. Which brings us to one final wall-sharing woe: the cries of a newborn baby. Do you really want to go there? It’s your funeral, but you might want to check this out first.

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