Avoiding noise control complaints

One of the biggest causes of friction between neighbours is noise.

Noise issues can be amplified during the hot summer months when tenants move outdoors to relax and entertain. Ensuring that you and your visitors respect all neighbours’ quiet enjoyment will help to create positive long term relationships and avoid noise complaints.

Section 38 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 confirms that a tenant is entitled to quiet enjoyment of a property. And Section 40 (2C) requires that tenants will not interfere with the ‘reasonable peace, comfort, or privacy of any other person residing in the neighbourhood’. Section 326 of the Resource Management Act defines excessive noise as ‘any noise that is under human control that interferes with the peace, comfort and convenience of any person’.

Most landlords agree that a noisy tenant should be treated the same as any other noisy neighbour and complaints be directed to your local council’s Noise Control service. If a neighbour complains directly to the home owner then it’s likely they will ask to see a copy of the Noise Control breach notice. The reason for this as it that most tenants won’t agree they are making noise and many will claim the other party is being unreasonable. Therefore, Noise Control is required to act as an independent party to assess any complaint. If the complainant contacts Noise Control then the complaint is on the record and documented.

When a Noise Control Officer visits a property they usually take a reading of the noise level. If they deem the noise to be excessive then they will issue a breach notice to the occupants. If a breach notice is not adhered to then a Noise Control Officer can come back (sometimes with police) and issue further fines or confiscate items that may be causing the noise (e.g. stereo speakers). Generally the complainant receives a written report from Noise Control to confirm the amount of noise measured during the visit and what the outcome was (e.g. excessive or not). A copy of this Noise Control notice can be used as evidence to support a complaint about excessive noise and this is often key evidence at the Tenancy Tribunal.

When a tenant is in breach of their obligations surrounding quiet enjoyment at a property then they can be issued with a 14 day notice that they have breached their tenancy agreement. However, noise is generally something that needs to be remedied straight away so using a written notice is not the best solution. The solution is to communicate with all parties in order to prevent a repeat of the situation. Sometimes things may not change and the landlord will be faced to reconsider if the tenant is still suitable for the property.

According to the Auckland City Council, there are no set times of the day for excessive noise, but Noise Control Officers will take into account the time of day it occurs. For example, using a lawnmower at 3pm is considered reasonable but not after 10pm.

There are many measures you can take to help keep noise to a minimum – remember to be particularly considerate of neighbours who share a common wall, floor or ceiling.

Outside

  • Don’t start up any noisy equipment such as chainsaws or power tools early in the morning or late at night.
  • If you want to play music outside, try to keep it at a level that doesn’t annoy the neighbours.
  • Be aware of children making too much noise or kicking balls against neighbours’ walls or into their property.

Music/TV

  • Keep the volume on the TV or stereo turned down late in the evening.
  • Make sure the bass on your stereo is turned down and use headphones late at night.
  • Mounting speakers on the floor or walls can cause a vibration which can disturb neighbouring units or apartments.
  • A common belief is that you are allowed to play loud music before 10 or 11pm but this is incorrect, although Noise Control Officers will take account of the time the complaint occurs.
  • Musicians should let their neighbours know what time they intend to practise and when it will end.

Parties

  • If you’re having a party it’s recommended that your let your neighbours know and tell them what time you expect it to finish.
  • Keep the stereo inside and turn down the volume late at night, and keep the windows closed to help stop music from travelling. Noisy guests leaving a party shouting or singing can be very disturbing.
  • If Noise Control is called then their first response is to issue a notice to keep the volume down for the following 72 hours. If the request is ignored and they have to return to your property, then they could confiscate your stereo system.

Redecorating/DIY

  • Let your neighbours know your renovation plans and when the work is being carried out.
  • Get the loudest work done during the day and leave the evenings for quieter activities like painting to help limit irritation levels.
  • Try not to let the work drag on for months and consider limiting noise on Sundays.

Pets

  • A constantly barking dog is guaranteed to drive neighbours up the wall.
  • Try not to leave dogs alone for long periods of time.
  • Keeping the radio on low or leaving toys for them to play with can help to keep dogs settled inside. Bones are great tools to keep dogs occupied.

Engine noise

  • Try to carry out any car repairs in a garage or during the day. Don’t rev the engine too much and keep the volume on the car stereo system down and the windows closed.

Alarms

  • Ensure burglar alarms are automatically reset after a reasonable period of time and that car alarms are installed correctly or are not overly sensitive or faulty.

All tenants and landlords want to avoid a ‘neighbours at war’ type scenario and if you respect your neighbours quiet enjoyment and follow some of the above tips you are likely to promote a healthy long term relationship.

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