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How to deal with noise problems in strata

With everyone working and schooling from home these days, noise has become more of an issue in strata buildings. Children are spending a lot more time at home inside their apartments – leading to a rise in noise complaints from residents who are also trying to work and study from home. Noisy neighbours can be a real headache, especially as living in close proximity to your neighbours can make the impact of excessive noise even worse. Here are a few strategies to help you deal with the problem of noisy neighbours in an apartment building.

Make sure you have a legitimate complaint

Do your research first to establish whether noise is happening at prohibited times, and whether it could be considered excessive. Before you take the complaint further, first establish that the noise is causing a by-law breach. The line between reasonable expected noise and excessive noise can be a fine one, particularly at the moment.

It’s quite likely your building will have a by-law relating to noise that will state something like this: “An owner or occupier of a lot must not create noise at any time likely to unreasonably interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of a person lawfully on another lot or the common property.”

However, in the current climate of COVID-19 isolation, many more people are working from home and many more children are being cared for or homeschooled at home.  It’s very likely that noise in strata buildings will increase – but a higher degree of tolerance would also be expected during this difficult time. As well, the noise must unreasonablyinterfere with the peaceful enjoyment of others in order for you to have a legitimate complaint – a reasonable amount of noise is expected and acceptable. No-one can expect to have office-like conditions while working from home – it’s just not realistic.

Keep in mind that some noise problems cannot be regulated either. For example, you cannot restrict the times a baby will cry, no matter how annoying you might find it.

If you think you have a legitimate complaint about excessive noise that goes beyond what could be reasonably expected, here are a few things you can try.

Approach noise issues with respect and politeness

It’s a tough time at the moment, and people are more than usually stressed, anxious and on edge. Everyone needs to remember that apartment living is not just about them. There will always need to be a bit of give and take involved when living in close proximity to neighbours and sharing common property. Everyone has the right to the quiet enjoyment of their own property, but people also have the right to use their apartment as they choose. Finding a reasonable balance between the two can sometimes be challenging – but it’s not impossible.

Be firm and fair when dealing with noise issues, but also friendly. Address your issue first at the lowest possible level and at the earliest possible time. Rather than approaching your body corporate committee straight away to complain, try approaching the problem neighbour in person (keeping an appropriate social distance of course). They may not be aware of how loud they’re being, or they may not have considered it to be a problem. Sometimes a quick conversation is all that’s needed, and most people will try to be understanding and accommodate your needs as long as they are reasonable. Come prepared with a few potential solutions that could work for both of you. Approaching the problem this way will help avoid the issue becoming bigger and more problematic than it needs to be.

The formal approach

If the direct approach doesn’t work, notify the body corporate manager or strata committee of the problem. Follow your building’s procedure in making the notification and include as much documentation and detail as you can. The committee can then follow up the issue and if required, issue a contravention notice requesting that the offender comply with the by-law.

If the problem continues after a contravention notice has been issued, the committee can than follow through on the dispute resolution process in accordance with the BCCM Act via the Office of the Commissioner for BCCM which includes firstly conciliation, if that is not successful the Body Corporate can escalate to the next step Adjudication.   . Of course, it would be much better if the issue could be resolved without having to resort to such actions.

How to minimise noise issues

If the noise is not unreasonable and it’s just something you have to put up with at this time, try using ear plugs or headphones to minimise the noise. It may sound obvious, but ear plugs and headphones are very effective at cancelling out noisy distractions. You don’t have to listen to music if you find it distracting, but could just listen to some kind of white noise to block out other sounds. Many people find listening to ocean waves to be very calming. If you’d prefer not to listen to any noise, just use ear plugs.

With a little bit of effort and consideration, you can usually resolve most noise issues in a body corporate community. Always try to keep the lines of communication open so that you maintain a good relationship with your neighbours. Know your by-laws and what constitutes a breach. And remember that a little bit of politeness goes a long way!

If you would like advice about how to deal with noise issues in your strata building, give us a call.


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