Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Noise transfer between apartments. Please Help!

Noise transfer between apartments

Rebecca’s question relates to noise transfer between apartments

I am an owner occupier in a strata building in NSW with a big problem. NOISE!

There is no acoustic sound proofing in the building so I can basically hear everything. Next door blasting their TV on the common wall. Doors slamming, people arguing, parties etc. If I complain I’m the worst person in the world!

The main problem is that the owner directly upstairs has replaced the carpet with floor boards without an application to the owners corporation.

The tenants upstairs constantly drop things and stomp day and night on my roof. One of the tenants is in air conditioning. It’s written on his van and spare parts are stacked in his car space. I suspect from the hammering, sawing and other mechanical noises he is work shopping/completing repairs in the unit. Noise transfer between apartments, my life is a misery!

The strata manager and committee refuse to help. Even after raising the issue at a recent meeting and sending several emails with sound files / evidence provided.

I’m at my wits end. Any advice or assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Rebecca,

Noise transfer between apartments is a huge problem in strata complexes. The issue has become worse as more and more apartment owners have a preference for hard floor coverings.

The Building Code of Australia (BCA) sets a standard for impact noise transmission not greater than (LnT,w < 62 dB). This is a measure of the noise produced by the hard floor surface.

There is however much debate on whether this < 62 dB rate is low enough to be really effective. The reality is that in most cases it is unacceptable to occupants and can result in the need for costly reparation works. A number of strata schemes have taken the initiative and introduced by-laws with sub 50 dB rates.

A BCA complying floor can and will transfer noise and this could mean hearing the footsteps above or worst. A complying floor doesn’t absolve an owner of their responsibility to not interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of a lot by another owner or occupier.

Now to your issue, noise transfer between apartments.

The owners corporation has an obligation to reasonably enforce by-laws. Your scheme will have a by-law related to noise. It is probably similar to the NSW Model by-law:

An owner or occupier of a lot, or any invitee of an owner or occupier of a lot, must not create any noise on a lot or the common property likely to interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of the owner or occupier of another lot or of any person lawfully using common property.

In order for the owners corporation to act or to enforce a by-law they require evidence of a breach. This would normally require compelling evidence to satisfy the owners corporation that any action could not be challenged.

The first step, as the complainant, is to gather evidence. This might include:

  • Make a log or diary – include the day, time and a measure of the level and type of noise.
  • Record the excessive noise on a smart phone.
  • Consider the expense of an acoustic consultant to measure noise transference between the lots.

(I note that you have already provided evidence)

Read related: The Pros and Cons of Apartment Living

Step 2:

Ask some questions of the strata manager:

  1. Does the scheme have a by-law in relation to the installation of hard flooring?
  2. Was the installation for the hard flooring in the above apartment approved by the owners corporation?
  3. Does the scheme have a minimum acoustic underlay requirement?
  4. If so, is there evidence that the minimum acoustic underlay was installed in the above apartment?

Once you have a response and gathered some evidence you should consider mediation with the owners corporation. Any good strata manager will offer this before an issue gets out of hand.

Mediation would normally involve a meeting with a member/s of the committee, the alleged offending lot and yourself. Both parties will have the opportunity to state their case and hopefully the committee can broker a peace.

Simple things like rugs and hall runners can be quite effective.

Should a resolution not be achieved, the next course is to lodge an application with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) The process is quite straight forward. You will present evidence in point form and pay an application fee of $101

Strataville Editorial
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