Noise complaints can be many and varied from barking dogs, scare guns, air conditioners and lawn mowers. Council, Police and the Environment Protection Authority have varying responsibilities.
The best approach if you have noisy neighbors is to talk to them about the noise and try to settle the problem. It is important to keep on friendly terms with your neighbor. You should seek help from the local council, police or a solicitor, only after you have tried, and failed, to resolve differences with your neighbor.
The Dispute Settlement Centre
phone 1800 658 528 and the Legal Referral Service phone (03) 9607 9355 can also assist in resolving noise problems.
It may be helpful to know what the law is when you speak to your neighbor.
Section 48A of the Environment Protection Act 1970 makes it an offence to create unreasonable noise on residential premises at any time of the day.
Section 48A(5) of the Act deems noise to be unreasonable, if certain items of equipment are audible in a habitable room of a neighbor’s house during the prohibited hours. The Environment Protection (Residential Noise) Regulations 1997 specify the items of equipment and the prohibited hours. It should be noted that equipment use outside prohibited hours could still be unreasonable, depending on the circumstances of use, how loud the noise is and other factors.
EPA's role in residential noise matters is limited to providing advice to the various parties. The Authority cannot take legal action itself. The three classes of people who can take action in residential noise matters are:
- A member of the Police force
- A Council Officer, normally the Environmental Health Officer; or
- A person claiming to be directly affected by the alleged offence.
Police and Environmental Health Officers can warn offenders to abate unreasonable noise, such as noisy parties or annoying air conditioners during the prohibited hours. This direction remains in force for 12 hours. Failure to comply with a police or council direction is an offence and offenders are liable for on-the-spot fines.
Local government can also take action under the Nuisance Provisions of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008. If your noise problem cannot be resolved, you may take legal action yourself under the Act. You should consult your solicitor, if you are contemplating this course of action.
The EPA would normally take responsibility for dealing with complaints of a commercial or industrial nature.
Prohibited Hours for Prescribed Items of Domestic Equipment
The table below lists the prohibited hours for the prescribed items of
equipment as contained in the Environment Protection (Residential
Noise) Regulations 2008. It must be understood that noise from these
items of equipment outside the prohibited hours could also be
unreasonable depending on the circumstances.
| 1 ||A motor vehicle (except a vehicle moving in or out of premises), lawn mower or other grass cutting device and any equipment or appliance not falling within Group 2 having an internal combustion engine. ||Monday to Friday: before 7am and after 8pm.Weekends and public holidays: before 9am and after 8pm. |
| 2 ||An electric power tool, chain or circular saw, gas or air compressor, pneumatic power tool, hammer and any other impacting tool, grinding equipment. ||Monday to Friday: before 7am and after 8pm.Weekends and public holidays: before 9am and after 8pm. |
| 3 ||A domestic air conditioner, swimming pool pump, spa pump, domestic heating equipment (including central heating and hot water systems)and domestic vacuum cleaners. ||Monday to Friday: before 7am and after 10pm.Weekends and public holidays: before 9am and after 10pm. |
| 4 ||A musical instrument and any electrical amplified sound reproducing equipment including a stereogram, radio, television and public address system. ||Monday to Thursday: before 7am and after 10pm. Friday: before 7am and after 11pm. Saturday and public holidays: before 9am and after 11pm. Sunday: before 9am and after 10pm. |
| 5 ||Any electric equipment or appliance not falling within Group 2, Group 3, or Group 4, including electric gardening equipment but not electric equipment or appliances for personal care or grooming, or for heating, refrigeration or preparation of food. ||Monday to Friday: before 7am and after 8pm. Weekends and public holidays: before 9am and after 8pm. |