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Noise in Strata Schemes

Residential strata schemes in New South Wales have model by-laws dealing with noise, flooring and the behaviour of owners, occupiers and visitors. Noise in residential strata schemes appears to be on the rise due to the advent of, and increasing popularity of, the installation of hard surface floors such as timber, wood, bamboo, parquetry, tiles and the like. Also, many people have opted for hard surface flooring in lieu of carpets for the look, feel and/or for allergy reasons.

The issue of noise, particularly noise transmission/vibration through walls and floors of adjoining units, appears to be on the rise due to lifestyle factors. Examples include residents having parties and gatherings in units or on common property late at night or in the early hours of the morning, noise from dogs kept inside units, renovations, the playing of musical instruments in units, noisy air-conditioner compressors on balconies, noise from hi fi systems and televisions, residents arguing, children crying, foot fall noise such as steps, etc.

Although the model by-laws of a strata scheme regulating noise provide a general standard of acceptable noise levels, they do not adequately regulate the installation of hard surface flooring in units.

By-law 14 (Floor coverings) states that an owner of a lot must ensure that all floor space within the lot is covered or otherwise treated to an extent sufficient to prevent the transmission from the floor space of noise likely to disturb the peaceful enjoyment of the owner or occupier of another lot. By-law 14 also states that this by-law does not apply to floor space comprising a kitchen, laundry, lavatory or bathroom. Although model by-law 14 (Flooring) does not prohibit hard floors, owners and occupiers must take steps to prevent the transmission of noise.

In our experience, by-law 14 is subject to different interpretations, is inadequate to deal with the installation of hard surface flooring and often leads to disputes between owners/occupiers regarding what is “sufficient” to prevent the transmission of noise.

To avoid unnecessary disputes and litigation between neighbouring owners/occupiers over by-law 14, we recommend the owners corporation register a section 47 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 by-law regulating the installation of hard surface flooring.

If you would like us to review your existing bylaws, or draft a bylaw preventing or regulating the installation of hard surface flooring in your scheme, please contact us on (02) 8710 3430.

Please note that the information contained in this article is not legal advice and should not be relied upon. You should obtain legal advice before you take any action or otherwise rely upon the contents of this article.