Aug 182016
 

Noisy neighbours are common, especially when you live in an apartment building. However, you can, with the support of your body corporate, do something if the noise is caused by a change in flooring. This was demonstrated in the recent case of 18 Kingsford Street.

The Facts

18 Kingsford Street is 5 lots in a residential building. The owner of Lot 3 replaced the original carpet and underlay with porcelain tiles. This made Lot 2 noisier.

There were no specific by-laws relating to hard flooring. Before tiling, the owners consulted Body Corporate who advised that “A qualified contractor should be able to supply you with certification that they have applied a sound barrier to comply these standards.” This did not occur.

Acoustic Engineers were appointed and reported that:

  • There was no acoustic underlay between the tiling and the concrete slab beneath
  • The acoustic impact rating of the tiled flooring exceeded the Building Code of Australia maximum by 1-5 decibels and exceeded the Association of Australian Acoustical Consultants (AAAC) maximum by 20-25 decibels. In contrast, carpet with underlay was 20 decibels below the AAAC maximum.
  • Impact noises from Lot 3 would be intrusive and disruptive to the acoustic amenity of the apartment below and would affect its quiet enjoyment.

The occupier of Lot 3 argued a history of noise complaints by Lot 2 owners and poor insulation of the entire building resulting in sound transfer, like toilets flushing, taps and doors.

The owner of Lot 2 contended that impact noise, not airborne noise was the main problem. He eventually moved out after his sleep was constantly interrupted by noise.

The Decision

The by-laws were silent on hard flooring, but sounded clearly in prohibiting noise likely to interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of the proprietor or occupier of another lot.

Further, the strata legislation in Queensland proscribes use of a strata lot to cause a nuisance or interfere unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of another lot.

The Adjudicator determined that:

  1. The noise exists;
  2. Emanates from Lot 3; and
  3. Is of such volume and frequency that it would interfere unreasonably with a resident of ordinary sensitivity.

Equivalent strata provisions are found in NSW under Section 117 and would respond in the same way.

The owners of Lot 3 were ordered to take appropriate action to address the noise impact on Lot 2. The court suggested installing carpet and underlay over the tiles, replacing the tiles with carpet and underlay, or replacing the tiles with new tiles lay over an acoustic membrane.

Lessons from the Case

Strata owners should read the strata by-laws and get Body Corporation approval before changing flooring; and should follow any specific directions about underlay and insulation. 

Body Corporates can use the procedures in the strata legislation to protect occupants from unreasonable noise levels.

Read the full case 18 Kingsford Street [2016] here:
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/qld/QBCCMCmr/2016/78.html 

Clark McNamara Lawyers
Peter McNamara, Principal

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