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Noise

Noise coming from neighbouring premises often causes disputes between neighbours. Typical complaints concern barking dogs, loud sound systems, air conditioners, lawn mowers, manufacturing machinery, unattended burglar alarm systems and parties.

A person who is upset by a neighbour's noise should first try talking to the neighbour to see if the noise can be stopped or reduced or restricted to certain hours of the day. If this fails it might be possible to arrange for a conference through a mediation service. Mediation can often settle a dispute such as this and so avoid the need for legal action; however a court application to stop the nuisance or award compensation is a further option.

Under section 17 of the Local Nuisance and Local Government Act 2016 (SA) certain types of noise can fall within in the definition of a local nuisance, depending on the circumstances. If unable to resolve the problem by speaking to your neighbour you can lodge a complaint with your local council as they now have the authority to impose penalties for noise that meets the definition of a local nuisance. However, as explained below, not all noise falls under this definition and the action you can take will depend on whether or not the noise constitutes local nuisance.

Schedule 1 of the Local Nuisance and Local Government Act 2016 (SA) expands on what activities involving noise fall within the definition of a local nuisance. This includes fixed domestic machinery noise, noise from activity on domestic premises, construction noise and waste collection noise.

As the definition under the Act is very general it may be useful to consult the Environment Protection (Noise) Policy 2007 for guidance on what is an acceptable level of noise.

Fixed domestic machinery

Noise generated by fixed machinery on domestic premises (e.g. air conditioners) will constitute a local nuisance if the noise is of such volume that it travels from the domestic premises to a habitable room, or an outdoor courtyard or entertainment area, on neighbouring premises.

Under the Environment Protection (Noise) Policy 2007 a machine is deemed to be too noisy if:

  • measurements taken between 7:00 am and 10:00 pm on the same day show the continuous source noise level exceeds 52 dB(A), or
  • measurements taken between 10:00 pm on one day and 7:00 am the following day show continuous source noise level exceeds 45 dB(A).

Domestic activity noise

Other noise generated from domestic premises (e.g. non-fixed machinery, tools, equipment) can also be a local nuisance if the noise travels to neighbouring premises between the hours of:

  • 8 pm and midnight on any day; or
  • midnight and 9 am on Sunday; or
  • midnight and 8 am on any other day.

Construction noise

Construction noise will fall under the definition of a local nuisance if the noise travels from the location of the construction activity neighbouring premises:

  • on any Sunday or public holiday; or
  • after 7 pm or before 7 am on any other day.

Waste collection noise

Noise from waste collection is prohibited:

  • before 9 am or after 7 pm on any Sunday or public holiday; or
  • after 7 pm or before 7 am on any other day.

However, there are provisions to allow waste collection activities to be undertaken before 9 am on a Sunday or public holiday or 7 am on any other day if it is required to avoid unreasonable interruption of vehicle or pedestrian traffic movement [see section 28 of the Environment Protection (Noise) Policy 2007].

Street or tree maintenance machinery

Noise from a street or tree maintenance machine is prohibited:

  • before 9 am or after 7 pm on any Sunday or public holiday; or
  • after 7 pm or before 7 am on any other day.

Building intruder alarm systems

A building intruder alarm system must not be operated unless:

  • it automatically ceases to sound within 5 minutes after intial activation by a detection device AND
  • it cannot be reactivated by the same detection device, except after the system has been re-set manually AND
  • it is positioned in such a way as to reduce the impact on premises in separate occupation, consistent with maintaining its effectiveness as an alarm system

Penalties

The maximum penalty for causing a local nuisance under the Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016 (SA) is $10 000 for a natural person and $20 000 for a body corporate. If the person has carried on an activity intentionally or recklessly and with knowledge it will result in a local nuisance the penalties are more severe. In these instances the maximum penalty for a natural person is $30 000 and for a body corporate $60 000 [s 18].

It is also an offence to fail to cease an activity if requested by an authorised officer. The maximum penalty is $5 000 (expiation fee: $210) [s 20].

Noise that is not a local nuisance

Not all noise comes within the definition of a local nuisance. The following are not defined as being a local nuisance [see Schedule 1 of the Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016 for a comprehensive list]:

  • noise or nuisance from firework displays, sporting venues and community events;
  • noise from public infrastructure works;
  • activity or noise from licensed premises [complaints for these may be lodged with the Liquor Licensing Commissioner under section 106 of the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 (SA)];
  • noise primarily consisting of music or voices (or both) from an activity at domestic premises;
  • noise from activities carried on in the normal course of activities by a school, kindergarten, child care centre or place of worship;
  • noise created by a barking dog [issues regarding barking dogs are dealt with under section 45A(5) of the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995 (SA)];
  • noise, odour or waste from animals living in their natural habitat (other than such animals that have been actively encouraged, by feeding, to gather in a particular area);
  • aircraft and railway noise;
  • noise caused by emergency vehicle sirens.

For further information on dealing with noise and neigbours see our 'Noisy neighbours' fact sheet.

Noise  :  Last Revised: Thu Jun 29th 2017
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.