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.
What is an acceptable level of noise for domestic premises is regulated by the Environment Protection (Noise) Policy 2007.
Fixed domestic machinery
Fixed machinery on domestic premises (e.g. air conditioners) must not have an adverse impact on amenity (i.e. the peace and tranquility of the area). It is an offence under the Environment Protection (Noise) Policy 2007 for a machine to be installed and operated if it is too noisy. The owner (or occupier if they are not one and the same) must not operate the machinery if it is too noisy. 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).
Under the Environment Protection (Noise) Policy 2007 activities undertaken on domestic premises that cause an adverse impact on amenity are only to be undertaken between the hours of:
9:00 am and 8:00 pm (Sunday) or
8:00 am and 8:00 pm on any other day
The sorts of activity covered by this include activity on domestic premises involving the use of machinery, tools or other equipment.
Construction activity resulting in noise with an adverse impact on amenity must not be undertaken on Sundays or public holidays. On any other day construction activity is limited to the hours between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm. All reasonable and practicable measures must be taken to minimise noise resulting from the activity including:
- Commencing any particularly noisy part of the activity (e.g. masonry sawing or jack hammering) after 9 am
- Locating noisy equipment (such as cement mixers and masonry saws) so their impact on neighbouring premises is minimised
- Shutting or throttling equipment down whenever it is not in actual use
- Ensuring that noise reduction devices are fitted and operating effectively
- Using off-site or other alternative processes that eliminate or lessen resulting noise
Rubbish collection and street sweeping
Under s 28 of the Environment Protection (Noise) Policy 2007 street sweeping and rubbish collection are not to be undertaken other than between 9 am and 7 pm on a Sunday or public holiday or between 7 am and 7 pm on any other day. However, there are allowances for such activities to be undertaken on a public street 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.
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
The penalty for offences under the Environment Protection (Noise) Policy 2007 is a maximum of 1 year imprisonment or a maximum fine of $4000. The expiation fee is $300.
Noise not covered by the Environment Protection (Noise) Policy 2007
- Noise consisting mainly of voices or music or both and resulting from activity at domestic premises e.g. loud music, parties - complaints about this should be reported to police.
- Noise from school, kindergarten, child care centre or place of worship.
- Vehicle noise, except vehicles operating within or entering or leaving business premises e.g. revving cars - police have the power to investigate and lay charges in relation to vehicle noise.
- Dogs or other animals on domestic premises - refer to your local council.
- Licensed premises - complaints regarding licensed premises such as pubs and nightclubs are dealt with by the Office of the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner
- Noise that may be the subject of proceedings under the Community Titles Act 1996 (SA) or the Strata Titles Act 1988 (SA) or the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 (SA).
For further information on dealing with noise and neigbours see our 'Noisy neighbours' fact sheet.
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.