With more people now working from home, and millions of Aussie kids currently doing home schooling in lockdown, people are currently complaining loudly about one annoying issue – that of noise.
Across the country people have been leaving nasty notes for neighbours on everything from blaring bagpipes, to kids laughing, to clacking high heels on floorboards.
Strata lawyer Amanda Farmer, who often advises on noise issues, said clear communication is the key to resolving this tricky dilemma.
“Whether you live in an apartment or house, the spoken word goes a long way,” says Amanda who hosts the Your Strata Property podcast. “Knocking on your neighbour’s door and explaining your situation, concerns or offering an apology may help and at least make people aware there’s a problem. On the other hand, I advise people to have a little more understanding and flexibility when it comes to noise complaints at this challenging time.”
If you’re the one with the noisy crew, here’s what Amanda suggests you can do to minimise any neighbour angst. Or else perhaps gently suggest some of the ideas to the offender. Just keep your cool!
Arrange outdoor play time away from buildings
Given that kids are often the cause of excess noise, Amanda says it’s a good idea to let your kids let off steam at a public park whenever they can, rather than just letting them yell in backyards.
“If you’re in an apartment building, kids could also play in outdoor area of the common property such as a yard but not in an indoor area such as stairways and halls which can echo. They also need to distance as much as possible from other kids although granted this can be difficult!”
Schedule kids ‘noisy time’
If your kids tend to make noise in indoors, it may be helpful to let your neighbours know the times when your kids tend to let off steam. “For example, your kids may be noisiest at 3.30pm when school finishes. Letting your neighbours know the schedule may give them some ‘peace’ of mind.”
Review your own ‘noisy time’
Perhaps you and other adults in the house are the ones who like to party. Now’s not the time to be cranking up loud music, singing at the top of your voice and having screeching arguments!
Arrange your work schedule accordingly
Amanda says stress from noise often arises simply because people don’t know when, or even if, the noise is ever going to stop. “If there is a ‘known’ noisy period, it’s easy for someone to schedule their favourite podcast for that time and pop headphones on, rather than schedule an important Zoom meeting that needs focus and quiet.”
Virtual play dates
If you can connect kids to their friends via computer or messaging app, that could be a good opportunity for some social screen time, rather than running around getting excited.
Have a frank discussion with your kids about noise
Explain to your kids – particularly younger kids – in simple terms why there is an extra need to be quiet during any lockdown period. “Think about giving rewards for good behaviour if they are able to play more quietly.”
Noise proof your home
Even in the most normal of circumstances, if you live in an apartment every building has a bylaw that occupiers must not create noise to the detriment of others. “If you have thin walls there are practical things you can do. Not wearing shoes inside the house, putting down rugs and playing music at an acceptable level are all common-sense ways of keeping noise down.”
Don’t let neighbour complaints escalate
“If you receive a nasty note of complaint from a disgruntled neighbour, or you’re the one with the angst, then often the best course of action is to speak to that person face to face, as soon as possible.” They or you might not like what the other one has to say, but people will often try to modify their behaviour somewhat if they are aware of a problem. Just keep calm.
What to door if arguments escalate
If attempts to talk something out fail, Amanda says from a legal perspective, it’s important to keep a record of your attempts to engage with the person and address their concerns. This is in case they or you attempt to take things to the next level.
“There’s no point in saying to a tribunal that you’ve been having issues with noise for several years and then have no record of it. Each time there is a significant issue you should document it in a journal with the date and circumstance.”
If all else fails …
Amanda says if all talking, negotiation and mediation fails, then the only option is for one party to consider moving. “However, I would only consider this until lockdown and life has returned to ‘normal’. You may find that noise issues – and people’s stress in general – de-escalates by then. If you’re in very close quarters such as an apartment building, or a high-density area it’s unrealistic not to expect some noise. But if you are constantly at loggerheads with someone then you need to weigh up if living where you are is really worth it.”