Noisy Neighbours – What Are Your Rights? 08 Dec 2011

Most of us are used to living in an environment where there is a certain amount of noise. However, there are also times when noise can become excessive and interfere with the peace, comfort and convenience of other people.

How do you make a complaint about noise?

In New Zealand, the Resource Management Act 1991 (“RMA”) imposes obligations on occupiers of land to ensure noise does not exceed a reasonable level. The RMA deals with problems with excessive and unreasonable noise and provides various remedies. The environmental health sections of local district or city councils administer the noise control provisions of the RMA.

What is excessive?
Your local authority will not take action unless it considers the noise to be excessive or unreasonable. Excessive noise is defined as any noise that is ‘under human control and of such a nature as to unreasonably interfere with the peace, comfort, and convenience of any person (other than a person in or at the place from which the noise is being emitted), but specifically excludes noise from aircraft in flights, vehicles on the road and trains.

What is the process?
Local authority enforcement officers can issue excessive noise directions or abatement notices to control noxious elements, adverse effects on the environment or unreasonable noise.  When a complaint of “excessive noise” is made to the local authority an enforcement officer will then be sent to the address.  If the officer considers the noise to be excessive, either an excessive noise direction or an abatement notice will be issued to the occupiers of the address.

Excessive noise directions are short-term notices that last for 72 hours.  These notices are usually issued in cases where the problem is easily resolved, for instance, turning down the volume dial of a stereo if it is too loud.  Abatement notices last indefinitely until either the council is willing to remove them or until an appeal is lodged and is decided upon by the courts.  Such problems are usually more serious and occur over a longer period, for instance, industrial noise.

If a noise direction or abatement notice is ignored the officer has the right to enter the property and seize and impound the source of the noise.

A policeman must accompany the officer if the building is a dwelling house.  The officer can also issue an infringement notice imposing instant  fines between $500 and $750, or the occupier may face a penalty of up to $10,000 if successfully prosecuted.

So ...
If you suffer from noisy neighbours, and it cannot be satisfactorily resolved by talking to your neighbours (or if you do not feel comfortable doing so) contact your local council for assistance.

Should you need any assistance with this, or with any other Property matters, please contact Paul Cowey at Parry Field Lawyers (348-8480).