BCCM Report

Noise – handling a thorny issue

No less a writer than Jane Austen remarked, nearly 200 years ago in Persuasion, that “every body has their taste in noises as well as other matters; and sounds are quite innoxious, or most distressing, by their sort rather than their quantity”.

Though her circumstances at the time were quite different, Ms Austen may well have been predicting the challenges bodies corporate, onsite managers and occupiers face with the thorny issue of noise in a community titles scheme.

A recent Brisbane Times article “No sex please, we are West Enders” (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/no-sex-please-we-are-west-enders-20141230-12f639.html) put this issue further into the spotlight. No doubt meaning well, the body corporate for a scheme in Brisbane’s West End wrote to the scheme’s occupiers about how “noise, sex and infant meltdowns” can cause problems and about what could be done about such things. Suffice to say, the article suggests not everyone was happy about receiving such a reminder.

That said, such issues can cause significant upset in a community titles scheme if left unattended or if they are addressed unreasonably and this is where the by-laws for a scheme become important.

By-laws are a set of rules made (and usually enforced) by the body corporate to control and manage:
• Common property
• Body corporate assets
• Services and facilities provided by the body corporate
• The use of lots

The by-laws form part of the scheme’s Community Management Statement. Importantly, by-laws are applicable to occupiers of a scheme – in other words, by-laws are not specific to lot owners and also apply to those renting in the scheme.

A by-law can only be made on a matter allowed under the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 and a non-compliant by-law may therefore be invalid. Examples of what might constitute an invalid by-law include:
• A by-law that says the body corporate does not have to hold an annual general meeting – this would be inconsistent with the legislation, which a by-law cannot be.
• A by-law that only allows owners and not occupiers to use the common property pool – this could be seen as discriminating between different types of occupiers, which a by-law cannot do.
• A by-law requiring the payment of a bond before an owner or occupier moves in – by-laws cannot impose a monetary liability.

The level of noise acceptable to occupiers in a community titles scheme is often the subject of a body corporate by-law. For example, by-law 1 of the Standard By-Laws in Schedule 4 of the act provides that “the occupier of a lot must not create noise likely to interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of a person lawfully on another lot or the common property”.

If an issue with noise, or indeed, any possible by-law breach, becomes apparent, there is a process to follow.

First, and importantly, as is the case with any other dispute it is imperative that the parties attempt to resolve the dispute informally. Sometimes, a simple (and hopefully, calm) discussion with owners/occupiers can make the world of difference in clarifying any noise-related issues.

If this is not possible or does not work, then the body corporate or an owner/occupier has steps to take to enforce by-laws.

Further detail on these steps is at: http://www.qld.gov.au/law/housing-and-neighbours/body-corporate/by-laws/enforcing-by-laws/

Equipped with the right information, a body corporate or an owner/occupier may be able to take some useful, tangible steps to address concerns about noise without things having to escalate.

By doing so, it is possible that concerns about noise can be kept to the ‘innoxious’ levels Jane Austen spoke of.

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