Ask LH: I Rent, Can I Complain About Noisy Unit-Owning Neighbours?

Ask LH: I Rent, Can I Complain About Noisy Unit-Owning Neighbours?

Dear Lifehacker, How do you deal with bad neighbours when living in a unit? We are renting but they own theirs, so can we take our grievances to the body corporate or our agent, or do we just have to grin and bear it? Thanks, Fed Up

Annoyed neighbour picture from Shutterstock

Dear FU,

Your first course of action should be to try and resolve the issue with your neighbor. While the temptation might be high to leave a complaint letter on their doorstep, this is unlikely to resolve anything and may even exacerbate the problem. Instead, try having a civil chat about the issues (without carrying a chip on your shoulder).

You really need to take the “customer service” approach here and be as personable/agreeable as possible; even if you’re seething on the inside. Most people find it hard to argue with someone who is acting friendly and reasonable. By the same token, all it takes is a slight quirk of the mouth of snarky comment to get them completely offside — once that happens you’ll never get them to see reason and will probably have made yourself an enemy to boot. You can read some tips on how best to approach a conflict and deal with difficult people here.

If your friendly platitudes fall on deaf ears, the next step is to send a politely worded letter, preferably via email. This is unlikely to change anything, but it can later be used as proof that you made a genuine effort to alert them to the situation and tried to resolve it.

You should then contact your agent, who will in turn talk to the body corporate. Just because your neighbours own their property does not entitle them to disturb the peace of nearby renters or act like appalling people. You can also give your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service a call who will advise you about the options open to you.

Have any readers ever been in a similar situation, either from the renter’s or owner’s view? Let FU know how you resolved the issue in the comments section below.


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  • If they’re making excessive noise you might also be able to complain to the police. They might not come very quickly though unless a domestic disturbance is involved.

  • Go to their door, knock, and ask politely for them to keep things a bit quieter. Make sure you do it when they’re actually making the noise – it can be really hard to tell how much noise is carrying to nearby units, so it’s good to give them an approximate level of ‘too loud’.

    (this technique works fine for TV noise, loud talking and arguments, but I wouldn’t recommend it if they’re having noisy sex. That’s best approached by having a short, awkward chat the next day)

  • You can apply for a Noise Abatement Order. Check with you local council for further details. Otherwise, call the cops. There are rules in most states and territories around when people can be noisy.

  • Go to their apartment when they’re making a commotion, kick their door (but don’t break it obv) really loudly a few times and run off before they come to the door to find out it’s you

    Hopefully they’ll get a little jolt and realise that at least one of their neighbours is pissed off at their noise level, and they’ll keep a lid on it, and because they don’t know who is, they have nobody to target

    If they keep doing it, get a hose and aim for their windows

  • I don’t think people realise how much being diplomatic works, being firm without being an arsehole and if you manage to get into an argument just kill then with kindness.

  • Whilst the question did not ask about noisy neighbours.
    I recommend also to contact Local Council – they are authorised to deal with noise complaints.

    Can be hit and miss with each Council, but it is another tool to use.
    It depends on when the noise occurs and what sort of noise.

    Other than that police for late night issues and late night noises, parties/music, heating units, pool pumps etc.

  • I’ve dealt with this thing first hand. Having neighbors crank out the AccaDakka so loud my house shook. Renter or not you have the same rights to be able to reside in your place of residence without being subjects to unnecessary disturbances.

    I even did the whole door knock and even complimented the music they were playing. Sure I didn’t mind the music, but the volume was completely unnecessary… but then in this case, these people were dicks and proceeded to crank it up and down randomly every few nights (ok so they had the complimentary half finished panel van in the front yard, and struggled to finish a sentence without an obligatory F word thrown in. So you know what I was dealing with).

    Needless to say I’d called the police who without fail dropped around each time (yes these people were serial noise makers) and even had the council do an EPA drop. They got the message after awhile. But the main thing here is you have every right to reside in your own home without being disturb within a reasonable time frame.

  • I consider that you have to think both offensively AND defensively..Offensive would be push your speakers upto a share wall, turn up the volume and hit the with any of Justin Biebers “music”. Defensively you would also obtain and wear a set of sound cancelling sound proof Maxwell Smarts “Cone of Silence” level Earmuffs to protect yourself from the Bieber tunes..

  • I’ve got a neighbour with kids, but all I hear is the mother’s infinitely annoying screech when she is yelling at them. I wish she would shut the hell up already.

  • To the writer, Chris Jager. As a journalist (who I assume gets paid to write articles for this website), could you please learn the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’. You write ‘even if your seething on the inside…’ You aren’t writing about ownership here (as in ‘your car’) you are shortening the phrase ‘you are’, which means you use the ‘you’re’. You obviously are aware of the shortening method, as you use the term ‘you’ll’ in your article – please use it in all applicable situations. I expect to see this common error in the comments section of this website, but not from the people writing the articles. Thanks.

    • Given you obviously know it was an error and not ignorance, was there any particular reason for your sarcastic attempt to educate Chris on what he clearly already knows, or do you simply enjoy being glib? A simple “hey Chris, you used the wrong ‘your’ up there” would have easily sufficed, and without harming your own presence in the process.

  • I just whacked on the shared wall whenever my neighbors’ noise got to be too much (it was generally their non-trained dog around 4am). When it didn’t stop, I printed out ads for “no-bark” collars (the ones that shock a dog when they bark, to train them not to) and slipped them under their door. Within a couple weeks, the dog no longer woke me up at 4am. I don’t know whether they bought a collar or realized that they needed to get the dog trained not to bark, but the problem stopped.

    I now live in an ancient building with brick/concrete walls. Noise only comes in and out through open windows, or through the door (somewhat). Alas, across the street, the restaurant on the ground floor had maintenance done every fortnight, on a weekday. It involved a panel van with a Victa motor inside it, running full-tilt, pointed in the direction of my window for over 90 minutes each time. Beginning before 5am. (It was so bad that even with windows shut, I couldn’t withstand it without developing a terrible migraine to the point of spending the rest of the day immobile and puking, rather than at work.) The company initially claimed they were allowed to work starting at 6, as their excuse to the local council when they investigated. I replied, Well, they need another excuse, because 10-til-5 isn’t 6am. Council went back the next time it happened, this time asking to see the details of this permit to verify the 6am claim, to see if they could cite them for working before 6am. Whoooops, it then became known that their permit allowed them to do *NIGHT WORK* starting at 6am, but *DID NOT* grant them an exemption from local ordinances that prohibit noise like Victa motors before 7am. They were told in no uncertain terms to cut it out and that they’d be fined if they did not. They now do prep work until 7:01am, and start their Victa promptly at 7:01am — which isn’t ideal from my perspective, as I keep later hours, but it’s heaps better than 5am. Also: I was able to make this complaint ANONYMOUSLY. Anonymous, effective… on this basis, I recommend trying to approach the problem through your local Council.

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