Noise disturbances

What to do if you are experiencing noise disturbance

If you are experiencing noise disturbance, speak to the person that is causing the noise as soon as the problem arises, expressing your case honestly and respectfully. In many instances, they are unaware that they are causing a problem and will quickly remedy the situation.

If this does not work, you may need to consider other alternatives such as mediation or approaching the City of Rockingham, local Police or Department of Environment and Conservation, to investigate your situation.

Please note that all noise issues to be investigated by the City's Health Services will be dealt with once written details have been received.

Types of noise sources creating annoyance

Here are examples of some noise sources that can cause complaints:-

  • party noise, loud stereos
  • practice of musical instruments
  • lawn mowers, power tools and other devices
  • airconditioners, pool pumps, spas and heaters
  • burglar alarms, car alarms and other security devices
  • thumping, crashing and other unidentifiable noises heard through dividing walls/ceilings and many more.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather to give you an idea of the range of problems that we can help with.

Generally speaking, the Environment Protection (Noise) Regulations 1997 control noise emissions from the majority of noise sources.

Involving the City of Rockingham

The information provided here is not legal advice and has been included to help you start thinking about the issues involved. There are a number of authorities that may be able to assist with a noise problem.

Noise issues are investigated by both City Environmental Health Officers and police officers. If you are not completely satisfied with the action of the police or the City, you can take the matter to court yourself although we do recommend you attempt to solve the issue before a court is necessary.

Party noise, loud stereos and musical instruments

It is always good protocol to warn neighbours about these kinds of activities. Noise is less of a problem if it is not unexpected. This means if an instrument is played regularly, make some arrangement for suitable practice times.

If one neighbour works odd hours, it helps for the other neighbours to know when that person is sleeping so noisy activities can be performed elsewhere or at a more convenient time when the noise won't disturb them. Some form of noise-proofing or insulation to one or both houses could help.

Music noise from a party will generally exceed the assigned levels set by the Environmental Protection (Noise) Regulations 1997, however, most neighbours will generally tolerate "one-off parties" if they have been advised of the following in advance:

  • the date of the party - neighbours can make alternative arrangements to go out for the evening
  • the music will be switched off at midnight
  • a phone number to ring if the music gets too loud.

If the above guidelines have been followed and the party noise/behaviour is in your opinion, unreasonable, neighbours can lodge a complaint by phone with the local police or in writing to the City's Environmental Health Services.

Domestic noises, children, raised voices, swearing neighbours or thumping

The noisy neighbour should be made aware of the problem and similar ideas to those presented above could be tried, however, if your neighbours are unapproachable or threatening, you may wish to call the Police Assistance Centre on 131 444.

Lawn mowers, power tools or cars reversing

Work out the hours they occur and try to arrange your activities accordingly as it may not be possible for the neighbour to alter their driving habits if they travel to work early in the morning.

Noise from lawn mowing, chainsaws and other mechanical equipment should be negotiated with your neighbour, especially if it is occurring before 9am on weekends for example.

Noise from airconditioners

Noise from airconditioners and central airconditioning systems can disturb neighbours, disrupt sleep, interfere with normal daily activities and significantly impact on a person’s health. Correct design, installation and maintenance of an airconditioner will not only help to reduce noise impacts, but can also offer improved efficiency, performance and value for money.

Most refrigerative airconditioners sold in Western Australia are required under law to be labelled with their outside sound power level. When comparing airconditioners, you should check the sound power level label on the unit or in the information booklet. The smaller the number of dB(A) on the label, the quieter the airconditioner so comparing labels on units of the same capacity can allow you to select a quieter unit. Room airconditioners are generally noisier than split systems of the same capacity but are often put high in the wall, which can reduce the usefulness of fences as noise barriers.

Evaporative coolers do not come with sound power level labels but manufacturers should be able to give you sound power levels for each model. As with refrigerative airconditioners, the noise levels between units does vary and comparing sound power levels between units of the same capacity enables you to select a quieter unit.

The majority of the advice provided below can also be applied to the installation of such equipment as pool pumps and spa pumps.

Installation position

The position of the airconditioner is the most important factor in making sure noise is not going to be annoying. Getting the position right can save a costly move if noise complaints are made.

The best location for refrigerative airconditioners is generally facing the rear yard. Placing the unit at the side of the house close to the neighbour's house is likely to create excessive noise, as the noise is trapped and reflected between the walls and the eaves of the houses. A fence has limited value in reducing the noise in this situation, unless it is solid and is as high as the eaves of one or both houses.

With evaporative coolers, some high capacity models when mounted on a roof that slopes toward a neighbour’s yard may be excessively noisy, particularly if the unit is on the lower portion of a roof with a steep pitch. The best location is generally on the roof facing the rear yard with the location of the cooler as high on the roof as possible to minimise reflected noise. If your neighbour's land is much higher than yours and your airconditioner is likely to be level with their backyard, the noise reaching your neighbour will be increased.

Negotiating an airconditioning contract

When signing a contract of sale and installation for any type of airconditioner, insist on a clause to cover you in the event of a noise problem. A suggested clause is as follows:

"The airconditioner, as installed, will comply with the requirements of the Environmental Protection (Noise) Regulations 1997 at all times."

This compliance will ensure that the airconditioner can be used at any time without breaching the regulations. If the retailer refuses to cooperate with this requirement, choose one who will. All reputable airconditioner installers should be aware of the requirements of the regulations.

Installing and maintaining an airconditioner

The right type of airconditioner for your residence will depend on a number of factors, such as the design and size of your residence, whether you have ceiling insulation and how you want to use your system. To reduce noise impact, it is important to locate airconditioning systems away from windows. Architectural features such as the direction the house faces, ceiling height, roof shape and the size and style of windows can all affect the type of system required.

Ultimately, every residence and situation is different and should be assessed for its individual requirements. The type of airconditioner selected and its placement within your residence is critical to ensure peak performance and to minimise noise.

Requirements on installers of airconditioners and other equipment

Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 places responsibility on installers of equipment to ensure that an air conditioner does not emit unreasonable noise.

Section 80 (1) generally states that a person who installs any equipment which, when operated, emits unreasonable noise commits an offence under the Act.

Section 80 (2) generally states that if an occupier is convicted of committing an offence under the Act because of unreasonable noise being emitted by any equipment which was installed by an installer, that occupier may recover the cost of the installation, together with the amount of any penalty imposed on him from the installer by action in Court.

How to reduce noise emissions

Try to locate airconditioners as far away as possible from your neighbour's windows and outdoor areas, as the volume of sound decreases over a distance. When purchasing or replacing an airconditioning unit consider buying premium quality units designed for quiet operation, as it often works out cheaper to buy new equipment rather than trying to fix an old unit.

Acoustic screens/baffles are an effective means of reducing the impact of airconditioner noise on others, however, a screen must not restrict airflow, as this can affect the system’s efficiency. Installation of airconditioning systems should be undertaken by a suitably qualified technician, as a siting for air flow efficiency helps reduce noise impacts.

Airconditioners also need to be well fastened, as poor attachment can result in increased noise. In some cases, techniques such as isolation springs or feet can be used to reduce vibration noise.

Last but not least, make sure existing airconditioners are regularly serviced to ensure all fixtures and fittings are safe, secure and not causing excessive rattling or vibration.

A number of information sheets are available that can provide further information on specific noise issues.

Noise from aircraft, rail and roads

Aircraft, roads and rail are exempt from the provisions of the Environmental Protection (Noise) Regulations 1997.

For problems relating to the following, please contact:

Aircraft - call Air Services Australia on 1800 802 584
Roads and trains - call Public Transport Authority on 9326 2541.

Noise from construction work

Please refer to the following information sheet.

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