Noise coming from neighbouring premises often causes disputes between neighbours. Typical complaints concern barking dogs, loud sound systems, air conditioners, lawn mowers, manufacturing machinery, unattended burglar alarm systems and parties.
A person who is upset by a neighbour's noise should first try talking to the neighbour to see if the noise can be stopped or reduced or restricted to certain hours of the day. If this fails it might be possible to arrange for a conference through a mediation service. Mediation can often settle a dispute such as this and so avoid the need for legal action; however a court application to stop the nuisance or award compensation is a further option.
Under section 17 of the Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016 (SA) certain types of noise can fall within in the definition of a local nuisance, depending on the circumstances. If unable to resolve the problem by speaking to your neighbour you can lodge a complaint with your local council as they now have the authority to impose penalties for noise that meets the definition of a local nuisance. However, as explained below, not all noise falls under this definition and the action you can take will depend on whether or not the noise constitutes local nuisance.
Schedule 1 of the Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016 (SA) expands on what activities involving noise fall within the definition of a local nuisance. This includes fixed domestic machinery noise, noise from activity on domestic premises, construction noise and waste collection noise.
As the definition under the Act is very general it may be useful to consult the Environment Protection (Noise) Policy 2007 for guidance on what is an acceptable level of noise.
Fixed domestic machinery
Noise generated by fixed machinery on domestic premises (e.g. air conditioners) will constitute a local nuisance if the noise is of such volume that it travels from the domestic premises to a habitable room, or an outdoor courtyard or entertainment area, on neighbouring premises.
Domestic activity noise
Other noise generated from domestic premises (e.g. non-fixed machinery, tools, equipment) can also be a local nuisance if the noise travels to neighbouring premises between the hours of:
Construction noise will fall under the definition of a local nuisance if the noise travels from the location of the construction activity neighbouring premises:
Waste collection noise
Noise from waste collection is prohibited:
However, there are provisions to allow waste collection activities to be undertaken before 9 am on a Sunday or public holiday or 7 am on any other day if it is required to avoid unreasonable interruption of vehicle or pedestrian traffic movement [see section 28 of the Environment Protection (Noise) Policy 2007].
Street or tree maintenance machinery
Noise from a street or tree maintenance machine is prohibited:
Building intruder alarm systems
A building intruder alarm system must not be operated unless:
The maximum penalty for causing a local nuisance under the Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016 (SA) is $10 000 for a natural person and $20 000 for a body corporate. If the person has carried on an activity intentionally or recklessly and with knowledge it will result in a local nuisance the penalties are more severe. In these instances the maximum penalty for a natural person is $30 000 and for a body corporate $60 000 [s 18].
It is also an offence to fail to cease an activity if requested by an authorised officer. The maximum penalty is $5 000 (expiation fee: $210) [s 20].
Noise that is not a local nuisance
Not all noise comes within the definition of a local nuisance. The following are not defined as being a local nuisance [see Schedule 1 of the Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016 for a comprehensive list]:
For further information on dealing with noise and neigbours see our Noisy Neighbours Factsheet.