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Nuisance - don't be one

Monday, 05th January 2015

Community living often means being very close to your neighbours and sometimes this can be too close, especially when their noise or actions intrude on your peace and quiet enjoyment of your own property.

Are you the one intruding and don’t know it, or are you putting up with some behaviour that is making living in your property a very unpleasant experience?

My experience with an unpleasant experience was with a former neighbour, newly arrived migrant, who used to make kimchi at 6am – the smell of fermenting cabbage would wake me up in a way that I didn’t really like. She probably didn’t have a problem with it from where she came from, but in the suburbs of Sydney it didn’t go down so well.

If you’re new to apartment or community living then there are a few things to consider. Unlike living in a house there are rules and regulations around living in a strata scheme. This is not meant to make your life difficult but to provide a level playing field for everyone to enjoy this lifestyle.  

The rules are called by-laws in NSW and Queensland and rules in Victoria. While most strata schemes seem to adopt a standard set of by-laws or model rules, it is open to the owners corporation or body corporate to change these.

For example, in NSW at present there is no standard by-law that addresses the issue of cigarette smoke drift from one lot to another.

The new standard by-laws in the new strata laws yet to go before NSW Parliament does attempt to address the issue by banning smoking in a lot or on any part of the common property where the smoke causes a nuisance, hazard or otherwise interferes unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of a lot by another resident.

But these standard by-laws will only apply if adopted by new strata schemes from whenever the new legislation takes effect. Of course, as mentioned above, there is nothing stopping an owners corporation or body corporate from going through the process to pass this by-law or rule now.

But this only potentially solves one issue. What about other matters like party noise? Or over-crowding? Or cooking smells that are just too overpowering? These issues may be considered as a nuisance.

Generally, nuisance means that owners and their guests do not behave in such a way as to disturb the peace and quiet enjoyment of others. The issue of nuisance is dealt with under section 117 of the current NSW Strata Title Management Act, section 167 of the Queensland Body Corporate and Community Management Act. In Victoria nuisance is dealt with under the model rules.

Any serious breach of this may result in the matter being brought before the appropriate State Tribunal where orders may be issued to curb the behaviour. A breach of those orders can result in heavy fines.

No one wants to act as the fun police, but at the same time being considerate of your neighbours can make community living that much more pleasant. So next time you decide to talk on the balcony at 2am on a Saturday night, have a think about where the neighbours bedroom windows might be and perhaps take the conversation inside.

Supplied by: BCS Strata Management form Community Lifestyle Magazine 


by Jennifer Ross

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