Advice on tenant rights: what can we do about noisy neighbours?

Annoyed by noisy neighbors playing loud video games?  There are a few steps you can take.

Sora Khan/unsplash

Annoyed by noisy neighbors playing loud video games? There are a few steps you can take.

We submit your rental and rental questions to a panel of experts. Send an email to ask your question [email protected]

Q: I live in a block of four and regularly hear the sound of music and video games from one of the other units through our thin concrete walls.

They have been told to go quiet several times by the rental manager but that doesn’t last long. No one expects the place to be as quiet as a church but this makes us annoyed. What can we do about it?

READ MORE:
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* When is it time to file a noise complaint and when should you just shut up?
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Helen O’Sullivan, the chief executive officer of Crocker’s Property Group and former chief executive of the Real Estate Institute of NZ, replies:

Sorry to hear about the noise issues you’re having with your neighbor – it’s never a good feeling when you feel like you can’t relax in your own home.

It is important to remember that in these types of buildings your neighbors are part of your “vertical village” and sometimes the best solution if you want to change something in a community is just to start a friendly discussion.

The first port of call in any situation like this is to have a conversation with the neighbors, if at all possible, whether they own the property or rent it. They may just not be aware of how far the sound of their music travels or how distracting the sound is once it gets into your living room – sometimes a plate of pike and good communication can nip these problems in the bud.

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If that fails and your polite requests are ignored, then you have what you have called a rental manager, the option to file a complaint with their landlord or property manager.

If you file a complaint with the landlord/manager, your complaint must contain specific information, such as when and what noise was disturbing. They can then discuss the problem with the tenant to see if they can find a solution. If it doesn’t resolve matters, the landlord/manager has the option to issue a 14-day notice, as the lease will have been violated due to the tenants disturbing their neighbors. They can also report anti-social behavior and if the same problem reoccurs twice within a 90-day period, that could be a reason to terminate the rental.

The bar is set quite high for what is considered disruptive or antisocial behavior, especially around noise. The best way to prove that noise is a problem is to call the noise control department of the municipality. You can do this anonymously and they will update their findings. If they enforce a noise complaint because they feel the noise is above reasonable limits, they will report it as such, which can then be passed on to the tenant’s landlord as evidence. The more evidence, the better, if you want the landlord to enforce a breach.

Part of the problem may also be the construction of the property, where even normal noise levels can pass through to adjacent properties. If so, there may be some inexpensive options that can improve soundproofing, which at the very least might be worth a talk with your landlord.

For more information about subletting, see the Rent court guidelines hereor for more information flat sharing see here. If you are a renter, you can send your questions to: [email protected]

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