‘Sound-testing’ neighbourhood relationships

Oct 22, 2019

‘Tis the season for parties, which means noise may be a few decibels higher than normal in our otherwise reasonably quiet neighbourhoods and streets. While this is a reasonable expectation to be aware of in coming months, whether you’re throwing a party or on the other side, trying to ask your neighbours to bring their loud holiday spirit down to a more harmonious note  there are a few key steps and considerations to keep in mind during the festive season. 

Sound-proofing your neighbourhood relationships 

While this is undoubtedly a time of year for celebration and joy, as a party host, it’s still important to be considerate of residents living around you and ensure you put measures in place to keep things on a peaceful note for the neighbourhood. As a preemptive step, ensure you sing out to neighbours and let them know that you’re hosting an event. Expectation management is key. 

Access Canberra suggests that the best method for doing this is to do a letter-drop to surrounding residences at least ten days prior to your party. It’s also a good idea to include a point of contact for yourself. This will allow you to directly mitigate potential concerns ahead of time or on the night, should your neighbours be uncomfortable with any of your street-party behaviour or noise… Essentially, nipping the issue in the bud before your neighbours feel the need to involve authorities. Additionally, try to put measures in place to minimise your sound out-put on the night, such as turning speakers inwards and closing your curtains (or utilising other noise-reducing materials/furniture). These actions may seem like minor details, but they could make a world of difference to those living around you. 

You can also notify Access Canberra of your event ahead of time via this form, to help them in resolving any direct complaints that they may receive on the day. 

Don’t be abrupt about your concerns 

On another hand, if you believe your neighbours are celebrating a little too hard this holiday season – it’s important that you directly notify them of your concerns and attempt to resolve the ‘issue’ as best you can, before involving external authorities. 

As with handling any neighbourhood worry, ensure that you: 

  1. Decide what is important to you and what your needs or concerns may be regarding the situation. Also try to keep in mind that it is party season, so if you feel comfortable doing so, try to give your neighbours a little bit of leeway during this time of year… After all, they say this is the season for giving. 
  2. If you feel comfortable doing so, calmly consult with your neighbours before you take any action that may negatively impact them.  
  3. Don’t assume the other person already knows there is a problem, in many cases, they won’t. Just explain the situation from your perspective and try not to make accusations. 
  4. Take the time to listen to your neighbours side too. When people feel heard, they’re more likely to work with you to find a resolution. 
  5. Try to work through possible solutions. Whether that be asking them to lower their music or reframe from playing ‘inappropriate’ music (e.g. with swearing)Willing to compromise will help form a mutually agreeable result. 
  6. Be clear about the result of your conversation and what you have agreed on. It may be useful to keep a record of this. 
  7. If you feel that your neighbour has ignored you and there is nothing further you can do, then consider submitting a complaint with Access Canberra. Try to avoid involving the police for party complaints, unless the situation is significantly impeding upon the safety of attendees or street residents. 
Know the rules  

From either perspective, it’s important to be aware of noise-related rules and laws in your area. In residential areas in the ACT, from Monday to Saturday you are not permitted to exceed 35 decibels between 10pm and 7am. On Sundays and Public Holidays, the same rules stand between 10pm and 8am. To put that in context, according to the ABC 35dB can be best compared to the sound output by leaves rustling.  

For a clear sound guide – consider these comparative measures: 

  • ​30dB – leaves rustling
  • 40dB – library 
  • 50dB – washing machine 
  • 70dB – vacuum cleaner
  • 90dB – lawn mower 
  • 100dB – angle grinder 

Essentially if you’re at angle grinder level outside the designated hours, it’s reasonable that your neighbours’ gears may feel a little grinded. Not only that, you may suffer penalties should surrounding residents submit a complaint about you. If you’re a first-time offender, you will likely be issued with a warning letter. But if this isn’t a one-off, you may receive a fine or be issued an Environmental Protection Order (EPO) – something not to be taken lightly, as it may result in prosecution in court. 

Ask for help in building harmonious relationships with your neighbours 

If you cannot reach an agreement with neighbours, have recognised any ongoing concerns with those living around you, or require assistance in settling a relevant dispute – remember that we are here to help you. We offer a range of services to help you best manage your neighbourhood relationships, including dispute counselling, personally catered mediation sessions, as well as training and information sessions to help you improve your personal dispute resolution skills. 

Get in touch with us today to see how we may be able to assist you. 

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