Avoiding trouble with the neighbours

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Your neighbours can be helpful members of the local community and even become good friends. Unfortunately however, living in close proximity can also be a source of conflict. Here are some tips to help keep the relationship rosy.

Choose a quiet model of lawn mower and try not to use it too early in the morning.

Neighbourly disputes usually come under two categories: noise complaints and property infringementsi. In 2010, over 10% of Australians living in privately owned dwellings had some experience in dealing with noisy neighboursii. Each year, thousands of noise complaints are reported to local councils, police and state mediation authoritiesiii. They are commonly based on problems with barking dogs, musical instruments, parties, construction, alarms, garden machinery and power toolsiv. Property infringement usually refers to overhanging tree branchesv, disruptive tree roots, encroaching fences and boundariesvi. Many of these are caused by people who simply do not realise they are being disruptive or alienating their neighboursvii.


Being aware of your actions at home can prevent words with your neighbours later. If you want to stay out of your neighbour's hair, consider these tips.

  1. Be aware of the laws in your local government area (LGA) pertaining to noise. For example, some LGAs require that musical instruments and amplified sound equipment must not be used from 12am-8am on weekends, and from 10pm-8am on weekdaysvii. Your neighbours reserve the right to contact the police if these laws are being violatedvii.
  2. If you're intending to throw a party - inform your neighbours (or even invite them) so that they can make other plans or leave their premises to avoid the noise. People usually appreciate the consideration of being told in advance and are less likely to complainvii.
  3. Provide notification of construction work, including working hours and type of construction, well in advance so that your neighbours can discuss it with you and prepare for the disruptive noise.
  4. Equipment like air conditioners, hot water heat pumps and pool pumps can make a lot of incidental noise. When buying these, try to select quieter models and install them away from neighbours' bedrooms, dining or living room areas to lessen their noise impactvii.
  5. For gardening, choose quiet models of lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and power tools. When possible, use alternatives such as brooms or rakes. If you must use a leaf blower, try not to use it at maximum power, use it for shorter periods and don't start using it too early in the morningvii.
  6. Tell your neighbour before trimming overhanging branches on your property or dealing with disruptive tree roots.
  7. If your dog is barking at night, ask your vet for advice or training techniques to help your dog stay quiet after dark.

Who to contact

If your neighbours complain or you have a complaint about your neighbour, it is often best to sensibly and assertively address the concern by discussing it face-to-face with themvii. This is an effective way of communicating your problems and trying to reach a solution.

A barking dog can be a cause for complaint. Ask your vet for advice.

If this doesn't work or you think your neighbour is being unreasonable, the next step is to contact your local council, community justice centre for mediation services, or the policevii. Legal action should be a last resort, as it may be costly and cause long-term tension within the neighbourhoodi.

If you have a good relationship with your neighbours, they may be more forgiving on the odd occasion when you do host a noisy party, and they could be a second pair of eyes on your house when you're away. Also a great neighbourly relationship could have them looking after your house and pets when you're out of town - now that's a win-win situation!

i Legal Aid Western Australia, 2013, Neighbours – common problems, http://www.legalaid.wa.gov.au/InformationAboutTheLaw/Homes/neighbours/Pages/NeighboursCommonProblems.aspx

ii Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012, 4524.0 - In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4524.0Chapter300July 2012

iii Kemp, M., 2012, 'More people seeking help from SA Legal Services Commission over neighbourhood disputes', The Australian, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/more-people-seeking-help-from-sa-legal-services-commission-over-neighbourhood-disputes/story-e6frg6n6-1226514727082

iv The City of Sydney, 2013, Restrictions, http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/live/anti-social-behaviour/noise/restrictions

v Waverley Council, Neighbours' Trees, http://www.waverley.nsw.gov.au/environment/trees_plants_and_bushcare/trees_on_private_property/neighbours_tree

vi Government of South Australia, Fencing, boundary and encroachment disputes, http://www.sa.gov.au/subject/Housing,+property+and+land/Building+and+development/Land,+boundaries,+surveying+and+sub-division/Fencing,+boundary+and+encroachment+disputes

vii NSW Government – Environment and Heritage, 2013, Dealing with neighbourhood noise, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/noise/neighbourhoodnoise.htm