This about children and noise complaints in apartments has been contributed to by Leanne Habib of Premium Strata, Jan Browne of Whittles Strata Partners, Sophie-May Kerr of the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, University of Wollongong and Clare Dominello for and on behalf of Benjamin & Khoury.
QUESTION: Are children excluded or exempted from breaching any provisions in the Strata Schemes Management legislation or any By-Law Clauses of the Strata Plan?
Though the question may seem rather ‘extraordinary’, unfortunately, it’s a matter that perhaps other Lot Owners may have encountered.
I live in a 1970s three-storey apartment complex. I reside on the first floor. Anyone who has resided in an apartment complex built before the advent of the Building Code of Australia would know these buildings are rather ‘hollow’, in that you can hear sounds generated from the floor above and it literally spreads through your apartment.
Recently, new owners moved into the apartment directly above mine. They have two young children around 4-8 years of age. They run around and scream and shriek during the days and also in the evenings and early mornings. I’ve been tolerable for some time now but my patience had waned considerably most recently. My recent Sunday sleep in was halted abruptly at 6 am. There were screams, shrieking, hollering, simply pandemonium happening directly above my bedroom. This raucous went for over an hour.
Based on the copious information in context to ‘noise and disturbances’ which LookUpStrata provides, I decided to implement what I had read and had a chat with the resident. Sadly, I was told by the Lot Owner that the noise was made by their two friends who were over for a sleepover, something they will continue to have on weekends.
Are children exempted/excluded from breaches of s.153(1)(a) Strata Schemes Management Act (NSW) 2015 and the Strata Plan’s By-law 1 which is based on the model By-Law pertaining to quiet use and enjoyment?
Again relating to children, we have a common property driveway and we don’t have any playground amenities whatsoever on the common property because the land size is at full capacity. Can children use the common property driveway as recreational grounds? Of course, this driveway is used as a thoroughfare for motor vehicles and pedestrians.
Basketball bounces resonate on the concrete drive. Is this a breach of quiet, or use or enjoyment of a Lot Owner which causes a nuisance? When this was raised, again the parents claimed their children have ‘rights’ to play anywhere on the common property.
ANSWER – Occupiers of the lot are responsible to ensure no noise may interfere with someone else’s use of their lot or common property.
In our view it is not that they are excluded or exempted, it is that the owners/occupiers of the lot are responsible to ensure no noise may interfere with someone else’s use of their lot or common property.
Children cannot use the common property driveway as recreational grounds. The by-laws typically state that an owner or occupier of a lot must not permit any child of whom the owner or occupier has control to play on common property within the building or, unless accompanied by an adult exercising effective control, to be or to remain on common property comprising a laundry, car parking area or other areas of possible danger or hazard to children.
This post appears in Strata News #265.
QUESTION: Children Playing on Common Property – Do They Need Supervision? What are the rules around children and noise complaints in apartments?
I’m trying to get information about children and visiting grandchildren playing on common property. It is so hard trying to keep children (aged between 4 and 8) cooped up inside villas after school.
What age are children considered to no longer need adult supervision? My eldest grandchild is 8, so I know this one is fine, but I’m always out supervising my younger ones. What are the rules around children and noise complaints in apartments?
ANSWER – If there are areas of green space that the children can play in would be considered a much safer proposition but the children need to supervised in line with the by-law.
Children playing on common property is a very emotive issue. The residents with the children cannot see any issue with this and yet other residents are very concerned when this happens. And what age should children be allowed to play on common property unsupervised?
The bylaw in NSW reads (Unless the Owners Corporation has registered additional by-laws):
An owner or occupier of a lot must not permit any child of whom the owner or occupier has control to play on common property within the building or, unless accompanied by an adult exercising effective control, to be or to remain on common property comprising a laundry, car parking area or other areas of possible danger or hazard to children.
The ACT Default Rules are a bit vaguer.
Previous generations had the freedom of kids playing cricket, kicking a football or just running around in the street or neighbourhood or of course in their own yards. In a strata situation, the areas of common property are owned by all owners.
Accordingly, rules are made around those areas to accommodate all the owners. A major concern as strata managers that we receive is children playing on common property driveways whether supervised or not. Residents are very concerned that cars coming into the complexes sometimes do not slow down and put the safety at risk of the children. There could also be a breach of By-law 3 Obstruction of Common Property.
The crux of this is also what age is an adult? The legal definition of an adult varies from 16 to 18. The additional issue is if children are riding bikes, skates, scooters etc. that could expose the Owners Corporation to liability in the case of a mishap.
If there are areas of green space that the children can play in would be considered a much safer proposition but the children need to supervised in line with the by-law. The wording is – car parking area or another area of possible danger or hazard to children. So if an Owners Corporation had a grassed area fenced with childproof fencing would this be considered not to be a possible danger or hazard to children and they could play there unsupervised. Interesting conundrum.
This article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.
‘Keep your child quiet or pay $550’
This article about children and noise complaints in apartments has been supplied by Clare Dominello, For and on behalf of Benjamin & Khoury.
How many of us are shocked by ‘Keep your child quiet or pay $550’? The headline about noise complaints in apartments that caught our attention on Tuesday, 8 March 2016.
Have we gone back to shock therapy to scare us into living isolated, cell-like existence?
Is this new for raising our children in Strata? I think not.
Principal Dieb P Khoury, a senior in Strata for over 40 years, has 9 children and can tell the difference between normal, acceptable noise levels and party volume noise levels. He has represented many clients’ Strata issues successfully and continues to do so.
A Mum Raising Her Child in Strata
Following various articles posted on a variety of media platforms, the Strata Management Company involved in this issue has responded by commenting that they can only discuss the headlining correspondence with the intended receiver. That is an understandable and a safe comment considering the high profile held by the Strata Management Company and the reaction received from its correspondence to Janin Mayer ‘a mum raising her child in Strata’ about noise complaints in apartments. It seems that Janin does not hold the same view, and understandably so. Janin is happy to share the content of the correspondence, maybe in the hope that this does not happen to others in the same situation.
What was once the Australian dream to own your own home has changed. The dream is now to own your apartment / unit / townhouse. Multicomplex / unit living is the new residence. NSW Fair Trading says ‘currently more than a quarter of NSW’s population lives or works in multi-unit buildings’, and this figure is only set to grow.
If you live in Strata, a good resource tool is the online book by NSW Fair Trading ‘Strata Living’.
Children and Noise Complaints in Apartments
How many of us can relate to Janin and her husband Evi’s situation, with a 19-month-old child and their second due shortly, in a few weeks? Whilst renting in the city, they are trying to find the family / community place for them to raise their child(ren) for the long term.
As Janin makes comment in her article ‘There are other kids in the building but they are a bit older’.
However, has anyone considered?
When Janin and or Evi completed the Application Form to rent the apartment, was there consideration taken into account the age of the child, compared to the average age of the other apartment residents?
Is it the Real Estate Agent’s responsibility to inform Janin and Evi? Is it Janin and Evi’s responsibility to ask the Real Estate Agent about the other tenants and whether there are any issues, such as the age of their child and potential noise, which they should consider before signing a rental agreement? Once signed, the rental agreement locks them in for a fixed term and disadvantages them if they move out sooner than the life of the Lease.
As the letter from the Strata Management Company says ‘Living harmoniously within a Strata Scheme requires all occupiers to be aware and considerate of each other ………… to ensure that all residents enjoy a peaceful existence’.
Living harmoniously – isn’t that acceptance and tolerance of the tenants with a young family? It can’t be both ways. Surely you can’t buy an investment property, rent the investment property so that you see a return, and then the Owners Corporation becomes upset with the tenant renting. If in fact, the Owners Corporation was successful in issuing the fine to the renter, then why isn’t the owner partly responsible for not renting the unit to a like couple of the existing Strata?
It doesn’t seem fair to punish a young family, paying rent and raising a toddler in a Strata unit, where there is no consideration for appropriate noise levels for families with younger children.
With Strata Reforms around the corner, let’s hope the situation of the Mayer Family can be considered and used as a precedent for noise complaints in apartments and the future in regards to living harmoniously. Without our youth, Australia has no future. Our population reduces, which is occurring, our family sizes are reducing and we currently have the largest number of no children couples. That is a scary realisation.
Maybe the reforms could take into account long-term renters and their ability to vote and be an active member of the Owner Corporation as long as the levies are paid. Levies are paid by the owners, which are normally paid from the rent.
It is said often if you pay your rent on time, the levies are paid, hence the reason why some consider that long-term renters should be able to vote and attend Strata meetings without the owner having to give their authority over. We are not saying both have the same vote, only one if the owner is not active and the renter is long-term, then why not let the authority pass automatically pass over to the tenant?
Whilst the reforms will bring a better quality of life for residents living in Strata, and not knowing the full impact of the new Reforms particularly in this case regarding By-Laws, in short, it seems the reforms will make it easier to own a pet, smoke drift controlled (smokers in short, not the Aussie Barbie), but the reforms do say it will be easier to take action against noise amongst other things.
We were all children at one time, we all cried when we didn’t get our way, or we were overtired or sick and the list goes on. Except in the older days, more of us were living in residential houses and the noise wasn’t noticed as much. Now a quarter of us are in Strata and the noise is more apparent. The numbers are only going to increase, and our tolerance and acceptance are going to have to adjust accordingly.
Ms Janin Mayer, if you or your husband or anyone else would like advice in the area of noise complaints in apartments please contact Principal Dieb P Khoury of Benjamin & Khoury on (02) 9231 3433 or by email: [email protected].
How can apartments be better designed to meet the needs of families with children, taking into account increasing noise complaints in apartments?
In March this year, a Sydney couple received a letter from their strata management company, threatening them with a $550 fine due to ‘excessive noise’ emanating from their apartment – courtesy of their toddler.
This case shocked many and generated a great deal of media interest. The story was picked up by several TV programs, radio programs and printed media, and the mother, Janin Mayer (who lives in a 2-bedroom apartment with her son and husband, and is pregnant with their second child), expressed feeling discriminated against and worried about what will happen as their family grows.
The story prompted discussion online about the increasing number of families who are living in apartments and the tensions this can generate. The comments were voluminous and often heated – coming both from the perspective of families with children and from childless neighbours. While noise complaints in apartments and neighbourly tensions are not unique to higher density housing forms, they may be heightened due to living within such close proximity – and may become particularly pronounced when young children are present.
Given this topic has attracted recent media attention, it seems an opportune time for a greater understanding of families living in this context.
In the city of Sydney, a shift towards higher-density living arrangements has been a key planning strategy, in response to the growing population placing a strain on housing supply. Yet little is known about how people negotiate their everyday lives in these shared spaces and within close proximity to others, and thus whether this dominant policy response will meet the needs of a diverse population – including families with children – over the longer-term.
In the context of Sydney, apartment living represents a major shift in living arrangements from previous detached housing norms. Adjusting to this transition becomes particularly interesting in the case of families with children. Current plans for extending high-density housing in Australian cities have been criticised for neglecting the complexity of apartment populations. Apartments have been viewed as a temporary stage in the housing cycle, built with couples and singles in mind, with the expectation that residents will move to detached houses after having children. This influences the experience of families with children as infrastructure often fails to take their needs into account. Facilities for children are often limited in apartment complexes, and there are often restrictions on play in common areas.
While developers may not plan apartments with children in mind, families with children now comprise almost one-quarter of Sydney’s apartment population. The experiences of these families warrant research attention. It is important to gain a better understanding of the factors that make apartment living work for families with children.
With an interest in discovering more about the experiences of families such as Janin Mayer’s, I am currently undertaking my PhD research on the topic of families who live in apartments with children. I am interested in talking to such families in Sydney, to gain insight into their everyday lives – as they live and parent within close proximity to others. My research also aims to explore how apartments might be better designed to meet the needs of families with children, as a long-term living arrangement.
Some of the questions I aim to explore are: What things do families with children enjoy about apartment living? Which aspects are difficult or cause tension? How do families with children make use of space within and around the home? Do parents make decisions due to being aware of sound, and the impact of this on their neighbours? What are relationships like with neighbours and do families have experiences of tension, noise complaints in apartments or conflict with others living in their apartment buildings? Do families with children feel pressure to move into a detached home due to social norms or comments made about raising children in apartments?
Of interest to readers of this blog, I am also curious to explore the impact of strata legislation in NSW on families with children. Do strata regulations create challenges for families who want to make changes to their apartments, in order to make everyday life with children more comfortable?
The experiences of families with children and the strategies they have for overcoming such challenges may provide insights into how future Australian apartment developments may be better designed with families with children in mind.
With a transition towards shared living offering a number of important benefits – both environmentally and socially – it is important to identify barriers which may impede this form of living being seen as a long-term option and to provide support where possible in order for such benefits to be achieved in the Australian setting – for a diverse population (not just singles and couples without children).
If you are interested in hearing more about this research or if you are a parent/guardian living in an apartment in Sydney with children and would be interested in sharing your experience – please contact me on [email protected]au
This project has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee, University of Wollongong.
Bio: Sophie-May is a PhD student in the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, at the University of Wollongong. Her current research interests focus on the experiences of families living with children in apartments.
Have a question about children and noise in apartments or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.