This Q&A about noise transfer between apartments has been answered by The Knight.
Question: Laminate flooring in the apartment below has turned the unit into a giant echo chamber. What are the rules around noise transfer between apartments in Victoria?
I am in Melbourne. The owner below my unit replaced good carpet with laminate flooring four years ago.
It has been four years of hell for me as it turned the unit below into a giant ECHO CHAMBER.
Tenants do not care that the noise of someone walking around is clearly audible inside my home, especially the high heeled platform shoes. I hear TV noise, dishes in the kitchen, phone calls, the shower running and the arguments!
The owner has been asked to install a hall floor carpet or sisal runner to mask much noise, but he refused – why should he pay because I do not want to hear his Noise Transfer!
The Rules should state a minimum of underlay Acoustic rating be used in upper units.
Recently, underlay manufacture has improved greatly to absorb noise – unlike previously used polystyrene sheets and pencil-thin foam rubber.
It seems not much will be done about the noise transfer between apartments!
Typing this now, I can hear every footstep by the tenant below in high heels on the laminate floor and cupboard doors opening and closing.
I hate it and should not be harassed by Noise Transfer in my own home. The stress is appalling for me.
Answer: The BCA has limits for noise transfer between apartments and even though you may be hearing your neighbour walking around, the flooring may be compliant with the current building code.
Unfortunately, this is a common problem as more and more apartment owners are preferring hard flooring such as wood, or laminate flooring in this instance, over the carpet, and in older buildings where the floors and walls are very thin.
The BCA has limits for noise transfer between apartments, however, in my opinion, these are low and even though you may be hearing your neighbour walking around, the flooring may still be compliant with the current building code and/or the ceiling insulation in your case.
To test this you would need to get an acoustic consultant into both apartments to accurately measure the noise transference between both lots. If the flooring fails this test then the unit owner below may need to undertake some form of rectification to reduce the noise, which may involve removing the flooring and putting in an alternative underlay. However, I also note the noise you are hearing is not just from the floor but from other activities in the apartment so there may even need to be some acoustic insulation of some type installed on the ceiling of the unit below.
The next course of action you can take is via the Rules. The Model Rules for Owners Corporations include a provision for excessive noise so if you deem the noise to be impacting the quiet enjoyment of your lot, you can lodge an official complaint form with your Owners Corporation through the Owners Corporation Manager. You may have gone down this path previously as you mentioned the owner below has been asked to take some preventative action.
To proceed further you may have to lodge an application with VCAT to have a third party rule on the matter and maybe obtain an order stating the owner must install a hallway runner or some additional rugs.
Your Owners Corporation may decide in future to create a new rule that states a minimum acoustic underlay requirement for new flooring (which should be done in consultation with an acoustic expert, as any level set should be attainable). However, such a rule is not retrospective and wouldn’t apply to the unit owner below.
If the above options are not palatable you could try to speak face to face with the owner below to convince them (nicely) to take some action. I have even seen cases where the neighbouring lot owners have paid for rugs in the noisy unit but this was only done out of desperation.
This post appears in Strata News #147.
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