This Q&A is about body corporate neighbours causing a nuisance in QLD strata.
Table of Contents:
- QUESTION: We are constantly listening to a leaf blower two floors below us. This noise ruins our Saturday afternoons. Is this a nuisance?
- QUESTION: All residents on the podium level of our building have experienced items falling or being thrown from units above into their courtyards. The BCM has repeatedly sent letters to all residents, but the problem persists. What’s the next step?
- QUESTION: How do we deal with the intimidating bully next door who makes loud and unnecessary noise all day long?
- MICRO-WEBINAR: Body Corporate Nuisance
- QUESTION: Under the Queensland Legislation, is it an offence for residents to throw objects from their balconies?
- QUESTION: Is it acceptable for the apartments above us to hose their balconies and balustrades into our courtyard and pool? Each time this occurs it takes hours to clean all the dirt from 6 floors above.
- QUESTION: We are unable to navigate an area of common property at night due to a bright light shining into this space from a neighbour.
Question: We are constantly listening to a leaf blower two floors below us. This noise ruins our Saturday afternoons. Is this a nuisance?
We live in a complex consisting of both residents and holiday accommodation.
We are constantly listening to a Leaf blower two floors below us. This noise ruins our Saturday afternoons because we have to shut doors and windows to shut out the constant on and off leaf blower noise.
Why is this allowed in a unit complex? Surely it is a nuisance.
Answer: What you perceive as ‘not permissible’ and ‘surely’ a nuisance may be entirely reasonable to someone else.
I’m going to flip this around…
We live in a complex consisting of both residents and holiday accommodation.
We are constantly having someone complaining about our leaf blower from two floors above us. Their complaints ruin our Saturday afternoon because we have to listen to them go on and on about us doing leaf blowing.
Why is this allowed in a unit complex? Surely it is a nuisance.
You can see the issue. What you perceive as ‘not permissible’ and ‘surely’ a nuisance may be entirely reasonable to someone else. In strata, there is give and take. Yes, you have rights as an owner – then again, other owners have other rights too and their interests may not be the same as yours. It is ultimately a balancing act.
In this particular case, yes a leaf blower may be a nuisance. That said, if it is only happening a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, you may be hard pressed arguing that it is. A different story if it started at, say, 0500 on a Sunday or 2300 on a weekday and lasted for six or seven hours thereafter. ‘Nuisance’ is not defined under strata legislation, although it has been established through caselaw. This case sets that benchmark. If you read it, you will see it is a hard threshold to reach.
If you haven’t already, you should have a chat to the other owners. They may not be aware of the issues you are experiencing. Perhaps you can negotiate some more suitable times this activity can occur. Failing that, you may wish to bring this issue to the attention of the committee, who also have a responsibility in situations like this.
If you consider a by-law is being breached, you may also wish to pursue the formal by-law enforcement process. Again, though, I’d be urging you to consider what I’ve said above and see what you can do to reach some informal, mutually agreeable outcomes here.
This post appears in the June 2022 edition of The QLD Strata Magazine.
Question: All residents on the podium level of our building have experienced items falling or being thrown from units above into their courtyards. The BCM has repeatedly sent letters to all residents, but the problem persists. What’s the next step?
I live in a 17 floor apartment regulated under the Standard Module. The unit I own is on a podium level which has an extended courtyard area, as do all units on this floor. Over the months, all podium residents have had things fall or be thrown onto our courtyard, including cigarettes, glass, dirt, oil, food, animal faeces, bottles of beer/wine, a floor lamp and a paint can.
We continually express our concerns to the BCM as we are scared these falling items will cause more property damage, or death or injury to a person. Each time we express our concerns, the BCM sends a letter to the residents reminding them of the by-laws to not cause items to fall or be thrown off balconies. However, such conduct keeps occurring and the BCM will not take any further action.
We know our lots are our own responsibility and it is difficult to pinpoint the perpetrator/s, but what can we do to stop this? We are scared to use our courtyards. Is there any course of action against the Body Corporate?
Answer: Read on for a ‘standard’ answer and a ‘fun’ answer to your question.
It never rains but it pours… litter. Ancient Romans had the same problem in their ‘insulae’, but as the most expensive apartments were on the ground floor (no elevators!) the solution was fixed screens to minimise the litter thrown down.
While you don’t have the right to erect screens, you have at least two ways of taking action. Each however relies on evidence of high quality. For example, an eye witness statement, video or photograph/s of litter leaving a persons hand and then landing in your courtyard. Even good circumstantial evidence may not be enough; see Montego Sands  QBCCMCmr 160. So, set up some cameras and / or get your thinking cap on about how to obtain that smoking gun evidence. Once you have it, the next thing to do is to consider whether the littering breaches a by-law or constitutes a nuisance or unreasonable interference with the use of your lot.
In the former case, draw up a BCCM Form 1 Notice to Body Corporate of Contravention, staple your evidence to it, and hand it over to the Body Corporate. What you do next in that process, depends on what the Body Corporate does.
In a perfect world, the Body Corporate enforces the by-laws against the litter bugs! In an imperfect world, when the Body Corporate (almost inevitably) does nothing, you can bring a dispute resolution application against the Body Corporate seeking orders that it enforce the by-laws against the litter bugs. If the littering does not breach a by-law, but it is a nuisance (in the technical legal sense), or an unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of your lot (here is one of mine that explains what that is – (Miles v Gough  QCA 190) then you can start a dispute resolution application against the litter bugs directly. In that application you seek orders that the littering not be repeated.
Now, that is the ‘standard’ answer to your problem. Here is a fun answer! (Fun for lawyers at least). Grab the Body Corporate insurance invoices for the last 4 or 5 years. Then, with your courtyard neighbours, do some statutory declarations as to the nature, volume and frequencies of the rain of litter. Ensure that those declarations make clear that the litter is not being generated in the courtyard itself, but is coming from above. Next, get yourself a good lawyer’s letter to the body corporate’s current insurer, attaching the statutory declarations and pointing out the risks arising from the rain of litter; damage to property, injury, death… make sure you copy the Body Corporate committee when your lawyer sends the letter. Odds are that the premium will then go up. When it does, propose a motion at the next general meeting under section 201(2)(c) of the Standard Module, that the courtyard owners be exempt from paying the increase in premium. Nothing like hitting the litter bugs in the back pocket. Of course, by the time the lawyers letter goes, you will already have the committee’s attention and who knows, they may even start doing something about the issue before the premium increases!
This post appears in the May 2022 edition of The QLD Strata Magazine.
Question: How do we deal with the intimidating bully next door who makes loud and unnecessary noise all day long?
How do we deal with an intimidating bully? We are relatively new owner/residents in a tower block in QLD – 7 apartments per floor. The neighbour’s door is very close to ours at one end of the corridor. He has been renting his place for several years and works from home. We are semi-retired and also work from home.
Our neighbour rises and begins making noise from 4.30 am every day. We are woken by loud kitchen noises, the garbage disposal unit and his dog barking loudly. These noises continue throughout the day.
We tried friendly discussions and even a note slipped under his door, but not much has changed. We don’t want to feel uncomfortable every time we open our door to leave, or to come home. If we lodge an application through the Commissioner’s Office, we will have escalated the situation, even if the outcome goes our way for achieving our right to peaceful enjoyment of our home.
We’ve spent over a million dollars purchasing what we thought was our last home. We weren’t expecting our new life to be tainted by a bully half our age.
Answer: Any option comes with pros and cons and only you can make the decision.
I can see you are in a difficult spot and you’ve articulated the challenges well. The first thing I suggest is not referring to this as ‘bullying’. As offended as you are by the behaviour, bullying has no actual definition in strata legislation and it tends to have a specific meaning not applicable to this situation. Doing so will remove a little of the emotion from the situation.
After that, you have decisions to make. Do you undertake the formal processes against this person, which would include by-law enforcement or pursuing a nuisance against them? That will take a lot of time, money and effort and as you say, runs the risk of inflaming the situation. You will need to compile a log of these breaches, if you haven’t already done so.
Do you simply ‘do nothing’ and find a way to live with the situation, hoping the person eventually ceases the behaviour, or moves out? Maybe that will happen, although you have zero control over that.
There may also be alternative dispute resolution options to pursue. Again, that will take time and effort.
Any option comes with pros and cons and only you can make the decision. Actually, I think you have already made the decision, judging by your final comment about having spent over a million dollars on your final home. That tells me you think your need to protect your investment outweighs other considerations. Time now to take a deep breath and follow through.
This post appears in Strata News #555.
This post appears in Strata News #541.
Question: Under the Queensland Legislation, is it an offence for residents to throw objects from their balconies?
We regularly have residents throwing objects from their balconies, including soft drink cans, water bottles and cigarette butts. These objects become a safety hazard for people below, who may be struck by these objects.
Is there legislation in Queensland which makes such behaviour an offence?
Answer: Do you have evidence, such as video footage, which shows the objects being thrown and also identifies who threw them and from what lot?
Your query prompts several of my own. Do you have evidence, such as video footage, which shows the objects being thrown and also identifies who threw them and from what lot? You’ll need that if you wish to proceed with any action. Have you or the body corporate taken any steps to address this situation? Has anyone spoken with the alleged throwers, or, if they are occupiers (the phrase used for tenants under body corporate legislation), has anyone spoken with their managing agent or landlord? Has anything been put to them in writing?
These questions need to be addressed prior to any consideration of ‘offences’. To be clear, there is a difference between an offence and a dispute in this context. An offence is typically something that comes with legislated, monetary penalties. There are no offence provisions in Queensland’s body corporate legislation that address the situation you describe, although a breach of by-laws may result in monetary penalty depending upon how that breach is enforced.
Really, your issue is that a dispute seemingly exists between you/the body corporate and the alleged throwers. Apart from taking the self-resolution steps described above, the options to resolve this dispute are to enforce by-laws or pursue a breach of the nuisance provisions of body corporate legislation. These disputes will typically get resolved in my former Office, namely, the Office of the Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management and that can take some time.
If any of what you describe results in injury or property damage, then that’s a Police matter. Not everything which occurs in a body corporate is the body corporate’s responsibility to manage.
This post appears in Strata News #475.
Question: Is it acceptable for the apartments above us to hose their balconies and balustrades into our courtyard and pool? Each time this occurs it takes hours to clean all the dirt from 6 floors above.
We live in a ground floor apartment in a block of 12. The front and side balconies above us have over the edge drainage which drains directly into our courtyard and swimming pool. Is it acceptable for the apartments above us to hose their balconies and balustrades into our courtyard and pool?
Each time this occurs it takes hours to clean all the dirt from 6 floors above as our drainage is 100mm floor wastes. It also takes endless time cleaning and re-balancing the chemicals in our pool.
Can this be stopped?
Answer: The occupier of a lot included in a community titles scheme must not use or permit the use of, the lot or the common property in a way that causes a nuisance or hazard;
As an owner you are entitled to the peaceable enjoyment of your lot
Section 167 of the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 states:
The occupier of a lot included in a community titles scheme must not use or permit the use of, the lot or the common property in a way that
- causes a nuisance or hazard; or
- interferes unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of another lot included in the scheme; or
- interferes unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of the common property by a person who is lawfully on the common property.
Having water pushed into your lot would seem to count as a nuisance so the question is what are you going to do about it?
First step is to refer the matter to the Committee so they can make an assessment. Is the problem a design fault? If so, perhaps runoff pipes can be installed. Maybe the balconies need to have a small lip added so that owners push the water down through their drains instead of over the balcony. If there is a technical solution the body corporate should consider it.
However, in some cases though it is difficult to fix the problem by rectifying the building. Then, you might need to appeal to individual owners to have them change their behaviour. A letter from the committee to the relevant owners might help but occupants change and people forget over time. Otherwise, you might have to take action against individual owners – not pleasant or easy but something to be considered.
This post appears in Strata News #457.
Question: We are unable to navigate an area of common property at night due to a bright light shining into this space from a neighbour.
We are unable to navigate 6 steps to the clothesline at night without being blinded by a light shining into this space from a neighbour.
The area of Common Property has become dangerous and impossible to use at night due to residents being blinded by the light.
Answer: Given that the light is affecting common property, we recommend that you contact the Body Corporate Manager and/or Committee with your concerns.
Light coming from a lot in the Scheme
Light can cause a nuisance and interfere unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of the common property, which may contravene:
- s.167 of the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 (‘the Act’) regarding nuisance; and/or
- the Scheme’s by-laws, if there is a relevant by-law (such as creating a nuisance or a hazard).
Given that the light is affecting common property, we recommend that you contact the Body Corporate Manager and/or Committee with your concerns. If no action is taken by the Body Corporate, you can:
- progress the contravention of s.167 of the Act through the Commissioner’s Office; and/or
- issue a BCCM Form 1 to the Body Corporate requesting that it takes action in respect of the by-law contravention (if any). If no action is taken by the Body Corporate, you can then progress to the Commissioner’s Office.
Light coming from a neighbour outside the Scheme
If the light is coming from a neighbour that is not located within the Scheme, we recommend that you contact your local council about the light nuisance.
Given that the light is affecting common property, the Council may require the involvement of the Body Corporate in making a complaint.
This post appears in Strata News #246.
- VIC: Q&A The Solution to Light Pollution from Neighbours
- NSW: Q&A Light Shining Into the Apartment Causing Nuisance
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