These questions about the noisy floor upstairs have been sent in by QLD Lot Owners and answered by Frank Higginson from Hynes Legal and Stuart Clough from Noisenet.
Jump directly to the QUESTION you are after:
- QUESTION: The apartment owners upstairs have glued noisy vinyl floors straight onto the concrete. The tenants are very noisy. How does the body corporate assess the noise from the new flooring and the effect it is having on neighbours?
- QUESTION: I am thinking about installing soundproofing and insulation in the ceiling and a wall in my apartment as I hear children running around on the very noisy floor upstairs on a daily basis.
- QUESTION: The new family upstairs have laid vinyl floorboards. They claim that because the building is old with thinner walls, floors etc, they do not have to use a noise insulator.
- QUESTION: Is it legal to have floorboards in an upstairs unit? I am sure you can understand, at times we are disturbed by the noisy floorboards upstairs.
Question: The apartment owners upstairs have glued noisy vinyl floors straight onto the concrete. The tenants are very noisy. How does the body corporate assess the noise from the new flooring and the effect it is having on neighbours?
Noise complaints due to a change of flooring in a unit have been submitted to body corporate. The owners did not contact the committee before replacing the carpet with noisy choice luxury vinyl floors.
The owner has confirmed that it was glued straight on to the concrete with no underlay. He states that it was not required.
Footsteps can be heard whenever the occupants walk around the unit. Opening and closing cupboard doors and everything is so loud. Two units, one beside and one above them, have had their lives turned upside down with a loss of sleep and loss of enjoyment of their homes.
The tenants are unruly. The property manager doesn’t care and refuses to believe the tenant is noisy. The owners don’t think they need to do anything except ask the tenants to be a bit quieter.
One of the neighbours from an adjoining unit has recorded the loud noises made by the tenants. Can this be used as proof of some of the noise the neighbours are being subjected to? Sometimes it is of a loud sexual nature.
How does the body corporate assess the noise from the new flooring and the effect it is having on neighbours and other residents?
Answer: Statutory declarations from residents, verifiable recordings of the noise, test results or third party noise monitoring will all increase your ability to resolve the complaint.
Before moving forward into the details on this case, the first point to make is that directly glued vinyl to concrete is a totally unacceptable form of flooring in a multi-occupant structure.
Vinyl floors will increase the actual noise created by steps, furniture moves, things being dropped upstairs, and will do nothing to attenuate the noise from getting into the building structure. From there it will be transmitted through the floor/ceiling and likely also through the building structure to other residents on the same level, the level below and sometimes even further away.
It is possible for the Strata Manager / Body Corporate to enforce based on multiple complainants, particularly if you have a set of noise diaries recording dates / times and the nature of the noise issues. But these can be challenged in some cases if there is a perception of residents ganging up on one resident.
In terms of measuring the noise there are 2 approaches:
- The formal engineering test is an impact test, where a weight is dropped in a controlled manner on the floor surface and the noise impact is measured in the apartment below. Vinyl without underlay will definitely fail this test. But this does require access to the apartment in question.
- The second option is to prove unacceptable nuisance (as you would other noise issues such as a dog, noisy washing machine or as you say loud sexual type noises). This involves installing noise monitoring equipment in the apartment below (or wherever the nuisance is heard) and documenting the frequency and severity of the noise nuisance. This is more qualitative as there is no official standard in place and is more open to challenge in the tribunal. However with testing over a sufficiently long period of time and particularly with serious cases such as the one you are describing, this is perfectly effective.
It is the responsibility of the Strata Committee, working with the building manager to assess and resolve issues of unacceptable noise nuisance. Your by-laws and the state laws exist to support this action. What remains is gathering the required evidence to enforce the replacement of the vinyl flooring with carpet and underlay. And potentially also behaviour change by the residents in question.
In Queensland, the commissioner made it clear at a recent Q&A session. Making a decision on noise nuisance is all about the evidence. So statutory declarations from residents, verifiable recordings of the noise, test results or third party noise monitoring will all increase your ability to resolve the complaint and be sure that the decisions of the Strata are supported if it goes to tribunal or court.
This post appears in Strata News #308.
Question: I am thinking about installing soundproofing and insulation in the ceiling and a wall in my apartment as I hear children running around on the very noisy floor upstairs on a daily basis.
I am thinking about installing soundproofing and insulation in the ceiling and a wall in my apartment as I hear children running around on a daily basis. I do not believe this is a structural change but a lot improvement change to my unit and not common property. Do I need to go through the committee for approval to do this?
My issue is as follows:
- When the owner put in brand new carpet 2 and half years ago he did not change the very old underlay;
- The noise has only started coming through since the tenants above with 2 young children moved in;
- The contractor advised that the ceiling and walls are hollow and that is the reasons for the noise coming through;
- Insulation has been recommended by a certified contractor with soundproofing in it to assist with the transference of noise.
- I am currently going through the committee to get their approval pursuant to the by-laws.
I am just worried that they are not going to approve this as it has been a 2.5 year noise dispute.
Does the committee have any grounds to not approve the insulation?
Answer: Ensure that you are really going to solve the problem. Money spent at the source of noise is most effective.
Stuart: Ensure that you are really going to solve the problem. Money spent at the source of noise is more effective – eg carpet instead of tiles or floorboards will have a much greater impact than insulation in your walls.
Also make sure:
- That the noise is coming through the walls or ceiling. Often it travels through the structure and through exposed beams. In this case, insulation of your walls will have no effect. You may need professional help to determine this as it isn’t always obvious.
- It’s good to see that the insulation you have been recommended is Noise Rated. Just standard Clark Rubber foam or thermal wall insulation will have a limited effect.
Frank Higginson: It will depend on what the by-laws say as that may require approval from the committee.
It is not possible to say if the committee can validly refuse an application without the committee providing reasons for refusal.
However, the other consideration for you as the occupier below is whether the noise that is being caused amounts to an unreasonable interference. If it does, and there is an appropriate by-law dealing with noise and nuisance, then the committee would be obliged to take by-law enforcement action against the use of the lot upstairs. The occupier downstairs might also want to send the committee a form 1.
This post appears in Strata News #250.
Question: The new family upstairs have laid vinyl floorboards. They claim that because the building is old with thinner walls, floors etc, they do not have to use a noise insulator.
I have lived in my strata unit for many years. The new owners of the unit above have pulled up the carpet and laid vinyl floorboards and we now have to put up with the very noisy floorboards upstairs.
I asked them before laying if they could let me know what underlay is going in, as we have by-law 1 Noise.
They didn’t ask and they used the thin plastic foam underlay instead of a noise insulator.
We are living with constant noise and thumping in our ceiling from each step, drawers opening and closing and small children running through the apartment.
The owners said it was too expensive for the noise insulator so they used the cheaper underlay.
They also claim to have investigated the legislation prior to carrying out the renovation. They believe that because our building was built in 1986 with thinner walls, floor etc, they are able to put whatever down they wanted. Is this correct?
I can’t seem to find any reference to this information anywhere in the Queensland legislation.
Answer: I very much doubt the age of the building has anything to do with the type of flooring that can be installed.
I very much doubt the age of the building has anything to do with the type of flooring that can be installed. What matters is:-
- What the by-laws say about works to the unit. The by-laws should provide that before any works are conducted to the internal components of the lot that the approval of the committee is sought. The committee can then impose reasonable conditions on the works that would normally extend to the type and standard of the underlay that has to be put in.
- The second thing (if that didn’t happen, which it sounds like it did not) is that the owner cannot use the lot in a way that interferes unreasonably with the use and enjoyment of others. It would appear that (almost regardless of the underlay) that the use of the lot is interfering with the owner below. that is potentially a breach of the by-laws. So the next step starts with what the by-laws are, whether they are enforceable, gathering the evidence of unreasonable interference, asking the committee to do something about it, and then making an application to the Commissioner’s Office for conciliation if nothing happens.
This post appears in Strata News #210.
Question: Is it legal to have floorboards in an upstairs unit? I am sure you can understand, at times we are disturbed by the noisy floorboards upstairs.
My partner & I rent a unit on the Gold Coast. We live on the 2nd floor in a walkup of 3 floors.
The owner of the upstairs unit recently ripped up the carpet and put down floorboards.
Unfortunately, they did not have the courtesy to advise us and we had to endure a great deal of noise for about 4 weeks.
Anyway, my question is: Is it legal to have floorboards in an upstairs unit? I am sure you can understand, at times we are disturbed by the noisy floorboards upstairs.
We would be most grateful for your reply.
Answer: For us what matters is not the style of flooring but the interference that comes from the use of it.
The age-old issue!
For us what matters is not the style of flooring but the interference that comes from the use of it.
The threshold standard at law is ‘unreasonable’ interference. It follows then that ‘reasonable’ interference is acceptable. The price of community living is living in compromise.
On this particular issue, there are two things that come to mind. The first was the interference during the installation of the flooring. We think it is completely reasonable for there to be a by-law which allows for the committee to approve and impose conditions around renovation works. This then gives a committee the ability to dictate times and other conditions around renovations that means the interference with neighbours is as least disruptive as possible.
The second is the ongoing interference that may be caused by the use of the floor. That will depend very much on the circumstances. If there is a 10-year-old child up there bouncing a basketball around all hours of the day and night then that is likely to be unreasonable interference. If there is an 80-year-old grandmother who slides around in slippers all day then there is likely to be no interference at all – not even ‘reasonable’ interference! That interference (or not) will exists regardless of the type of flooring.
For us, that is a very important distinction. It is not the floor itself that causes interference – it is the use of it. Granted, harder flooring surfaces might not muffle the sound as much as carpeted floors, but it still comes down to its use.
This post appears in Strata News #136.
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- QLD: Q&A Can I Get My Body Corporate to Test Noise Levels in My Unit?
- QLD: Oppressive or Unreasonable – QLD Strata Bylaws
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