The following decision is a perfect example of how a body corporate can deal with complaints about noisy lot owners.
When you buy an apartment, there are a lot of considerations that you must take into account before buying, such as the state of the building, whether there are any works that need to be carried out to the building, if so, has the body corporate raised enough funds to carry it out and whether you will enjoy communal living etc. These bigger issues aside, there are also more trivial matters to consider; such as do you like the flooring and whether you will be allowed to do anything about it, if you don’t.
This is the issue faced by a Queensland apartment owner who decided that they didn’t like carpet anymore and wanted tiles. After having their new hard flooring installed, trouble started to brew when the downstairs neighbour complained that the tiles allowed too much noise to be transferred through the ceiling and the case was taken to court.
The owner of a unit replaced the existing carpet and underlay in living areas and the bedrooms of their unit with porcelain tiles. The downstairs neighbour complained to the body corporate that this resulted in frequent and disruptive noise transference and a serious loss of amenity for him. He claimed that he was unable to sleep and eventually moved out of his unit as a result of the noise.
There was no hard flooring by-law. However, one of the by-laws provided that “a proprietor or occupier of a lot shall not … create any noise likely to interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of the proprietor or occupier of another lot …”.
The body corporate issued the owner with a breach notice — informing them that they were contravening the relevant by-law because of the tiles.
When the owner failed to remedy the breach, the body corporate sought an order that the lot owner replace the tiles with carpet and underlay, so that the flooring was restored to its original “as built” construction.
Evidence before the Adjudicator included a report from acoustic engineers who were engaged to assess the acoustic impact resulting from the installation of the new floor on the downstairs neighbour. They found that the impact insulation rating of the new floor did not meet the lowest rating of the AAAC’s floor rating system of two stars. The acoustic engineers were of the opinion that the new tile floor had no acoustic underlay between the tiles and concrete slab.
The downstairs neighbour also provided audio recordings taken from his unit of the noise.
The Adjudicator found in the body corporate’s favour.
Having regard to submissions of the parties and the acoustic engineers’ report, the Adjudicator found that the owner has breached s 167 of the Act. They were required to install carpet and underlay over the tiles, or replace the tiles with carpet and underlay. Alternatively, the tiles could be replaced with new tiles laid over an appropriate acoustic membrane.