Guide To Resolving Neighbour- hood Noise Problems
Noise Can Harm Your Health
Most everyone has experienced unwanted noise and knows how it can make you feel angry and frustrated. It is no secret, noise creates physical and mental stress.
"Noise causes hearing problems, stress, sleep disruption... higher rates of premature births, ulcers, aggression and mental illness... One third of young people entering the work force already have some hearing loss."
(B.C. Workman's Compensation Board, Toronto Star, November 21 1995, page E7.)
What You Should Know
- You have the common law right not to be 'unreasonably' disturbed by noise. Balancing this, you have a common law responsibility to ensure that you do not 'unreasonably' disturb others.
- Try to speak to the noise maker before you contact the authorities. Try to work out a solution.
- You may be accused of being 'too sensitive'; it is a great excuse! Defend your basic right to the 'quiet enjoyment of property.'
- Authorities may want others to corroborate your position. There is no legal basis for this restriction.
- Evidence building. Document all actions. Try and collect audio, pictures, witnesses. Keep a record. Put everything in writing.
- Strategy. From the beginning, assume you will require a case against the noise maker. If it becomes necessary, having acted with this strategy could improve the chances of successful future actions.
- Involve your local councilor and/or provincial MPP in resolving your noise issue. Your politicians are responsible to you for effective noise enforcement.
You and the Law
These are the laws you or your legal council should know (Ontario, Canada):
- Environmental Protection Act (EPA). Noise is a contaminant. Outdoor noise only. No time or place restrictions. Provincial MPPs ultimately responsible for the enforcement.
- Municipal Noise Bylaw (MNB). Outdoor/indoor. Inconsistent interpretation and enforcement between municipalities. Local councilors ultimately responsible for noise enforcement.
- Municipal Act. The MNB originates from clause 138. Also allows municipalities to monitor noise from commercial establishments via public health regulations and restricting licenses.
- Health Promotion and Protection Act (HPPA). Public Health officers can issue stop orders where public health is threatened.
- Landlord and Tenant Act, and Condominium Act, allows landlords and condominium board of directors to evict persons creating 'unreasonable noise.'
The City of Toronto has noticed "a decreasing tolerance for environmental noise." (Noise Control Program, November 1994)
The Basic Steps to Take
We have compiled this sequence of actions based on research and discussion with a variety of sources in the noise enforcement and conflict resolution fields. It is recommended you follow the steps, in sequential order, to maximize resolution of a noise problem.
- Keep a noise diary for one month. Review your diary. Be objective. Is the noise 'unreasonable'? How much are you restricted from the normal use of your property?
- If the noise is 'unreasonable', develop an action plan incorporating the strategy previously mentioned. Start your research. Start collecting evidence and supporting documentation (copies of laws, etc.).
- Contact neighbours. Are others affected by the noise? Will they join you in talking to the noise maker? It is possible that many won't want to get involved.
- Speak to the noise maker. Be courteous, professional and empathetic. Advise them how your life is affected and ask for their cooperation. Ask how you can assist in resolving the situation.
- As part of the strategy, ensure the noise maker has every opportunity to cooperate. If nothing changes, gradually increase written correspondence. Your goal now is to document the noise maker as being 'unreasonable' and not a considerate neighbour.
- Suggest mediation. A community based group could assist all concerned in negotiating a 'win-win' solution.
- If mediation is rejected, advise the noise maker that you are contacting the authorities. Arrange meetings with both your Municipal Clerk and/or bylaw officer and your local Public Health Officer. Bring a prepared written request and supporting documentation. Contact your local councilor. Remember, this is their job. You are not responsible to take noise makers to court.
If you receive ineffective noise enforcement, and the problem still exists, consider these legal actions:
- You can 'Lay an Information' under section 3 of the Ontario Provincial Offenses Act. Go to any police station, fill out the form, bring a prepared letter. The secret, follow up with your local police sergeant and local courthouse. Persevere.
- Go to Small Claims Court. Both sides state their cases to a judge. Hiring a paralegal could improve your chances of success. You request money for loss of enjoyment and use of property. You can go to this court more than once.
- Sue for Private Nuisance and Trespass. Civil court action to claim money damages for loss and acquire an injunction to stop the noise. If you lose, you may have to pay their court costs. You can sue a tenant, another property owner, your landlord and your condominium board of directors for allowing a 'nuisance'.
- Public Trust Doctrine - Suing government for failing to enforce it's own laws. Relatively new form of civil law first seen in the United States of America.
Last Updated: 02-May-2004
© 2004 NoiseWatch