Hard lesson for defiant timber floor couple

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The process of house renovation with changing of the floor from carpets to solid oak wood. Beautiful golden handscraped oiled European oak brushed for added texture and fine definition of wood grain

If you are in a block where your upstairs neighbours have installed a hard floor and their stomps, clomps, thuds and scrapes are driving you mad, you might take heart from a recent decision in the ACT.

There, a couple who’d bought into The Viridian building thought the restrictions on the timber flooring they wanted to install were too severe and instead took the advice of their timber installer that the proposed flooring and insulation would be more than adequate.

However, the relevant by-law in The Viridian was very specific and demanded a six-star acoustic rating as defined by the Australasian Association of Acoustic Consultants (AAAC) – the highest noise insulation you could achieve in an apartment floor.

The couple applied to install the flooring but failed to specify flooring and insulation that would meet the AAAC standards. The strata committee rejected their application on those grounds.

The couple’s timber flooring installer claimed that the by-law standards applied to a fixed floor whereas theirs was a floating floor which needed less insulation.

The committee insisted that the flooring be installed subject to the conditions in the by-laws.  The couple went ahead and installed it anyway – which is when the downstairs neighbours started complaining about the noise from upstairs.

After receiving breach notices from the strata manager, the couple went to the ACT Tribunal, claiming that The Viridian’s flooring by-law was “harsh and oppressive” and therefore invalid.

They also claimed that other owners in the block had installed hard floors and there was no way they could have complied with The Viridian’s strict rules.

The couple lost the initial case and last month were told they had lost their appeal too.  That said, the Tribunal’s decision was surprisingly even-handed.

The strata scheme was given 14 days to provide details of the other apartments that had received permission for hard flooring under the terms of the relevant by-law, and the materials they had used in their installation.

Subject to that, the couple was ordered to either detail their plans to replace the timber floor with one that was compliant, or to cover it with underlay and carpet.

So if anyone ever tells you that you have to put up with the fact that an upstairs neighbour has installed a hard floor that breaches by-laws and drives you mad, and if they say you have to live with it because a tribunal would never order anyone to rip up their floor or recarpet it, point them in the direction of this case.

Neighbours can’t enhance the value of their property at the expense of your peace of mind, and tribunals across Australia are finally starting to embrace that fundamental strata concept.

The peaceful enjoyment of your lot is not a hypothetical construct; it’s a right and it’s real and it certainly isn’t subject the sales spiel of a timber floor installer.

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  • #67434
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

      If you are in a block where your upstairs neighbours have installed a hard floor and their stomps, clomps, thuds and scrapes are driving you mad, you
      [See the full post at: Hard lesson for defiant timber floor couple]

      The opinions offered in these Forum posts and replies are not intended to be taken as legal advice. Readers with serious issues should consult experienced strata lawyers.
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    • #67469
      peterepete
      Flatchatter

        Hi Jimmy,

        whenever the subject of noise disturbances attributed to Upstairs hard floor surfaces arises, created either by the removal of carpet and the sanding and varnishing of the existing floorboards or the installation of a Floating Floor over floorboards, I tear up.

        I wish to speak for the thousands who are the ‘Upstairs’ who must put up with the noise from ‘Them’ downstairs.

        My building is a four Lot Strata constructed in 1940. Two up, two down. Both downstairs Lots have hard wood flooring.

        To infer that you can only be disturbed in one direction in this regard is annoying to say the least.

        #67471
        Jimmy-T
        Keymaster
        Chat-starter

          True.  But the laws such as they are ultimately about “nuisance” and if there is a proven noise nuisance from a downstairs flat – or one several floors away, for that matter – it’s the nuisance that counts, not the relevant location. And, by the way, we have adressed the effect of hard floor transmission of  noise on neighbours to the side and above in these pages previously.

          The opinions offered in these Forum posts and replies are not intended to be taken as legal advice. Readers with serious issues should consult experienced strata lawyers.
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