Home Australia Putting up Christmas lights? Know the rules to avoid starting a war with your neighbours

Putting up Christmas lights? Know the rules to avoid starting a war with your neighbours

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Christmas lights can be a great way to bring people together. But keep your neighbours up at night, and they may not be so merry.

Here are some of the most common reasons why people complain, and what local councils, police and experts in neighbourhood disputes say you can do to keep everyone onside.

  1. Lights are too bright or shine into private areas

Neighbours can complain to your local council if your lights are a nuisance.

This could mean they’re affecting their health and wellbeing (such as interrupting their sleep), or stopping them from enjoying their land (such as compromising their privacy).

If a complaint is made against you, the council will investigate by considering how bright your lights are, how long they’re on for and how often, if they flash or are coloured, and the potential impact on neighbours.

To avoid being a nuisance, they suggest:

Positioning your lights as far away as possible from sensitive areas in your neighbours’ homes, such as bedrooms and bathrooms

Directing your lights downwards so they don’t shine into your neighbours’ windows

Turning your lights off when you aren’t using them

  1. Music is too loud and played after hours

If your decorations involve sound effects or music, you should check your local noise restrictions.

These can differ depending on where you live, and will tell you when it’s considered an offence to play loud music.

In New South Wales for example, it’s an offence to play loud music after 10:00pm on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Sunday. But on Fridays and Saturdays, the rules are different.

If your neighbours believe your Christmas decorations are too noisy, and are playing outside the allowed times, they can complain to your local council or police.

The Environmental Protection Authority, which monitors noise pollution, says any noise will automatically be considered unreasonable if it is audible from inside another person’s house.

  1. Crowds of people are blocking streets and driveways

If crowds of people come to view your Christmas lights, it could cause problems for both you and your street.

One street in Melbourne, which was known for putting on elaborate Christmas light displays, had to cancel its celebrations this year after becoming too popular.

“Due to the number of visitors we are getting, we are now classed as an event and to run an event we must supply traffic management and public liability insurance, which is in the tens of thousands of dollars,” the street said on its official Facebook page.

“For us to pay these costs, it is no longer fun. So unfortunately, Hugo Court Christmas Lights is no longer. There will be no lights this year at all.”

In Tasmania, police inspector Joanne Stolp said traffic congestion was the main issue around Christmas lights.

“My advice to residents and spectators is: spectators on foot, please stay on the footpath, [and] spectators in vehicles, please consider other road users when you are driving by or parking near Christmas lights. Drive slowly and watch for pedestrians,” she said.

  1. Lights are hung on unit balconies

If you’re a renter in a multi-storey building, you may want to check with your building manager before hanging lights on your balcony.

The CEO of Tenants Queensland, Penny Carr, says some body corporates ask tenants not to hang washing on balustrades, and may have other by-laws in place regarding lights.

 

In general, though, you should be fine.

“[Renters] have this thing called a right to quiet enjoyment. It’s their home. They can use the property as long as they don’t offend any by-laws,” Ms Carr said.

OK, so what should you do if your neighbour complains?

If your neighbour is unhappy, the first thing you should do is talk to them.

It’s better to do this sooner rather than later. But if that doesn’t help, you could try asking a friend or another neighbour to step in.

Your third option is to contact a Community Justice Centre, which can arrange a mediation.

Katrina Spyrides, a director with Community Justice Centres NSW, said shyness was one of the main reasons mediators had to step in.

“We’re a bit of an individualist society sometimes, and we kind of keep to ourselves. And when issues arise it can be embarrassing and confronting,” she said.

“For some people, their home is their castle and they don’t really see the need to have any relationships with their neighbours. But it’s actually one of the most important relationships you’ll have in your life.

“Our message would be if your neighbour does put up Christmas lights, it’s probably a really opportune time to get to know them.”

FYI: Here are the noise restrictions in your state:

Queensland:

You can report excessive noise to police 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 

New South Wales:

You cannot play loud music:

Before 8:00am or after 12:00am on Fridays, Saturdays and on any day before a public holiday

Before 8:00am and after 10:00pm on any other day

Victoria:

You cannot play music on electronic devices:

Before 7:00am or after 10:00pm on Monday to Thursday

Before 7:00am or after 11:00pm on Fridays

Before 9:00am and after 11:00pm on Saturdays and public holidays

Before 9:00am and after 10:00pm on Sundays

South Australia:

You’re advised to report any “unreasonable noise” to police to assess.

Australian Capital Territory:

You cannot make noise exceeding 35 decibels (not much more than the sound of leaves rustling):

Before 7:00am and after 10:00pm on Monday to Saturday

before 8:00am and after 10:00pm on Sundays and public holidays

Tasmania:

You cannot play amplified music:

Before 7:00am or after 10:00pm on Monday to Thursday

Before 7:00am or after 12:00am on Fridays

Before 9:00am and after 12:00am on Saturdays

Before 10:00am and after 10:00pm on Sundays and public holidays

Western Australia:

You’re advised to report any “unreasonable noise” to police to assess.

Northern Territory:

You are advised to restrict noise from sound equipment:

Before 8:00am and after 12:00am on Fridays, Saturdays, and any days before a public holiday

Before 8:00am and after 10:00pm on any other day

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