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Hard flooring issues

By Frank Higginson23 May 2008

We regularly receive queries as to the rights of owners to install hard flooring (timber or tiles) within their lot. The issue causes conflict as the lot owner believes that they should be entitled to fit out their lot the way they want to, but they do not realise the impact that the noise generated on the hard flooring will have on the occupants around (and particularly beneath) them.

Many bodies corporate also have a specific prohibition against the installation of hard flooring in their by-laws, with the usual exception being for wet areas. Those same by-laws sometimes allow the installation of hard flooring subject to the lot owner demonstrating that sufficient sound reducing measures will be installed underneath it.

However, even without the specific prohibition in the by-laws, a body corporate can still seek to have the noise problem fixed by relying on a nuisance by-law, which appears in almost all By-Laws. That being said, it can be expensive to retain an expert to conduct acoustic testing to convince an adjudicator that the noise is unreasonable and causes a nuisance.

There have been many cases before the Commissioner about the installation of hard flooring. The decisions in those cases make it reasonably clear that an owner who installs hard flooring in contravention of a specific by-law will be either ordered to remove it and/or remedy the noise problem – possibly by completely removing it and re-laying the surface over acoustic insulation. Obviously this is a very expensive process, but the adjudicator’s view is that an owner who deliberately ignores a by-law only has themself to blame for expensive consequences.

As with all by-law breaches, any action to enforce the by-law should be taken immediately, as the chances of obtaining the required order will significantly decrease the longer the contravention is left unactioned.

Due to the cost of having a floor re-laid to provide for noise reducing qualities, other options such as adding a large rug, or having felt padding under furniture may sometimes be ordered as an alternative noise reduction method.