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Tiled floor throughout unit directly above
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01/10/2015 - 9:24 pm
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Some time ago the owner of the unit directly above ours – without reference to ourselves as Owners and without reference to neither the executive Committee nor the Strata Managers removed whatever carpet was in place in the unit above and replaced all with ceramic faced tiles. The Owner maintains that some level of noise insulation was applied

The resultant noise is dreadful.

When confronted the Owner said he would place a “large” carpet in the traffic area. One carpet under a coffee table is in place as is one on each side of the bed in the main bedroom. All other open areas remain as ceramic tiles in plain view.

Strata has confirmed that the Owner did not provide any notice of intention to do this work.

What are the recommended actions I can take to remedy this issue?

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02/10/2015 - 1:04 pm
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Before we go any further, let’s be absolutely clear on what has happened here and the consequences of any action you take.

Firstly, your upstairs neighbour has, without regard for strata laws, any relevant by-laws and the comfort of you, their neighbours, enhanced the value of his property to the detriment of yours.

If you pursue this to its logical conclusion, your upstairs neighbour will have to either rip up the tiles and lay properly insulated tiles or replace the carpet. For what it’s worth, I would not feel a smigeon of guilt if I were you and that was the result.

So what do you do? Firstly, check your by-laws to see if they have anything specific about removing carpets or installing hard floors.  If there is such a by-law, then check to see in which way it has been breached then ask your strata committee to pursue the issue through Fair Trading and the tribunal (NCAT).

If there is no by-law, you can still pursue this on two fronts: unapproved interference with common property (the floor) and noise nuisance.

Since you are now pursuing a breach of strata law (rather than any by-laws) you need the executive committee to hold a meeting at which they agree to seek orders at NCAT. They will still need to have a mediation with this owner at Fair Trading but in the meantime you need to gather as much evidence as possible that there is a significant noise nuisance.  

This would normally include statutory declarations from neighbours, visitors and strata professionals that they have heard excessive noise, as well as a noise diary – “loud footsteps heard at this time on this date” – and even recordings which you should be able to get through your mobile phone. 

Meanwhile your committee needs to gather evidence that the carpet has been lifted and tiles with unspecified acoustic insulation has been laid (not hard if the upstairs owner has already said this happened).

Initially, it may be best if your strata manager and/or committee chair should sit down with the upstairs owner and explain the facts of life to them.  They have breached either by-laws or strata laws (or both) and they can either remedy this the easy way or the hard way.  The easy way is that you work out a plan to re-lay the tiles with proper insulation, or just carpet over them.

The hard way is that they engage a lawyer who will gladly fight tooth and nail at their expense, but at the end of the day they will still have to re-lay the tiles or cover them with carpet.  

The reason I am so sure of this is that these days people are expected to know that they can’t just destroy the peace and quiet of their strata neighbours and if they didn’t know that, ignorance is no defence. 

That said, if at all possible, try to resolve this amicably – maybe the upstairs owner could get compensation from the flooring firm for giving bad advice on insulation – but I wouldn’t concede an inch on this.  They acted illegally and you are the victim – it’s as simple as that.  

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