Article: Speak Easy

Can You Fight  For Your Right  To Party? with Michael BoturCan You Fight For Your Right To Party? with Michael Botur

We live in an extremely free country, with social welfare, oodles of free speech and very little corruption.

An essential question, though: are any of us free to let our noise spill out of the property and into the eardrums of our neighbours? And if that right is taken away, have we lost essential liberty?

Now, mostly my neighbours are quiet, helpful and nice enough to chat to. I always enjoy helping them, even when dumbass teenage neighbours run out of petrol on my driveway (two weeks ago) or when there is a wedding-slash-funeral for a member of the outlaw motorcycle community, replete with several processions of extremely loud bikers (five weeks ago – true story.)

Anyway, as you might have guessed, noisy neighbours inspired this column. These neighbours aren’t right by my place, but they generated so much noise one recent Saturday morning at 3, 4 and 5am that I talked to their property manager then went away and researched what the law advises about one’s right to party.

• Firstly, you can’t kick renters out instantly for being noisy. The law says a tenant
needs to be given notice about how to remedy breaches in a tenancy agreement.
Typically a breach notice asks for a remedy to be completed within 14 days;
in this case, the renters might be asked to ‘remedy’ their frequent noisiness. No
progress within two weeks? Then it gets real.

• If a renter (or landlord) has breached the quiet enjoyment of a neighbour or other
tenant, and doesn’t comply with a 14 day notice to remedy, an application may
be made to the Tenancy Tribunal. The application should seek to end the tenancy
and can potentially seek compensation from the party who breached the quiet

• A condition in a tenancy agreement telling the renter to have “no parties” is
considered too general to be enforceable, however the Tenancy Tribunal can be
asked to terminate a tenancy if tenants or invited guests cause damage
intentionally or carelessly. A 14 day notice to fix the damage would have to be
given to the tenants.

I’m not suggesting that it is just renters involved in noise problems. Plenty of home owners cause plenty of noise bother, and under the Resource Management Act, the Environment Court can be asked to issue a similar order to remedy noise.

And now, the other side of the coin – when a renter tells the landlord to shush:
In May this year a tenant in Fairfield, Lower Hutt, brought before the Tenancy Tribunal a complaint in which the tenant issued the landlord (Housing NZ) with a 14 day breach notice over excessive noise. It wasn’t Housing NZ making the noise, but a tenant of Housing NZ next door.

I don’t think this case has been resolved, hence the present tense.

The tenant, a Mr Osborne, claims the landlord has failed to ensure two neighbours do not interfere with Mr Osborne’s reasonable peace, comfort, or privacy. Housing NZ looks after three properties at the site; Mr Osborne is stuck in the middle, with a neighbour on one side playing music loudly enough to be issued abatement notices from time to time.

The Tenancy Tribunal has reminded the parties that there are mutual obligations found in the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (RTA) for both tenants and landlords – but it has also found the landlord has remedied the noise breach in an exemplary way, by door-knocking all the neighbours to see if they are experiencing similar bother and trying to set up meditation. Sounds like a pretty good landlord to me – but no update yet on whether the noisy neighbour has quietened down.

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.

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