On this page

The Environment Protection Act 1970 says it’s an offence to make unreasonable noise from a residence. Any noise from a residence at any time may be unreasonable. A residential property includes: 

  • any land, building or outbuilding used in connection with a residence. This includes driveways, sheds and workshops 
  • any land where someone is building a residence.

Noise can be unreasonable if a neighbour can hear it in a habitable room of their home. A habitable room is any room in the house except:

  • kitchens
  • pantries
  • bathrooms
  • toilets
  • laundry rooms
  • storage areas.

When residential noise is unreasonable

Investigating officers from your local council decide whether noise is unreasonable. They consider: 

  • volume  
  • source and intensity  
  • time and place  
  • circumstances 
  • how long the noise continues 
  • whether the noise repeats or recurs.  

About the Environment Protection (Residential Noise) Regulations

The Environment Protection (Residential Noise) Regulations 2018 cover specific sources of noise. Listed in the Regulations as ‘prescribed items’, these sources of noise range from electric power tools through to air conditioners. The Regulations also list the prohibited times for unreasonable noise for these prescribed items. Noise is unreasonable when it occurs during prohibited hours and someone in any other residence can hear it. Residential noise can still be unreasonable outside these times.  

Other types of residential noise can also be unreasonable, even if it isn’t on the Regulations list. 

The Regulations don’t apply when using:  

  • equipment in an emergency   
  • your air conditioner during a Department of Health and Human Services heat health alert day

A noisy air conditioner may be unreasonable at any time, even during a health heat alert.  

Prohibited times for noise

Group Prescribed items Prohibited times
1
  • Motor vehicles (but not when entering or leaving a site).
  • Lawnmowers or other grass-cutting devices.
  • Any equipment with an internal combustion engine not in group 2.

Monday to Friday before 7 am or after 8 pm.

Weekends and public holidays before 9 am or after 8 pm.

2
  • Electric power tools, chainsaws or circular saws.
  • Gas or air compressors.
  • Pneumatic power tools, hammers or other impacting tools or grinding equipment.

Monday to Friday before 7 am or after 8 pm.

Weekends and public holidays before 9 am or after 8 pm.

3
  • Home heat pumps.
  • Swimming pool, spa or water pumps except when used to fill a heating header tank.
  • Home heaters (including central heating and hot water systems).
  • Vacuum cleaners.

Monday to Friday before 7 am or after 10 pm.

Weekends and public holidays before 9 am or after 10 pm.

4
  • An air conditioner, evaporative cooler or split system used for cooling.

Monday to Friday before 7 am and after 11 pm.

Weekends and public holidays before 9 am and after 11 pm.

During a heat health alert, you can use your air conditioner at any time.

5
  • Musical instruments.
  • Electric audio goods, including stereos, radios, TVs and public address systems.
  • Water pumps being used to fill a header tank (e.g. collecting river or bore water, or moving water between two tanks)

Monday to Thursday before 7 am or after 10 pm.

Friday before 7 am or after 11 pm.

Saturday and public holidays before 9 am or after 11 pm.

Sunday before 9 am or after 10 pm.

6
  • Electrical goods not in group 2, 3 or 4, including gardening tools.
  • Not equipment for personal care or grooming, or for food heating, cooling or preparation.

Monday to Friday before 7 am or after 8 pm.

Weekends and public holidays before 9 am or after 8 pm.

Find out more about some common residential noise issues and how the law applies to them: 

  • Noise from vehicles and the law

    Vehicle noise from extended idling or warming up on private property, or land connected to private property, can be unreasonable during these times: 

    • Monday to Friday before 7 am and after 8 pm  
    • weekends and public holidays before 9 am and after 8 pm. 

    This doesn’t apply when the vehicle is entering or leaving a property. 

    Noise from vehicle maintenance and repair at your residence can be unreasonable. This includes noise from maintenance and repair coming from your garage, driveway or nature strip. For example, it may be unreasonable if it happens often or for a long time and disturbs neighbours. 

  • Noise from residential construction and the law

    The law on unreasonable noise also applies to: 

    Equipment like jackhammers and power tools are included in the prescribed items list. This equipment cannot be used during the prohibited times in the Regulations. Even during normal working hours, noise from construction activities may still be unreasonable. 

    You can report residential construction noise to your local council. 

  • Noise from sanitary system pumps and the law

    The law on unreasonable noise applies when pumps from sanitary systems make unreasonable noise. Pumps from sanitary systems shouldn't make noise when installed the right way.
  • Noise from animals and the law

    When animals disturb neighbours with noise, local council officers can use the Domestic Animals Act 1994 to investigate or prosecute. This includes noise from barking dogs.  

    It’s an offence for the person living in the house to let their animals make persistent noise that disturbs people. 

Reviewed 5 August 2020