All of us who have lived in an apartment in Macau will probably be familiar with construction noise from neighbors remodeling and renovating their homes. Annoying as this is, it seems to be much more manageable to control because at some stage, ideally—and by law before 8pm—the workers will go home leaving you at least a peaceful night sleep.
The worst and most upsetting kind of noise tends to be not from construction but from neighbours who are simply thoughtlessly noisy in their lifestyle; coming home late at night and banging around the kitchen making dinner, dragging their chairs across the floor, owning a dog that barks incessantly, boisterous noisy toddlers thumping and running up and down, a child practicing their drums or piano at all hours, teenagers playing loud music. This is all by far more challenging to control.
When one’s nerves have reached breaking point the first instinct is to go to the source of the noise and ask for it to be stopped. However, the best advice is to call upon the management company to mediate on your behalf and to exercise its duty to have residents comply with the building rules and applicable laws. Trouble is, the management company is often represented, especially at night, by a lowly paid often elderly security guard, too timid to do much about anything, let alone go and knock on the door late at night to tell a group of possibly drunk, rowdy residents to quieten down.
It is critical that for every complaint you make, insist that it be registered in the management company’s incident log book which the night guard will have. Record date, time, place, nature of noise and your contact details. If possible, take a copy (snap a photo on your phone). This focuses the mind of the guard that you mean business—he will be held accountable for this written record.
If you are a tenant suffering from unbearably noisy neighbors, keep your own log of when the noise occurs and what the noise is, and inform your apartment owner, verbally, and in writing, so again, there is a record. Let them know that you have also lodged a complaint with the management company. A responsible owner will agree to meet you with the management to discuss what options they, not you, can take with the offending neighbors.
If this fails and the neighbors continue to ignore the management company warnings, then the next step is to call the police. They can be reached at 2857-3333 from midnight to 8 am. Meet them at the management company desk in the building lobby, present your ID together with copies of each of the recorded incidents running up to contacting them so there is written evidence to back up your complaint. Usually, one to two officers will respond. Make a record of their names and numbers. They will go to where the noise is coming from and hopefully successfully convince the individuals responsible to reduce the noise they are making. Unfortunately, the police do not have the power to fine individuals making noise, so the complaint can be futile.
I suppose that legal action is then one’s only recourse.
In Macau there is a decree law 54/94/M that considers many situations and source of noise “pollution”; section 3 covers residential buildings stating that there can be no noise on Sundays and public holidays and in the period between 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. of any day.
Penalties are set in section 11 n. 1 paragraph a): fine from MOP $5,000 to MOP $10,000. Under section 11 n. 2 in case of recurrence within the period of one year the fines’ lower and upper limits shall be increased to double of the first recurrence and to triple in case of the second recurrence and over. In section 12 the specific fine is set taking into account i) the level of the disturbing noise produced, ii) the population density of the place where the disturbing noise is produced and strangely, iii) the financial means of the infringer.
This is not a problem particular to Macau, however in some of the buildings, especially the newer ones (and we keep a list of them), construction quality is so poor that soundproofing is insufficient between apartments. Thin floors and walls exacerbate the problem so that even a moderately noisy neighbor can be disturbing.
Many of us don’t like the confrontation and unpleasantness of involving the authorities. I empathize with several tenants we know who have done all the above but to no avail and in their desperation for peace and quiet they vacate their apartment and forfeit their security deposit.
Suzanne Watkinson would like to acknowledge and thank Dr. Carlos Simoes, Property Partner of DSL Lawyers, for his input on this article.
For any real estate-related inquiries, don’t hesitate to contact Suzanne: