Managing noise from intruder alarms

Intruder alarm systems are used in cars and buildings to protect against theft, but the noise they make often disturbs neighbours and may result in owners facing legal penalties. Find out how to avoid breaking laws regarding alarms and having a faulty alarm.

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations (Noise Control) Regulation 2017 (the Regulation), It is an offence for an intruder alarm to sound for more than

  • 45 seconds for cars manufactured on or after 1 September 1997 
  • 90 seconds for older cars

Owners of vehicles manufactured before 1 March 2009 can claim a defence if

  • a vehicle window or windscreen was broken or removed
  • the motor vehicle was involved in an accident
  • the motor vehicle was broken into or an attempt was made to break into it

It is an offence for an intruder alarm to be heard in any neighbouring residence when it sounds for more than

  • 5 minutes if installed on or after 1 December 1997
  • 10 minutes if installed before 1 December 1997

It does not matter if

  • the alarm sounds because of a break-in or because it is faulty
  • the alarm sounds continuously or intermittently, for the purpose of measuring the time during which it sounds

The owner or operator of a vehicle or the occupier of a building is responsible for the alarm system and could be fined if it sounds for longer than the allowed time.

  • Purchase a good quality alarm.
  • Ensure that detailed instructions are provided about operation and maintenance of the alarm system.
  • Test the alarm soon after purchase to ensure that it complies with the specified time limits.
  • Check that the system and installation are covered by warranty.
  • Follow the instructions about proper system maintenance, and ensure that the alarm is properly maintained. This is particularly relevant when the vehicle or building is left unattended for long periods.
  • Check the proper procedures for disarming and setting the alarm so that it does not sound unnecessarily.

The alarm system should be installed according to the relevant Australian Standard.

Building intruder alarms should be installed in accordance with AS2201.1-1998: Intruder Alarm Systems - Systems Installed in Client's Premises. Ask to see the installer’s security licence to ensure they are experienced in installing your type of system. For more information about security licences, see the NSW Police Force's security industry register or contact them on 1300 362 001.

Vehicle intruder alarms should be installed in accordance with AS/NZS 3749.2-1997: Intruder Alarm Systems - Road Vehicles - Installation and Maintenance. Check that the installer is experienced in installing your type of system: this information should be available on their website.

Once the alarm system is properly installed, to keep it working properly

  • use and maintain the alarm in accordance with the instructions
  • avoid altering any adjustments or sensitivity settings
  • for 'back to base' systems, arrange with the alarm company to control extended sounding
  • if possible, advise the council and the police of a contact person who can enter the premises to turn off a faulty alarm when you are absent

The National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council and the NRMA recommend an electronic engine immobiliser as the best deterrent against car thieves. Immobilisers are not noisy, and are standard equipment on all passenger vehicles manufactured since July 2001.

Satellite tracking systems are also available.

For buildings, continuously monitored 'back to base' alarm systems have features such as

  • an alarm that sounds in the house to deter intruders without disturbing the neighbourhood
  • a telephone connection to a customer care centre to ensure a prompt response to an emergency.

Insurance or security companies can provide more information about systems not based on audible alarms and their appropriateness for various vehicles and homes.

Contact the police to find out if theft is the cause of the alarm. Phone 131 444 or the number of your local police station. Police officers are not allowed to enter unoccupied premises to stop faulty alarms sounding or enter vehicles to disable car alarms, but they can accompany authorised council officers. Council officers can entire an unoccupied business premises but require a warrant to enter an unoccupied residential building.

Check with your local police and council about any established response procedures they have to address the prolonged sounding of alarms.

The council or police may issue penalty notices for continuously or intermittently sounding vehicle or building alarms. Penalties for individuals are

  • $200 if the alarm sounds for up to 4 hours
  • $400 if it sounds for between 4 and 8 hours
  • $600 if it sounds for longer than 8 hours

These penalties are doubled for corporations.

The time periods before a penalty is incurred have been shortened considerably in the Regulation because of the impact this noise causes.

The council may issue a prevention notice for a faulty alarm, requiring the owner to repair or replace it. If the notice is breached, the council may issue a penalty notice of $750 to an individual or $1500 to a corporation.

The council can, under the Regulation, issue the owner of a motor vehicle with a vehicle defect notice requiring repair of the alarm system. If the notice is not obeyed, the police can issue a penalty notice ($300 for individuals and $600 for corporations). The vehicle's registration can also, under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act

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