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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Living in Austria: What can I do about noisy neighbours?

Almost everyone has experienced noise from a neighbour at some point, but what options do you have in Austria when the sound starts to become a problem?

Living in Austria: What can I do about noisy neighbours?
You don't have to suffer in silence if your neighbours are regularly disturbing you. Photo: Malachi Cowie/Unsplash

The general rule regarding noise within apartment buildings is that noise shouldn’t exceed what is normal for the local area.

That leaves things quite vague, and means that noise complaints need to be dealt with on a case by case basis. Noise disturbance is not an unusual issue in Austria, and particularly in Vienna which is densely populated and has a high number of houses built before the 1920s — beautiful, but not always blessed with the best sound insulation.

But you do have recourse if a noisy neighbour is affecting your life. In fact, Austrian law takes your right to peace and quiet fairly seriously.

READ ALSO: Do I have to repaint the walls when I leave a rental in Austria?

Most apartment buildings have a set of household rules which all tenants agree to when signing their rental contracts, so as a first step you can check what these say. For example, it might state that if tenants are going to have a party, they should inform neighbours beforehand and not do this more than once a quarter.

There is often a ‘quiet period’ (Ruhezeiten) which may be set by the individual property company, and/or a municipal order may apply — there’s no national standard so you need to check what applies in your area.

In Vienna, the local ordinance sets 10pm-6am as a quiet period, while on Graz the quiet period is as long as 7pm to 7am on weekdays, while Linz, Salzburg and Innsbruck also regulate ‘Mittagsruhe’ or ‘lunchtime quiet period’ around the middle of the day as well as having special rules about being quiet on Sundays and public holidays for the whole day.

In general, it should be easier to ask someone to be quiet (or even enforce your right through legal channels if needed) if the noise is happening during these rest periods. At these times, you and your neighbours should avoid noise which is considered normal at other times: that could include running the washing machine, mowing the lawn, DIY work, playing a musical instrument, but also loud conversations with friends, loud TV or radio, or leaving a dog barking or child shouting for an excessive length of time.

Outside the quiet periods, establishing which noises are ‘excessive’ can be more difficult. Problems can arise when people need quiet outside these specified times, for example if you’re working from home or need to sleep before working a night shift. 

What counts as a ‘disturbing’ level of noise then depends on what is standard for the area, and there is no specific volume that is considered as a threshold. Volume, frequency, duration and the cause of the noise would all be taken into account. In order to make a successful legal complaint, you’d need to show that the noise was outside the norm for the area and that it was enough to affect your quality of life.

People living in urban areas may be expected to put up with a higher level of noise than would be allowed in rural areas, and the type of noise that is permissible also varies depending on location. The Supreme Court has previously rules that a rooster crowing, for example, is normal in a rural area.

Playing a musical instrument like the piano for up to about two hours during the day is generally considered normal as has been established by several court rulings, but louder instruments such as drums or trumpets may have different limits.

READ ALSO: Altbau vs Neubau: What’s the difference and which should I rent in Austria?

Speaking to the offending neighbour is almost always the best first step if you’re affected by loud noises; it will often be possible to resolve the situation without escalating it further if you let them know how it’s affecting you.

If speaking to your neighbour doesn’t resolve the problem, the next step is to contact the housing company (Hausverwaltung).

After that, you can take your complaint to the police. Noise pollution is an offence that carries a fine in Austria, the exact amount ranging depending on the region and starting at €700 in Vienna.

As a final note, if the walls are so thin that you can hear even ordinary movements and sounds from your neighbours, you should contact your landlord or property management company, because building codes state that walls should be thick enough that sound or vibrations caused by ordinary use should not affect neighbours.

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For members

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Austria

Retiring to Austria to spend time in fresh alpine air is a dream for many people, but who is actually eligible to retire to the Alpine Republic? Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Austria

People from all over the world can retire to Austria, but unlike some other European countries, Austria does not have a residence permit tailored to retirees.

This means anyone wanting to retire to Austria has to go through the standard immigration channels, with different rules for EU and non-EU citizens.

Here’s what you need to know about retirement in Austria and who is eligible to retire in the Alpine Republic.

FOR MEMBERS: How can British second home owners spend more than 90 days in Austria?

What are the rules for retiring to Austria as an EU citizen?

The process for citizens from EU and EEA countries to retire in Austria is relatively simple due to freedom of movement across the bloc.

There are a few rules though.

To stay in the Austria for longer than three months, retirees will need to be able to support themselves financially (e.g. through a pension) and have sufficient health insurance.

When it comes to accessing a pension from another EU member state, this is typically taken care of by an insurance provider in Austria who will deal with the approval process between the states. Access to public healthcare in Austria is also available to all EU/EEA citizens.

Currently the pension age in Austria is 60 for women and 65 for men. More information about pensions in Austria can be found on the European Commission website.

FOR MEMBERS: Five reasons to retire in Austria

What are the rules for retiring to Austria as a non-EU citizen?

The most popular visa route for non-EU retirees hoping to live out their golden years in the Austrian Alps or the grandeur of Vienna is to apply for a settlement permit

This is issued to people that do not intend to work in Austria and is referred to as “except gainful employment” (Niederlassungsbewilligung – ausgenommen Erwerbstätigkeit) by Austrian immigration.

To qualify for the settlement permit, applicants must prove they have sufficient funds, comprehensive health insurance and a place to live.

Proof of sufficient funds means applicants must have a regular monthly income from a pension, profits from enterprises abroad, income from assets, savings or company shares. 

The minimum amount is €1,030.49 for a single person, or €1,625.71 for married couples or those in a partnership. 

READ ALSO: Baking away solitude: Vienna cafe hopes to unite world’s grandmas

Third-country nationals also have to provide evidence of basic German language skills at Level A1, in line with the Common European Framework of References for Languages. The diploma must be no older than one year when submitted with the application.

However, the application process will be entirely in German so for people that don’t have advanced German language skills, it’s best to hire an English-speaking immigration lawyer.

Additionally, Austria has a social security agreement with several non-EU states, including the UK, Canada and the USA. This allows some people to access their pension directly from Austria, depending on the agreement.

Again, it can be useful to find an English-speaking advisor to help with the bureaucratic part of accessing a pension in Austria if you don’t have strong German language skills.

After five years of living in Austria with a settlement permit, visa holders can then apply for permanent residence.

Want information on pensions? Then check out the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How does the Austrian pension system work?

Useful vocabulary

Retirement – Ruhestand

Pension – Rente

Social insurance – Sozialversicherung

Health insurance – Krankenkasse

Settlement permit – Niederlassungsbewilligung

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