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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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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

The smartphone apps that make living in Austria easier

It’s well known that we all spend too much time on our phones, but there are some useful apps that make living in Austria easier.

The smartphone apps that make living in Austria easier

For anyone with a smartphone, using an app is a part of daily life, whether it’s for transport, banking, essential admin or social media.

There are some apps that are more useful than others though – especially when it comes to living in Austria.

Here are the top apps that every international resident in Austria should have on their phones.

WienMobil

This is the official app of the Wiener Linien – Vienna’s public transport operator – making it an essential tool for anyone living in the capital city or the surrounding area.

The WienMobil app covers all forms of transport in the city, from trains to buses and ride sharing vehicles, and shows all the different forms of transport available for a selected route.

FOR MEMBERS: Ten destinations by direct night train from Austria

Tickets can even be purchased and stored in the app, which means users don’t have to carry a physical ticket when they are going about their daily lives.

WienMobil’s transport partners include Citybike Wien, Europcar, Taxi 31300 and Westbahn.

ÖBB

ÖBB is Austria’s national rail operator and the ÖBB app is useful for anyone that regularly travels by train in Austria – or for anyone visiting the country.

Users can purchase tickets within the app and receive notifications about delays or changes to a service, as well as view information about platforms at specific train stations. 

City, weekly and monthly tickets can also be purchased in the ÖBB app.

Handy-Signatur

Before the pandemic, the Handy-Signatur was a little known app that most people didn’t understand, let alone use.

Then the Covid-19 Green Pass was rolled out, along with many other digital services, and the Handy-Signatur suddenly became an essential app.

But what is it exactly?

The Handy-Signatur is essentially a mobile phone (known as a Handy, in German) signature which turns your phone into a virtual ID card. It allows you to legally sign official documents without having to print them out and sign them by hand.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s Handy-Signatur and how does it work?

There is just one prerequisite for the Handy-Signatur – you need an Austrian or German mobile phone number to use it.

Also, it can be tricky to set up the Handy-Signatur as it requires registering at a registration authority, or at FinanzOnline – Austria’s online portal for the tax office. But once you’re in, it’s a practical tool to have.

However, it’s worth noting that the Handy-Signatur will become known as ID Austria in the future and all signatures will be automatically switched over to the new app.

Green Pass

The Green Pass, or Grüner Pass, is the nationwide app that is used to show proof of 3G (vaccination, recovery or a negative test for Covid-19 ).

Since 3G rules were introduced in Austria in spring 2021, the Green Pass has become an essential part of going to cafes, restaurants and events, and an easy way to show compliance with the rules.

READ MORE: Austria’s Green Pass: What counts as proof of 2G?

The app works by scanning in an official government certificate of vaccination, recovery or negative test. The app then displays a barcode that can be scanned by personnel at 3G or 2G venues and locations, as well as the expiry date of the certificate.

Additionally, the Green Pass is used at airports, at ski resorts when purchasing tickets and is recognised across the EU.

At the time of writing, there was no indication of when the 3G rules would be phased out, so The Local expects the Green Pass to be in use for the foreseeable future.

ÖAMTC

The Austrian Automobile, Motorcycle and Touring Club (ÖAMTC) recently announced that the average price of diesel in Austria hit an all time high of €1.477 per litre.

And prices are set to rise even more in the coming months with the introduction of Austria’s carbon levy of €30 per tonne of fuel from July 2022.

FOR MEMBERS: How to save money on fuel costs in Austria

So what can people do to protect their bank balance from the increased cost of fuel? Use the ÖAMTC app to find the cheapest deals in your area.

In the ÖAMTC app, users can search by petrol or diesel (depending on their vehicle) to view details of current prices at petrol stations in the selected area. For example, type in an address in Vienna and it will display all nearby fuel prices on a map or as a list. 

In these high cost of living times, every little bit helps – even if it’s just saving a few cents on a litre of fuel.

Der Die Das

For anyone learning German and struggling with the articles der, die and das, help is at hand with the Der Die Das app.

Type any German word into the search function and it will bring up the correct definite article, as well as for any alternative forms of the word. It also has a useful explainer about some exceptions to the use of articles.

Even better, it’s free to use. Simply download and start impressing your German-speaking friends with your new-found Deutsch skills.

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