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Light pollution

Contributed by Anahita Surya and current to March 2022

What are my rights and responsibilities?

Light from adjoining properties which interferes with your enjoyment of your property may amount to light pollution. ACT residents have a general duty to take all reasonable and practicable steps to avoid or minimise environmental nuisance or harm, which includes light pollution (s 22, Environment Protection Act 1997 (ACT); definitions section 'environmental nuisance').

Some examples of light related environmental nuisance or harm:
  • Artificial lights that shine onto a neighbour’s window;
  • Lighting that is not directed towards the area it intends to illuminate;
  • Overly bright lights that illuminate at a level that is inappropriate for the intended area.
Resolving the issue in a friendly manner is best for all parties involved. If you need mediation support, contact the ACT Conflict Resolution Service on 6189 0590 (main office)for confidential and affordable assistance. If unsuccessful, you can make a formal complaint.

To talk to someone about your dispute, contact the Legal Aid ACT Helpline (9am to 4pm on weekdays) on 1300 654 314.

How do I lodge a complaint against my neighbour?

You can lodge a complaint by writing to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). The EPA will send a letter to your neighbour to inform them of their duty to not cause environmental nuisance or harm. You can make a further complaint to the EPA if the issue is still not addressed. The EPA will then conduct its own investigations to determine if environmental nuisance or harm has been caused.

If the EPA finds that the lighting amounts to environmental nuisance or harm, your neighbour may be issued with a warning letter or fine. In more serious cases, they may be served with an Environmental Protection Order (EPO). Contravening an EPO is a serious matter and may result in a large penalty and in some circumstances, proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court.

Light Complaints and Unit Title

Your owners corporation may have rules on light nuisance. There is also a general duty for all unit occupiers to not cause nuisance or substantial annoyance (Unit Titles (Management) Act 2011 (ACT)). Excessive light may constitute a breach. In this case, you are entitled to make an official complaint to your owners corporation. Alternatively, you can seek an order from the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The section on Unit Title (Strata) and Property Disputes provides more information on how to make a unit title dispute complaint.

The complaint avenues through the Environment Protection Authority are also available to unit title owners (see How do I lodge a complaint against my neighbour?)

Useful Resources

‘Light Pollution’, Access Canberra

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