Making a Complaint
As a result of the feedback that we have received here at NeighboursFromHell it has become evident that some people are confused about where to begin or how to go about making a complaint or getting help. So to assist with that process we are putting some information here to guide people through the possibilities and their options. Click the Link Below to jump to the section:
Often the first place we go to report a problem or ask for assistance is the telephone and for things like noise or threats etc. that’s pretty obviously going to be a phone call to the police but remember when you call the police don’t use the 000 emergency number unless it is an emergency if you think that your safety is at risk or somebody is going to do harm to you, your family or some other person and the police are needed NOW ring 000, for everything else like noise complaints, reporting crime like vandalism or generally to report or inquire about odd behaviour by the NFH you should get the number of the local police station in your area and keep it handy so if you need the police for a non-urgent (not life threatening) matter that is the number to ring not 000 – We do stress that if you seriously believe that you or some other person is in immediate danger of being harmed 000 is the right number to ring.
Sometimes you may feel that the police have not treated you fairly or taken your complaint seriously and if that is the case you have the right to complain. Every state has a formal procedure you can follow to make a complaint and the information below is from the NSW Police Force Website. As it says "You can visit your local police station to try and resolve the matter. Often the most effective and timely approach for resolving customer service matters is to talk to us." if that does not prove satisfactory however you can follow the instructions on the NSW Police web site. Or see the police in your state for more information.
NSW Police conduct
The NSW Police Force mission is to work together with the community to establish a safer environment through the reduction of violence, crime and fear.
Employees of the NSW Police Force are expected to conduct themselves with the highest level of professionalism and integrity ensuring that their authority is exercised responsibly.
If you are dissatisfied or concerned about your interactions with NSW police officers, you have a right to complain.
How to complain
To complain about NSW police officers, you can contact the Customer Assistance Unit on 1800 622 571. You can also visit your local police station to try and resolve the matter. Often the most effective and timely approach for resolving customer service matters is to talk to us.
To lodge a formal complaint you must do so in writing. You can do this by completing the form attached to this brochure. Written complaints can be left at, or mailed to, your local police station or mailed to the Customer Assistance Unit at PO Box 3427, Tuggerah, NSW 2259 or lodge your complaint online.
You can also complain about the conduct of NSW police officers through the NSW Ombudsman or the Police Integrity Commission. In most circumstances complaints received by these agencies will be referred to the NSW Police Force to resolve.
In NSW if you need information about applications for AVO’s or AVPO’s (Apprehended Violence Orders and Personal Apprehended Violence Orders) because your NFH is stalking, harassing, or threatening you; after reporting the actual incident to the police (and asking them for an incident number) a visit to the chamber magistrate at the local court house is where you need to go for the application forms and information about getting an AVO.
NOTE: You can make an application for an AVO even if you only feel threatened you don’t have to have been assaulted - in NSW the police will only make an application for and AVO on your behalf in very specific circumstances, at the very least there would probably need to have been an actual physical assault but even then they may tell you that it is you who have to make the application; in domestic violence matters they may take a different approach and make application on behalf of the victim. Ask the Chamber Magistrate or a Lawyer or other Qualified Legal person what your rights and responsibilities are.
In NSW many of the problems regarding the NFH may be able to be dealt with by the Council Rangers, if you are having trouble with domestic animals, dogs barking etc. the ranger is the person to contact, the ranger will also deal with noise that is not a 'one off' instances such as a loud party or late night music, these things would be police matters, but if the noise is persistent noise from an air-conditioning unit or swimming pool pump or any other persistent noise like somebody operating a wood milling business in their back yard it is worth contacting the Council Ranger and talking over what can be done – We are not sure about the powers of the Council Ranger in other states so check with your local Council to see if the ranger can help you with the problem.
If you have a neighbour problem there is a good chance that at some point it will become necessary to deal with the local council. Dogs and Cats, some aspects of noise complaints, bad smells, fences and boundaries, planning and building, sewers and sceptics and more all come under the umbrella of Local Government so if you find that you are in a NHF situation and it involves a of Local Government matter getting a result from the council can often be an important step in settling the NFH issue.
If you have contacted your local council by phone or over the front counter about “the Issue” whatever that may be, they have probably told you in a very vague or non-committed way about some aspects of your problem given you some pamphlets and said that they would need more information or they would “look into it and get back to you at some stage…….” and nothing more has happened. Getting that sort of advice is probably not what you wanted from them – you have a Neighbour From Hell and you need action NOW but this is a government department and unless you are prepared to spend huge (possibly 10’s of thousands of dollars) amounts of money on lawyers to get action from the council you are stuck with the do it yourself approach.
The DIY complaint process can get very good results without costing more than a few stamps and a bit of stationary etc. But what you will need quite a lot of is the three P’s Patients, Persistence and Politeness. After you have made the phone calls to council or the visit to the council chambers and found that you were fobbed off by a staff member who seemed perhaps sympathetic but very non-committal you need to start the process of getting it all in writing, getting answers from government departments in writing means that they don’t have “plausible deniability” to fall back on later – a phone call can be forgotten a letter creates a “paper trail” - you will have a written record of your questions and requests and their answers and responses.
Hopefully you have been keeping record of the events, keeping a record of names or people you have talked with, dates and times that you talked with them and what you said to them and what they said to – this information will make your complaint letters much more effective. Click Here for information on Keeping records. If you haven't been keeping a diary you should start now but you can still write you letter without it.
Writing a letter that gets a result is not as daunting as a lot of people think – particularly now we have computers, word processors and printers etc. to help us. If you follow the guide in the sample letter below you should be able to write a letter that defines the problem, sets out what you have done so far and defines what you want done by them. Once you get the hang of it you can adapt the basic format to suite letters to any Government Department, Organisation or Businesses, Members of Parliament, Ombudsmen’s office etc.
When you send your letter to council it is a good idea to send a copy addressed to the Department Concerned (in the example letter below it would be something like Planning & Health) and if you have already been dealing with a particular person in that department address it to them, you should also send a copy to the Council General Manager and be sure to note on the letters who copies have been sent to, as in the example below, this reduces the chances of your letter (your problem) being ignored and is more likely to get some action.
Once you have written your letter and sent it off you may find that it is still ignored because for various reasons councils and councils staff think it is OK to do this to people so if you don’t hear back from them in a reasonable amount of time – say 21 days – you should consider the following steps.
1. Ring up and ask what is happening regards your complaint, if you don’t get a satisfactory explanation ask for the email address (or fax number if you have a fax machine) of the General Manager or the General Managers secretary/personal assistant and send your letter via email (or fax) with a covering paragraph to say you have previously sent the letter by post but you have as yet received no reply. Click Here for a comprehensive list of council contact information for all states.
2. If you still don’t get a response or the response you get is not satisfactory you still have some options to explore and these are. Writing a letter to your local State Member for Parliament (sometimes you might want to write to the Federal Member too, depending on the problem but local government is a State Government area) explaining the situation and again setting out in a similar way to the letter to council in the example. This letter to your MP becomes a cover letter that you attach to a copy of the one you sent to council. So this one will say that the council has ignored you or failed to give you a fair hearing or hasn't’t acted to stop the problem and you are asking the MP to look into the matter On Your Behalf.
3. Once you have received a reply from your MP, if it is still not satisfactory and you think you have been treated unfairly or unjustly you can pursue the matter 'further up the ladder' by contacting the Ombudsman, The State Minister for Local Government or other government Departments like the EPA - Environmental Protection Authority (for noise and other pollution matters) or all of the above and any others you might think of.
Patience: Don’t expect instant results – the people dealing with your issue are also dealing with lots of other stuff so your problem will have to join the queue. It may seem like the most important thing in the world to you but it is not to them.
Persistence: Don’t be put off by the first response or lack of response, you may have to do a bit of work to get noticed but squeaky wheels do get grease – eventually.
Politeness: Be respectful and polite in all your dealings with officials (and the NFH), you may be terribly frustrated and fed up with the whole business and feel like shouting and giving them a piece of you mind but doing that won’t help solve the problem, you are going to get a better result by treating other people with respect and dignity and to do that you may need to ‘take a few deep breaths’ and ‘bite your tongue’ – if you want to be treated well then that is the example you should set.
This is a sample of a letter to council, the same format can be used for a lot of different complaints and requests for help, the main thing to remember is to be clear, set out you letter in a way that is able to be understood and states the facts and the details, you letter should also contain a section on what you want to happen or what result you want to achieve.
[Email and/or phone]
[Name of Council]
[Address of Council]
[Position of Person You Are Writing To] Example: Attn. The General Manager
Copies of this letter have also been sent to: [names of people and or departments who you are sending copies]
Dear [The Person You Are Writing To (if known) or To Whom It May Concern]
Re: BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF PROBLEM—REASON FOR WRITING Example: Septic tank overflow from neighbouring property – Request for council to take action to stop the problem occurring.
Set out what you want: Example: I am seeking councils help regarding my neighbour emptying their septic tank on to my property. (This is an actual problem of one of our readers - the dates and responses are made up/fiction.)
Explain the problem, in more detail: Example: On several occasions over the past 12 months it has become evident that sewage from my neighbours septic system has been accidently or deliberately allowed to escape and flow on to my property. This has happened on the following dates: List the Dates
Outline the steps you may have already taken: Example: I have approached the neighbour in question on several occasions when this has happened and they have ignored my requests to fix the problem. I have rung council on each of these occasions and reported the matter to the relevant department and I have talked to [Names of People you talked to if you have them]. On each of these occasions the matter has [put down what the result was i.e. been investigated and the officer rang back and said they had talked with the neighbour…..; the officer said there was nothing that could be done because……..; The officer said that it was not councils problem and I should contact department x]
If appropriate describe what the impact is on you: Example: This problem poses a serious health risk to me and my family and the surrounding properties. It is making our lives extremely uncomfortable due the smell. It has also rendered a large portion of our property unusable and off-limits due to the contamination of the ground where the sewage has been allowed to flow.
Describe what you would like them to do about the problem Example: I am requesting that council take whatever action is necessary to stop the sewage from escaping from the septic tank in question on to my property. I am further requesting that council supply me, in writing, with information about what steps council has taken up to now to have the problem stopped in regard to my previous telephone complaints.
Enclose copies of any relevant documentation such as photographs, letters from other departments etc.
Finish your letter with: a full list of possible contact addresses or phone numbers where you can be contacted, particularly during business hours, and reinforce that you expect to hear from the council within a reasonable time frame. Example: I would appreciate the council dealing with this matter as a matter of urgency and I would hope to be notified as to the progress of my complaint, in writing, within 21 days of receipt of this letter. Thank you for your time in dealing with this matter.
Contact Complaint LineIf you need more information about how and where to make a complaint you can find a great deal of helpful information here at:
Contact Your Local Council
To help you get in contact with your local council here is a comprehensive list of Australian local council web sites and email addresses.
State Law & Legislation