Are You a Good Neighbour? | Community Clubs Victoria

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Are You a Good Neighbour?

Jul 20, 2022 | ClubHub

Many club premises are in residential areas, and managers face challenges related to conducting normal club operations without impacting the local amenity.

The most common concern from neighbours is noise from music, outdoor sports or unruly patrons leaving the premises. Neighbouring residents have a right to make formal complaints to police, your local council and the VGCCC if they believe the noise coming from your venue is excessive.

The VGCCC has powers to investigate complaints relating to amenity (noise) issues from licensed premises, which detracts from the quality of the area being pleasant and agreeable.

This may include:

  • The way the business of the licensed premises is conducted
  • The behaviour of people after they have left the licensed premises.

Dealing with formal complaints can be time-consuming, costly and damaging to your reputation. If a neighbour contacts your club to make a complaint about noise, you should try to resolve the issue before it escalates.

Best practice dictates your club should have a plan about how it would handle these complaints, and this could assist staff to diffuse any issues if they arise.

Your plan might include:

  • After-hours contact numbers for managers, key staff, board members, the local council and other authorities
  • A nominated person (e.g., a duty manager) whose responsibility includes handling complaints at every shift
  • Training for all staff on what to say when receiving a complaint
  • A method of recording details (e.g., an incident register) including:

– Day, date, and time that the complaint was made
          – Who is making the complaint and their contact details
          – Specifics of the complaint, including when, where and how often
– A timeframe within which you will respond.

No matter what impression you or your staff may have formed about the person making the complaint, listen to them in a respectful way. Try to see the situation from their point of view – how would you feel? Your empathy and consideration of their situation could resolve the issue immediately.

All staff should be trained in the basics of receiving a complaint, including:

  • Remaining calm and finding a good listening environment
  • Clearly identifying the problem and what the person wants you to do
  • Focusing on the issue, rather than the person
  • Understanding whether you need to apologise or acknowledge previous complaints.

If the complaint is about something that cannot be rectified immediately:

  • Assure the person that you will notify management, who will respond (preferably with a timeframe – e.g., within 24 hours)
  • Provide them with the details of someone to contact if the matter reoccurs (e.g., a duty manager)
  • Thank them for bringing the issue to the club’s attention.

A neighbour who puts their concerns in writing may be highly motivated to take action, and you should treat a written complaint as preliminary action to a more formal complaint. You should:

  • Acknowledge the letter of complaint promptly via a phone call, email or letter
  • Make contact with the author (if they have provided contact details). This may allow you to obtain more details of the complaint, opening more options for resolution
  • Prepare a written response – either accepting the problem and outlining the action you will take, or politely explaining why you cannot take the action requested.

Arranging a meeting with the person who made the complaint on-site can be a useful way of finding out more about the problem and demonstrating that you are taking the matter seriously. Ideally the club would:

  • Not become defensive if they are upset about the situation
  • Investigate the nature of the problem – if it is about noise, is it related to frequency, volume, or something else?
  • Find out if there is room to negotiate: would the person tolerate the noise at certain times?
  • Try to distinguish between past incidents and future action
  • Ask them what they would do if they were in your shoes.

Where appropriate you may need to seek outside advice (e.g., sound engineers or council) about possible solutions. It may also be helpful to:

  • Present your neighbours with a range of options to resolve any issues. This shows you have considered the problem and makes them a partner in the final solution
  • Be clear about the timeframes needed to implement a solution and the likelihood of success
  • Involve your neighbours in providing feedback about the issues.

Remember that legal action should always be a last resort. Legal action is costly and time consuming for both parties and is likely to permanently damage your relationship with your neighbour.

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