Category Archives: Noise

Muffled Condo HVAC Sounds Heard in Unit Owner’s Home

J.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live on the 2nd floor of a condo. From beneath my living room, I hear a low rumbling/clanking noise. Beneath me is a yoga room and in between my floor and the yoga room is some ventilation system that is housing some machines related to AC/Heating. The level of this noise is not loud but it is very noticeable and I can hear it from my entire place, even from the bedrooms. Isn’t any noise penetrating my condo unacceptable no matter how subjectively low the sound may be? And at what point is outside noise from building infrastructure deemed a problem which requires action by management? Thank you for your consideration of my inquiry!

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., I am sorry that you are having to put up with noise inside your condo unit. Do your governing documents indicate what is and isn’t acceptable levels of sound intrusion? Many documents state that unit owners and residents are entitled to peaceable enjoyment of their units. Some go further and elaborate levels of sound in either decibels or typical activities (running a vacuum cleaner, for instance). My guess is that the level of noise you are describing either isn’t mentioned or isn’t included in the restrictions. If that is the case, you may be stuck living with the noise. Have you contacted the Board of Directors of the condo to state your case? HVAC units may need some fine tuning. The hours of operation of the yoga studio may offer you some relief. You may also be able to install some sound deadening material on your floor that might mitigate the noise, at your expense. Other than that, your best bet may be to sell your unit and be much more selective about ambient sound in your next unit. Good luck!

Noisy Condo Neighbor Serves On the Board and Doesn’t Follow Rules

W.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have been having a problem with the owner of the Condo above me. I have asked him several times to try and cut down the noise on his floor (walking, dropping heavy objects, etc.t) which makes noise come down into my condo. He also has a Doberman dog that sometimes barks 30 or more minutes at a time. Yesterday, I talked with him and asked if he would try to cut down on the noise. I have done this before with some results. Yesterday when I asked the question, he came unglued, telling me not to speak to him again and a few other choice words. I feel that if he continues to make excessive noise, I should be able to ask him to try and keep the noise down. What else can or should I do? Also, this person is one of our directors and the other two goes along with him.

Mister Condo replies:

W.T., I am sorry for your problems and for your inconsiderate upstairs neighbor. I am going to give you two answers for your consideration. The first is to write to the Board with as much supporting documentation to describe the noise and the rules violations being committed by your upstairs neighbor. Almost all condos have rules about noise and the rights to a peaceable environment for all residents. Further, almost all have rules about pets and the acceptable noise level and noise curation that other residents have to tolerate. A 30-minute session of any dog barking is sure to be a rule violation. In the past, you have taken a neighborly approach with some success. Speaking with an agreeable neighbor is a great start but that is no longer an option. Your neighbor has made it clear he has no intention of keeping the noise down. Your recourse is with the other members of the Board, his fellow Directors. If they are reluctant to take action against your neighbor, you have two practical options. First, you can sue the Board for neglecting to enforce the noise covenants of the association. Your second option is to move out of this community. It is unfortunate that it has come to this but having a jerk for a neighbor is not only annoying, it can be downright dangerous. Having a jerk like this neighbor on your Board is equally dangerous, especially if his fellow Board members are reluctant to enforce the rules against him. I am sorry I don’t have better news for you. Keep me posted and good luck!

Noisy Condo Tenant May Get Evicted!

N.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have been a noisy tenant in my rental condo. I used to work nights, and I would be unwinding at odd hours. Due to complaints, I even switched my hours to work in the daytime. I still have my night time tendencies. I have been paying tons of fines, but the condo board “will be discussing my issue”. I have been trying really hard to walk on eggshells (keep the TV down, etc…) What can they do to me? Can they kick me out?

Mister Condo replies:

N.A., a noisy tenant is a big problem for a condo association. Unit owners and neighbors complain to the Board and the Board must take action against the unit owner and the tenant of the unit owner – you. Being aware of the problem is half of the battle and you seem to know that you been violating association rules for some time and have paid a “ton of fines”. The idea of the fine is to correct the behavior. In other words, fine the offender a few times and the offender should stop violating the rules. To accrue “tons of fines” means that strategy hasn’t worked with you which puts the Board under pressure to take further action. Without knowing the full details of what options are available to the Board, I will say you and your landlord may find yourselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit seeking eviction. If that happens you will most definitely want to contact an attorney to defend yourself. I have to ask you why you would want to continue to rent in this community where your lifestyle clearly doesn’t fit with the community as a whole? Why not rent in an apartment that doesn’t have as many rules or rent a single-family home where you can live as you see fit. Changing work hours and walking on eggshells doesn’t sound too appealing. You have every right to express yourself as an individual and live as you see fit. However, residing in a condo comes with rules that you voluntarily agree to. If you can’t follow them, you are asking for the kind of trouble you are receiving. I suggest you rethink this particular condo as your home and consider living somewhere more appropriate to your lifestyle. All the best!

Condo Owner Seeks Relief from Mysterious Vibrating Noises

S.J. from Outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We’ve been hearing strange rattling/vibrating noises coming from the bathroom in our unit. It sounds like it’s coming from the pipes from the wall between our bathroom and flex room. It can get really loud throughout the night. The noise can be as short as 30 seconds to as long as 5 minutes. And we hear this all through the night. We’ve contacted our property manager and the board president and have sent a recording of the sound. Nothing has been done to resolve issue. What can we do? Can we legally withhold our association fees until they start taking our issue seriously?

Mister Condo replies:

S.J., NO! You cannot withhold your common fees! Unwanted noises arising from mechanical or plumbing issues can be a real pain in a condo where you can’t always get at the source of the noise. You have done the proper thing by contacting the Property Manager and the Board. They are not under obligation to act immediately but they do not provide a resolution. Ask for a proper response, in writing, from them about what they plan to do to resolve your complaint. If their answer is to do nothing, then you will speak with an attorney and see what your next step will be. At the very least, the Board should acknowledge your complaint and dispatch a maintenance or engineering person to follow up. Have you checked with your neighbors? Are they having the same problem? There is always strength in numbers so the more complaining that goes on, the more likely there is to be a resolution. Be persistent and be thorough. I am confident that you can have this situation remedied. Good luck!

Upstairs Condo Flooring Creates Downstairs Condo Nightmare

T.A. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can an HOA threaten or sue me to not call or complain about the constant noises from the unit above mine. It’s like hammering or whatnot. They changed their flooring around January or February of last year and it seems like not a minimum adequate sound barrier was put. I’ve had to call the police several times. Now he’s saying I’ve aggressively approached him using profane language. Not true. I’ve approached him civilly twice and the last time I asked him to “please! Stop the noises or I’m going to have to call the police”…he said call them and slammed the door. He’s now “saying in harassing him by calling the police and aggressively threatening him? Whatever the case, I’m in Florida. Can they sue me or threat me to stop calling the police non-emergency number when the noises get unbearable?

Mister Condo replies:

T.A., I am most sorry for your unfortunate predicament. In today’s litigious world, lawsuits abound and just about anyone can sue anyone else for seemingly ridiculous reasons. You and I are no exception so there is always the possibility of a lawsuit. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Let me address the basis of your complaint and what you may be able to do using your rights as a unit owner inside of a condominium. Step 1 is to review your condo documents regarding peaceable enjoyment of your unit. Also, take a good look at what it says about flooring. Many condominiums prohibit the installation of hardwood or laminate or tile flooring in units that reside above other units. If your upstairs neighbor violated that rule by removing carpeting and installing a new floor, this is relatively simple to fix. You write to the Board about the rule violation by your neighbor and the Board will take action to remedy the situation. This will involve the Board, not you, citing the unit owner for the rule violation and the fines they will incur until they remedy the flooring. If your association has no rule about flooring types, you likely have the right to peaceable enjoyment. You are going to write to the Board about the noise emanating from above and the Board should take action. If they don’t and there is no legal remedy available to you, you should consider selling and moving to an association that values peace and quiet. You have an expectation to minimal noise. Living beneath hardwood or other flooring creates a really bad environment for sound intrusion, which is exactly the reason it isn’t allowed in many condos. My guess is that with some proper complaints (in writing, not verbal) to the Board (not your neighbor), you will get the relief you seek. Good luck!

Leaky Toilet Noise Disturbs the Condo Peace. Shoddy Repair Work Disturbs the Owner!

N.H. from Alberta, Canada writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I had issues with a continuous flow of water from my toilet. Although the flap is closed, it’s not filling water in the tank. I did not know that flowing noise had affected the units below me, & made complaints to the manager. Got a call ” someone is coming to check your water between 9-10am” That’s all. I thought they are checking each unit of our building due to murky water issues as posted in our mailroom & elevators. I let the guy in. I was surprised why he went to my bathroom fixing it. I told my kids, how did this guy knew about my toilet? Two days later, a lady phoned me if my toilet was fixed. I said No, it started to run again unless I close the rubber flap manually with my finger. She asked if she can send Environment ??? to come fix it. I said No, my son can fix it. Then I got an invoice to pay the condo a back charge of over $500.00 for 5 hours labor including 1 hour travelling. I relayed the message to the manager that I am not paying. I was not made aware of the complaints made, & did not specify what that guy was doing. Then for the weekend, I intentionally let the water run again all night to prove that the plumber’s work was not successful. They got complaints again. One lady came up & told me to shut off my toilet. Then the caretaker phoned that I should shut off the switch underneath my toilet which I did. Few days after, my son came & fixed it in 10 minutes time. I also read in their March 31 board meeting minutes that they found where the noise came from & the owner will pay. This is totally without my knowledge what was happening. My manager just went ahead & did her thing without telling me anything. Today, my manager left a phone message that it is a by law. Is she right? If not, I`ll fight it in court & go to the media Go Public. Thank you very much for your kindness on helping a senior like me. Thank you for responding & for your advice.

Mister Condo replies:

N.H., thank you for your letter and let me express how sorry I am that your situation was not handled better all the way around. You seem like a reasonable person who meant no harm and was very willing to use a “common sense” approach to fix a problem that you were largely unaware of having an effect on your neighbors. That being said, “common sense” and common interest communities don’t always exist together. Your by-laws define what is and isn’t acceptable. The reality is that you had a faulty toilet valve of some sort creating a noise nuisance for your fellow unit owners, who have the right to a peaceful environment as defined in your by-laws. The neighborly way to approach this would have been to alert you to the problem and ask you to fix it or offer to have a repairman come fix it at your expense. While I don’t agree with the customer service or lack thereof that you received during this little fiasco, it sounds like the problem is now resolved. That the good news. The bad news is that you are being stuck with a $500 repair bill for a repair job that didn’t work and that you don’t want to pay for. Here is where “common sense” goes out the window and the association’s governance documents will come into play. It is quite possible that the association has the right to dispatch a repairman to your unit at your expense. The only way to know for sure is to check your by-laws and see what they say about handling unit repairs, especially those repairs that cause damage or nuisance to neighboring units. It may be cheaper to simply pay this bill than try to fight the association. Perhaps you can offer to split the bill with them or ask them for a refund from the repairman since he didn’t actually fix the problem. The bottom line is that the repairman was hired by them but at your expense, as per association documents. They should expect that the repair was done properly and at a reasonable price. Neither are true. If they can negotiate a lower bill or a waiving of the bill for failure to perform the repair, you might benefit from the savings. If the dollar amount were a good deal higher, I might suggest you hire an attorney and fight it but at $500 it would cost more to fight it than just pay it. And keep your son handy for any other repairs that he can make so quickly. If his handyman skills had been made at the beginning of this problem, none of this would have happened. I wish you all the best!

Noisy Neighbor Making Condo Life Unbearable for New Owner

A.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I know you get a fair amount of questions about how to deal with noise in condo living situations. Here’s another one. I just moved into a unit in a rather large building, back in February. On the night of the walk-through I noticed that in the master bedroom I could hear the next door neighbor’s television. The former owners joked at the closing that the neighbor was fond of westerns and classical music (meaning they were familiar with the noise). Said former owners slept in the guest bedroom and used the unit as a weekend home, so they were not here very often nor did they sleep in bedroom with noise.

I do sleep in my master bedroom. The neighbor is an eighty-five-year-old man who has owned here since the seventies. (I know this because on the only occasion I have had to actually address my concern about his loud television in the middle of the night, he told me that he had lived here for forever and that I should sleep in my master bedroom…) I expect quiet, to the degree that I can get it. I had not expected that I would have to deal with loud television sounds in the middle of the night. The neighbor is pretty deaf and perhaps unaware (?) of how loud is his television. He definitely has a sense of entitlement because of his length of ownership. Are there tools that can assist an elderly person with knowing if they are going above a certain decibel level with their noise?

I am in communication with the management company. So far, they have done nothing about the issue. Instead, they suggest that I have someone come into my unit to ascertain if I am truly hearing something. Considering that I am a light sleeper and have really good hearing, and that their suggestion is based on a truly subjective meter, I’m pretty sure I will not allow someone in my unit at 1:00 a.m.. So, mostly I write emails that don’t get a response and call the door person and don’t get relief.

Any suggestions?

Mister Condo replies:

A.M., I am sorry that you find yourself in this position within your own home. Some condo governance documents are quite specific on acceptable noise levels; many are silent on the subject and simply call for peaceable enjoyment of the premise, which leaves a lot of wiggle room for both the Board and the unit owners. The vast majority of unit owners live by the Golden Rule: Do Unto Others as You Would Have Done Unto You. However, if you have neighbor that is hard of hearing and is unresponsive to your requests to keep the noise down, you now have to look at other options. While your Property Manager may not take action, your Board doesn’t have the luxury of ignoring your formal request to take action and enforce the association’s rules on noise, whatever they may be. Start with reviewing your condo documents to see what they say about acceptable noise levels. Make a formal complaint to the Board, in writing, and site the by-laws that support your complaint. Then, follow up with the Board to make sure they do take action. If your neighbor is violating rules, they can fine him. He will resist and play the “I’ve been here forever” card but that has no legal importance whatsoever. If the Board thinks he is violating the noise rules, they can take action to correct his behavior. You need to continue to document each time he breaks the noise rules and report to the Board when he does. In other words, be a squeaky wheel. Make your problem their problem. If you still get no relief, speak with an attorney to see what other legal actions may be available to you. My guess is it won’t come to that but that would be your path to relief. Good luck!

Condo Manager Turns Off Unit Owner’s Furnace!

A.H. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can my association manager turn off my working furnace because it makes loud noise when kicking on without notifying me first? This furnace is known for this and we’ve been having this same furnace for over 15 years without any complaints or issues…overall, it’s a working furnace. Please help!

Mister Condo replies:

A.H., I am sorry that your association manager took such a drastic measure as turning off your furnace and gave you no warning. As to whether or not he should have done that and without warning is really a question of who owns the furnace and what the rules say about it. I have to assume someone complained about the loud noise and the manager took action to address that complaint. Now, it’s your tune to complain about the lack of a functioning furnace. You will want to involve the Board as they are the folks responsible for giving the manager his marching orders. Ideally, the furnace will run and the noise will be abated. However, that may require a new furnace to be installed and the Board may not want to do that. Work with all the parties involved. I am sure you can find a happy ending here. Stay warm!

Mentally Challenged Condo Owner Challenging Entire Community

A.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

About 1.5 years ago, a husband and wife moved into our 16-unit condominium. It was clear from the outset that there was something off with the husband. He looked disheveled, didn’t acknowledge people and walked around in a daze. Roughly 1 year ago, the wife moved out and left him alone in the unit. After he was taken away by ambulance several times, he began receiving daily visits from a visiting nurse. One time the nurse called police and he was taken away again and stayed away for over a month. At that time, a neighbor overheard the nurse outside telling police that she was concerned for her safety and did not want to go back inside. No one has seen her since. Now he has been yelling in the hall, slamming his door over and over and pounding on the door of another resident. As a trustee, I have reached out to the wife, who is still an owner and pays the condo fee. My question is, what recourse do we have other than repeatedly calling the police when he acts out? Can we somehow force them to sell their unit?

Mister Condo replies:

A.P., I am sorry for the commotion and disturbance of peace that your association is experiencing as a result of having this unit owner as a resident. There is very little that can be done on behalf of the association. The Board can enforce complaints when rules are violated. Your documents outline typical offenses (loud noises at off hours, and so on). Action can be taken that include warnings and fines. Other than that, disturbances that rise to the involvement of a crime are being handled correctly by calling the police. The Board is not the law and when laws are broken, the police are the right call. Unless your documents provide for a type of eviction (doubtful) there isn’t too much you can do about a resident dealing with mental health issues. If the common fees are not paid on time, you may have collection efforts that could lead to foreclosure and eviction but that isn’t the case here. The fees are paid on time. If you have an association attorney, this would be a great example of asking what else can be done in your state. From what you have told me here, I see no further action that the association can take at this time. All the best!

Condo Sump Pump Requirement

D.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is each condo legally required to have its own sump pump? We are a 2-unit condo and there is only 1 sump pump for the 2 units. If the sump pump fails/backs up is each unit both liable or just the unit that has the sump pump in it.

Mister Condo replies:

Since I am not an expert in local building code for your neck of the woods, D.H., I can only give you a generic answer. I am not aware of any requirement to have a sump pump in each and every unit. In fact, it is quite common for multiple units to be services by a singular sump pump, in my experience. The sump pump is typically owned by the Association and is a common element meaning that if it fails, the liability should fall upon the association. However, it is not uncommon for the unit owner where the sump pump dwells to have some maintenance responsibilities for the maintenance / power supply requirements of the pump. These details should be spelled out in writing if they exist at all. If the unit owner where the sump pump is housed deliberately disabled the sump pump, the subsequent damage could be charged back to the unit owner. I have heard tales of unit owners fed up with the banging that can accompany some models of sump pump where they cut the power to the unit. In that case, the association may have recourse with the owner for cutting power to an association-owned asset and any resultant damage. My best advice is to make sure the pump is maintained regularly and keep an eye out if it fails at all. Good luck!