Category Archives: Noise

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!

Mentally Ill Child of Condo Neighbor Creating Noise Nuisance

D.E. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have been living in our condo for three years and love it. Recently new owners moved in next door with their 9-year-old child. Come to find out she bangs her head against the wall and screams bloody murder at all times of the day. Unfortunately, she has mental illness – bipolar, OCD, etc. I have spoken with them nicely 3 times and when we have asked it does stop so it seems like it is in control and they are just lazy. They came from a 3800-square foot home to a 1450-square foot condo. Knowing there are issues like this I would think you would investigate your surroundings first before buying this type of place. My brother was mentally challenged so I certainly have compassion but this really has to stop – I am on the verge of calling 911 every time this happens. What is my recourse?

Mister Condo replies:

D.E., you are kind to be considerate and compassionate to understand the challenges your neighbors are facing. However, all unit owners, including you, have a right to peaceable enjoyment of their units. Clearly, this noise, regardless of the source, is violating your right to peace and quiet. Your recourse is to file an official complaint against your neighbor with the Board who will then take appropriate action. Typically, that involves summoning your neighbor to appear before the Board to address the rule violation. The Board then can take further action which is typically a fine or whatever else is outlined in your governing documents. If the noise continues, you continue to report it to the Board in writing (usually via the Property Manager). Your complaints are records of the association and, as such, are subject to review by any association members, including your neighbor. For this reason, some unit owners are reluctant to file a formal complaint. However, you have already tried the nice route and only received temporary reprieve. It is up to you to take the next step to restore the peace and quiet you are entitled to. Perhaps your neighbor will do a better job of restoring the calmness or perhaps they will realize that this close living quarters just isn’t the proper environment to raise a child with these types of special needs. Either way, I hope you get your peace and quiet back. All the best!

Quiet Condo May Not Be the Ideal Home for a Musician

A.M. from British Columbia, Canada writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have been renting condos for five years and just moved into a new one about two months ago. We have suddenly received two notes on our door as well as a formal complaint regarding “bass-heavy music” within the last two weeks. The neighbour complaining lives below our unit. My partner makes music for a living, so his job involves playing projects out loud on studio monitors (which are designed to play music accurately) in order to mix and master. One day we played music for only 5 minutes and the next morning, I found a note on the door. He already limits when he plays music to typical working hours so as not to disturb neighbours. The volume is set to an ordinary listening level, we do not own a subwoofer (although the neighbour below thinks we do), and my partner makes an effort to complete as much work as he can on headphones. They have also complained about our footsteps, but our building has laminate wood floors and we can hear creaking from footsteps and other noises from the unit above us all the time. Is the noise we make considered “reasonable?” If so, how can we get the neighbour to stop standing outside our door listening, leaving notes, and complaining to Strata? Since we are renting, I would really like to avoid being fined and having our landlord think we are bad tenants! Thanks in advance.

Mister Condo replies:

A.M., loud noises and condos (strata for my Canadian readers) don’t mix. I assume your landlord gave you a copy of the rules and regulations for your new rental. While I doubt there is a specific provision about “bass-heavy music”, there are very likely rules about noise levels and time of days specifically set aside as quiet hours. The issue is that you and your neighbor have different ideas about what noises are and aren’t acceptable. You both have the right to peaceable enjoyment of your unit so the real question is where do your rights end and theirs begin? Regardless of what type of music monitoring system your partner is using it is quite possible that the decibel level is simply too high for doing that type of work in the condo. You mentioned headphones and that is a perfect solution, in my opinion, because there is no possibility of the sound disturbing anyone. The noise from walking across floors is another story and I can’t imagine any Board issuing a fine for that type of noise violation unless the condo rules state that hardwood or laminate floors must be covered by carpets to avoid excess noise from neighbors walking around their units. My advice is to use the headphones exclusively when performing the music work. Considerate neighbors are priceless in such tight living quarters. Thank you for your letter.

Condo Noise is Unbearable!

mc_horrified

B.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have been living in hell for the past 6 years now. I live in a quadraplex style condo, that is the style for the over 200 plus units here. You share a common wall with virtually all of your neighbors and the quadraplexes are stacked side by side so if you are not hearing the 10 plus people slamming doors and everything else under your roof, you can hear the neighboring quadraplexes neighbors going in and out all day to slamming their front door, you hear car doors slam every 2 seconds as the garages and driveways are right by your front door and you share garages with a common wall so you hear banging around in there as well. How can I get some peace and quiet around here?

Mister Condo replies:

B.J., I am very sorry for your living conditions. I also apologize for editing your original question as I feel your point was made early on. The single most important question I have for you is whether or not you noticed this noise when you made the decision to purchase? It would seem to me that almost all of the conditions you describe were pre-existing, meaning there was really no reason for you to purchase this unit with the expectations that things would be different once you moved in. From what you have told me, you have done all you can do to help yourself and there is still no relief from noise that you consider unacceptable. Have you reviewed the condo’s governance document? In particular, have you read what they say about noise. Excessive noise and noise at off hours (later than 10:00 p.m. or before 7:00 a.m., for instance) are usually prohibited. You can complain to the association about the noise and they can either investigate and take action or they can decide to do nothing if they don’t feel any by-laws have been violated. Unless you think you have legal recourse, there is little else you can do, B.J.. You mentioned that selling your unit really isn’t an option for you but if your building can’t provide you with the level of quietness you need to be content, my advice is to look elsewhere. Again, I am sorry for your situation and if you do decide to live elsewhere, be sure you thoroughly investigate the noise level BEFORE you move in. The quadraplex style unit you have described here sounds like a noise nightmare for someone as sensitive to sound as you. I wish you a peaceful and quiet abode. Good luck!

Banging Radiator Sounds Has Condo Owner Banging Head Against Wall!

mc_horrified

S.F. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The steam heating system has pipes that run through our unit into the units above. These pipes bang like crazy every time the heat comes on and the experts tell us this is probably due to a problem in a radiator in the unit above us. We have tried to make contact with the owner above us, explain the situation, and offer to pay for any fixes that might stop the banging. Despite emails, phone calls, and knocking on the door, we’ve never gotten any answer at all. This has apparently been a problem in the past (before we moved in), as the owner has neglected paying assessments until late payment fines were imposed on her. And it was the same thing–no response over and over. We are a small, self-managed condo association. What should I do?

Mister Condo replies:

S.F., I am sorry you are having to live with so much noise. You’ve tried the direct approach with your neighbor and that has not yielded any results. It is time to take a good look at your condo docs, complain about the problem to the Board, and, perhaps, hire an attorney if the Board cannot correct the problem. You governance documents likely contain a clause ensuring your peaceable enjoyment of your unit. You need to complain, in writing, to the Board of your neighbor’s loud noise and cite as a violation of the by-laws noise restrictions. Then it is up to the Board to enforce the regulation. Which includes asking the unit owner to appear before the Board to defend against the claim. Unless the Board is satisfied with the explanation, they may then issue a fine and/or take further action for repeated offenses, which you will need to report each time they occur. With cooler weather upon us, that could very well be every day. This documentation may be needed if the case ends up in court, which is quite possible. If the Board cannot correct the unit owner’s behavior, you may need to sue the association for failing to protect your right to peaceable enjoyment of your unit. In a small association like yours, this is quite expensive for the association but it is also the last resort to restore the peace. I hope it doesn’t come to that for you but it may be necessary if this unit owner refuses to play nice. Good luck!

Noisy Condo Tenant Disturbing Unit Owner’s Peaceable Enjoyment

mc_horrified

R.B. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a poorly-insulated condo complex. There are three floors and six units per building (4 buildings total). The couple that lived above me recently moved out, but I experienced almost year of life disruption because of their noise. They had two small children that ran about and jumped all over the place like wild animals and the adults were constantly dropping heavy objects all day long. The husband seemed receptive when I complained, but they did not change their habits and the noise continued. They were renters and I did speak to the unit owner/landlord who barely did much to help the situation (he is a board member). The renters moved out in late June and the owner is renovating now because he plans to sell. I had hoped that when the couple moved out, I’d finally have some peace and quiet.

No such luck. The owner on the third floor is an elderly woman who keeps the volume on the television blasting ALL NIGHT LONG INTO THE MORNING. I tried approaching her, but she wouldn’t answer her door. I left her letters taped to her door that she apparently disregarded. I complained to the board and the property manager said he spoke to her. This woman’s behavior continues. I complained again to the board/property manager; two weeks have passed since I last said something and have not received any response. I can’t afford to insulate and at the moment I can’t afford to sell or move out either. There IS a rule in the condo’s regulations about noise, and they don’t seem to be enforcing it. I don’t want to have to be a pest or chronic complainer, and can’t afford an attorney.

What else can I do? Should I keep complaining until something gets done?

Mister Condo replies:

R.B., I am sorry that you are living with this unbearable noise. High density housing with upstairs and downstairs neighbors often comes with thin walls, floors, and ceilings that may require a tolerance for hearing your neighbor’s sounds at times when you desire quiet. Most associations have rules about acceptable noise limits and the hours when noise should be kept to a minimum. Have you reviewed your condo’s rules and regulations to see what the acceptable noise rules are? Are they strict enough that you would have a case if you seek legal help? My advice is that you review your association’s documents and see what your rights are with regards to peaceable enjoyment and what rules are in place to empower the Board to take action against noise offenders. Next, speak with an attorney to see if a lawsuit against the association is in order. I realize that there is an expense here but it is necessary if you are going to solve your problem. If the Board is unwilling to enforce the association’s rules about noise, you may need to force them to do so by taking them to court. Typically, this will motivate the Board to do the right thing, which may involve them issuing a warning and fines to the offending unit owner, who in turn should take action against the tenant. If an attorney advises you against a lawsuit because your case is weak, I am afraid the noise will likely continue. You might look at sound insulation or other possible solutions but from what you have told me, there is going to be sounds coming from above just because the building wasn’t designed to deaden sound between floors. It is an unfortunate situation to say the least. Good luck getting back your peace and quiet!

Static Noise in Condo Caused by Unknown Source

mc_horrified

T.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a static noise coming from one interior wall in my condo living room. When I apply pressure to the wall the noise stops. It is only happening on the last 4 weekends. Any ideas what it could be or how I can get it to stop?

Mister Condo replies:

T.L., I am sorry for your discomfort. I am not a building engineer or electrician but if what you are describing is a static noise, I would think it is in your best interest to have a building expert take a look, listen, and even a measurement to make sure you aren’t experiencing some type of electrical short circuit that could cause a shock or fire hazard. If the source of the noise or static seems to be from within your unit, it may be on you to bring in a building inspector or electrician to give a listen and pinpoint the source. If the source is an association-caused issue (a faulty sump pump, an overloaded electrical line, etc.) then report the problem to the association for remedy. If it is something else (a refrigerator, a treadmill, other appliance that you own) you should take measures to remove the problem. If the static noise is caused by a neighbor’s electronics, report it to the Board and they should see what can be done to remedy the situation. Be careful, don’t get hurt, and seek professional help to solve this mystery. Good luck!