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!

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