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.

One thought on “Quiet Condo May Not Be the Ideal Home for a Musician

  1. Rules regarding noise levels are usually so subjective that they are practically unenforceable. You are talking steps to keep the noise levels down. Headphones and other devises help but will not stop those who want no noise at all. I do suggest that the work that can be done without headphones be scheduled for the daylight working hours. You may want to discuss this with the neighbor. Usually local noise ordinance will cover this situation, so if you are within these limits condo action maybe difficult at best. You won’t make friends with the guy complaining but you are also allow to have your music. Good luck.

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