M.A. from Fairfield County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
A unit owner is complaining to the board and management company about the “excessive noise” coming from the laundry machines in the laundry room. The laundry room is situated two floors below her unit. The other owners directly below and next to the laundry room do not hear the laundry noise. Two years ago, the complex replaced the laundry machines with new laundry machines that are bigger (and louder) than the previous machines.
The affected owner also claims that the pipes in her walls have become loud as well, which she believes is a product of the new machines. Since the owner has brought this to the attention of management and the board, different things have been tried to solve the issue, but have not succeeded (installing padding between the machines because it was thought that they vibrate against each other) and even opening up some of the owner’s walls to fasten the problem pipes where the pipe noise was particularly problematic. However, the owner constantly tells us that there are additional pipes in other walls that have become loud, and she always sends long emails complaining about the laundry machine noise, and the adverse effects it has had on her living situation. Currently, the board and management company have the laundry company coming to assess the situation and see what can be done. My question is, how far is the board supposed to go in resolving the issue when there isn’t a clear or easy resolution (besides opening up all of her walls and fastening the pipes, and either sound proofing the laundry room or replacing the laundry machines which would mean breaking the lease contract with the laundry company)?
Mister Condo replies:
M.A., how far you have to go is largely up to the Board and the homeowner. If the Board says it has done all it can do and the homeowner is not happy, it is then up to the homeowner to decide if it is worth suing the association over the noise. If the homeowner decides to sue, it then becomes a battle between her attorney and the association’s attorney; a matter for the courts or an arbitrator to decide. Have there been any sound measurements made from inside the unit of the dissatisfied homeowner? The decibel level of the sound would likely be the standard by which the reasonableness of the noise abatement that the association might have to achieve. In other words, the battle will likely come down to how loud is too loud? If the pipes are not making so much noise that they are a true nuisance, then the Board may have done all it needs to do. The fact that surrounding neighbors aren’t complaining is certainly in the Board’s favor. However, from what you have told me, I don’t think this unit owner will simply agree that the noise has been abated because the Board says so. It may require bringing in a structural engineer who can also comment on the noise and the ability of the pipes to be secured in a quitter fashion that will make everyone happy. Good luck!