D.M. from Indiana writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We recently purchased a condo from FHA (foreclosure). It soon became clear the upstairs neighbors were heavy footed, but upon some further investigation, and cooperation with them, that the fibrous concrete subfloor between the units is cracked and causing very loud squeaking and creaking when they just walk on that part of the floor. The noise in their unit is minimal, but in our unit it is deafening. Would this be a structural issue that the association should be responsible for? Who should I call? What kind of contractor if association isn’t responsible. This is a living nightmare sounding like herds of elephants are stomping overhead and they are only walking and living in their unit.
Mister Condo replies:
D.M., greetings to you and all our friends in the Hoosier state! Congratulations on your recent condo purchase. Sorry to hear about your troubles with the subfloor of the upstairs unit. I would begin by discussing the problem with your Board or Property Manager. Chances are your unit isn’t the only one that has had this problem. If it is a true construction defect (floors not installed to code or specification at the time of development) it may be something the association can pursue with the original developer. Assuming your unit is a little bit older and that the developer is long out of the picture, you would really need to consult your condo docs to determine who is responsible for the subfloor. Generally speaking, the floor and subfloor are the responsibility of the current owner. Even though it may not be bothering them, the owners of the unit above you have a responsibility to keep their unit, including the subfloor in proper working order, which includes repairing it if it is broken. On the other hand, if it is determined that the subfloor is part of the common element, the repair may fall on the association.
Once you determine who is going to pay for the repair, I would imagine any qualified flooring contractor could do the job. The finished floor would have to be removed in the area where the subfloor repair needs to be done. Then the finished floor needs to be reinstalled. If it is carpet, this is a quick job. If it is stone, laminate, or hardwood floor there will be significantly more time and materials needed. If this expense falls to your upstairs neighbor and they are unwilling or unable to pay for the repair, you might want to offer to help out just so you can get some peace and quiet in your unit. My guess is you don’t care who pays for it as long as it gets fixed.
If neither your association nor your neighbor agrees to assist in this repair, I would contact an attorney to see what your legal rights are in the matter. I’d hate to see you have to sue either your association or your neighbor but you do have the right to peaceable enjoyment of your property. Good luck!