Monday, December 10, 2012

How loud is too loud in your condominium, cooperative or homeowners' association?


Last night I attended the Aerosmith concert at the BB&T Center with my husband and some friends. In addition to being amazed that this group, and particularly its lead singer, is still rocking as strongly as ever, I left with my ears ringing. My husband, however, wasn't phased at all by the noise.

It got me thinking about some of the noise complaints we receive from folks in our communities. How often have noise complaints arisen in your community and how are they addressed? Every set of governing documents I have ever reviewed (regardless of the community type) contains a general nuisance clause. Many specify noise issues but all refer to the members' quiet enjoyment of their property being disturbed as an element of a nuisance.

Some noise issues are related to hard surfaces being installed without proper soundproofing and in areas that require noise absorbent material in order to safeguard the neighbors below. When that occurs, even normal daily activities resonate with more force than normal. Other times, the source of the problem is a resident's unwillingness to moderate the decibel level of their television, radio or other device. Some noise issues arise from pets left alone during the day, domestic disputes, excessive partying and occasionally, the noise is designed specifically to irritate a neighbor or neighbors where the community has become a battleground of sorts.

Sometimes, noise issues can and should be resolved between neighbors without bringing the association into the equation. When an owner does contact the association about a nuisance generated by noise, the association's first response should be to undertake some due diligence to determine if the noise has risen to the level of a general nuisance as defined under the governing documents and common law. These noise issues in a community can become complicated when the person making the complaint is perhaps more sensitive to decibel levels than are his or her neighbors. If none of the neighbors surrounding the unit/home in question, it is more difficult for the association to establish that the noise has risen to the level of a general nuisance. Moreover, sitting between a Hatfield and McCoy feud is an uncomfortable position for any board. This becomes even more vexing when one of the board members or perhaps even the board president is a Hatfield or a McCoy. Naturally, local ordinances on noise can be consulted to determine whether or not the noise in question violates municipal or county regulations.

So let me ask you again, how many noise complaints have arisen in your community and how did you handle them? What, can't hear me over the din?

1 comment:

  1. In two years I have had one complaint. 5 women were using their boss's townhome for a 50th birthday party and the party appeared to have started before noon. The owner adjacent had already come up and complained in the early evening and I told him that at that point there was little I could do, but to come back if it was going on after 10 p.m. noise curfew. He did, so I walked down and had a chat with the ladies and (with a smile) told them that we had a 10 p.m. curfew, that I did not want to be a party pooper, but that I was only going to tell them once; if the noise continued, the next person to knock on their door would be a deputy sheriff.

    The noise abated forthwith; the owner filing the complaint sent me a bottle of wine later, and later they contacted me and apologized.

    Would that all problems could be so solved.

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