Condo association board members are no stranger to condo noise complaints. From loud music, barking dogs, and fireworks in the summer, the opportunities for disruptions are many. Of course, you want everyone to be respectful and mindful of one another, but not all tenants are perfect. Your main role is to keep a happy and safe community, so we’ve listed some tactics to help you tackle the problem of condo noise complaints.
What are the noise regulations?
In 1983, the federal government decided that noise control was largely a local matter and should be left up to the state and local municipalities. Every city has noise ordinances, so check with your local township about what is allowed. For most communities, after 9 pm is considered “quiet time”, when excessive noise is considered a violation.
Condo noise complaints teeter between the board’s responsibility and a police matter. If you have a few different owners stating that one owner is causing a disturbance, then it is your responsibility as a board member to step in and remedy the issue before the law has to be involved. However, if a single unit owner is constantly complaining about a another unit owner, then you may need for them to hash it out with the local authorities.
Refer to condominium bylaws
Prohibition of “noxious or offensive activities” that create disturbances to other owners is a common bylaw provision. According to Howard Dakoff, Condo Advisor for the Chicago Tribune:
The standard to apply this provision is both a subjective standard (does the complaining unit owner believe the noise is unreasonable) and objective standard (would a reasonable person similarly situated deem the noise unreasonable) in determining whether the noise is a violation of the bylaws.
For example, other unit owners cannot dictate what time you do your laundry or watch TV, but they can complain if your laundry habit or TV noise is too loud. Only then should a board member step in to remedy the situation. In other words, this bylaw is your best friend and most favorable rule in enforcement to prevent issues such as late night parties, move-ins on the weekend/night, and any other disruptive noises.
Set a precedence in the community
Condo noise reduction starts with creating a culture of a peaceful and respectful community. From the time a future resident is considering buying a unit in your community, they should be aware of the culture. Make sure they receive a set of key bylaws at that time. Be sure potential buyers are informed that your community is a peaceful and respectful place. It helps if the community has visible evidence of this, such as signs or generally appears peaceful and friendly. You want everyone to be mindful of others’ schedules, and aware if some people have neighbors on all four walls. Hence, buyers must be understanding of noise after a certain time. Some people work nights, others work days. Being respectful of other unit owners’ surroundings and aware of others’ sleep schedules and privacy is important.
Create community-specific rules
Work condominium noise regulations into your declarations. Many condo associations have varying aggressiveness of a “No hardwood floors” rule. Some do not allow them in bedrooms; others don’t even allow them in open living spaces. Some go as far as to specify the thickness of the layer that should go below carpet or other flooring. Each community is different, therefore, your rules should reflect the owners that live there.