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How much noise is too much noise in a condo?

Noise complaints in condos are complicated and difficult to resolve. The cause and origin of the noise is often difficult to demonstrate and, perhaps more importantly, the level of noise that one is expected to have to tolerate is a very subjective question.

In a recent case, the Condo Tribunal rule on an age old question: How much noise is too much noise in a condo?

Don’t miss this week’s webinar on Noise in Condos. An acoustic engineer will tell us everything we need to know about noise, noise tests and noise abatement!  Click here for more info and to register.

Facts of the case

For the last 4 years or so, the condo corporation kept receiving noise complaints about unreasonable noise coming from a specific unit, mostly in the form of loud music/television as well as banging noises between 10pm and 7am.  The noise complaints were detailed, specific and often sent at the same time as  the noise disruption was taking place.  This disruption caused stress, anxiety, sleep loss and inconvenience to the neighbour filing these complaints.

The owner was repeatedly advised of the complaints, the impact of this noise on neighbours and of his obligation to comply with governing documents and stop this unreasonable nuisance.

The noisy neighbour denied making these noises and submitted that some of these complaints dealt with periods of time during which he was either sleeping or not even home. Interestingly, as is often the case, he argued that the building was known for having noise issues and that he too heard noises and complained about it.

Expert reports

Each side submitted engineering reports, which reached different conclusions on whether the building met the current standards for buffering noise transmission between units.  Both reports concluded that it was impossible to fully eliminate noise transmission between the units (although some mitigation was possible).

Governing documents

Both the declaration and rules of this corporation were clear: a unit owner is not permitted to create a noise or nuisance which may disturb, or unreasonably interfere with, the comfort or quiet enjoyment of the units or common elements by other owners.

Decision

Despite the contradictory evidence, the Condo Tribunal concluded that the the owner in question was in fact causing the noise and that, as such, he was in breach of the governing documents.   The fact that he too could hear noise from other units did not take away from the fact that he was responsible for the nuisance he was causing by playing his TV or music too loudly, especially after hours.

How much noise is too much noise in a condo?

While the CAT concluded that this owner was causing noise, the question still remained whether such noise was “unreasonably interfering” with the use and enjoyment by others of their units or common elements and whether the noise he was causing disturbed the comfort or quiet enjoyment that others were reasonably entitled to expect.

Condo owners are entitled to some level of quietness but not to absolute silence.  So, how much noise is too much noise?  The CAT answered this question as follows:

[27]   In any condominium where walls are shared, some noise transmission between units is to be expected. However, in this case, the evidence demonstrates an ongoing pattern of loud noise emanating from Mr. Franklin’s unit during hours when a reasonable unit owner would expect relative quiet from their neighbours. Although not limited to these times, most of the complaints take issue with the noise coming from Mr. Franklin’s unit during the early mornings (before 7am), late evening (often after 10pm) and overnight when people are typically asleep. In this case, the time of the noise matters. Noise which may be tolerable or expected during the day, may be intolerable and a nuisance in the overnight hours when people are asleep. In this case, the evidence shows that the noise, which is often being made at night is, in many instances, loud enough to disturb the sleep of Ms. Borges and her children and thus is disturbing her quiet enjoyment of her unit.

Based on the above, the CAT concluded that Mr. Franklin did breach the corporation’s governing documents and ordered him to refrain from making these noises and from creating a nuisance which may interfere with other  owner’ quiet use and enjoyment of their units.

Stated otherwise, the CAT basically ordered him to turn his TV and music down when others are entitled and expected to be sleeping…

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