January 20, 2016

What’s All the Racket?: Handling Noise Complaints & Setting Sound Guidelines

Home / What’s All the Racket?: Handling Noise Complaints & Setting Sound Guidelines

What are the best practices for a condominium association dealing with noise complaints?

When it comes to living in a condominium, it is not always easy to keep noise levels at a minimum – particularly given the fact that residents share a wall and a hallway. However, there is quite a distinction to be made between inconsequential kitchen clatter and all-out raging parties, the latter of which has given condominium boards headaches for years. 

When it comes to properly managing a condominium association, one of the primary goals of the board should be the implementation and execution of policies to ensure the comfort and enjoyment of all residents. Accordingly, a well-drafted,and consistently enforced, noise policy should be a preeminent concern for any condo board operating without one, as unrelenting noise often means unrelenting resident complaints. 

Importance of a Carefully Crafted Noise Policy

One of the key components to a well-drafted noise policy is specificity, particularly concerning the concepts of “bothersome noise” or “above-average transmission of sound.” These are of course subjective notions, however noise is noise – and a policy should include some sort of objective measure to help determine whether a violation is afoot. 

Moreover, noise policies may also piggyback other regulations already in place, including regulations concerning the number of “overnight guests” allowed in a particular unit. By ensuring both those policies are clear and enforceable, this could help eliminate any instances of loud, raucous parties that last into the night.

Condominium Liability

In the end, a condominium board is undoubtedly exposed to liability by failing to meet the needs of its tenants, particularly with regard to noise complaints. In one case, a condominium association was made to pay damages to a tenant forced to endure unrelenting noise and racket by an upstairs neighbor. During the discovery process, the tenant enlisted the help of a “sound transmission expert” who ultimately concluded – using objective technology and sound measuring guidelines – that the upstairs neighbor was in fact much louder than average, resulting in a claim not only against the neighbor himself but the association for failing to enforce the noise regulations. 

If you are involved in condominium governance and would like to discuss your options under New York laws you should contact an attorney experienced in the field of condominium law.

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