The Condo Noise Conundrum: What Boards Need to do when Noise Complaints are Valid

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Noise is very subjective. What is barely audible to one person, can be barely tolerable to another. As a result, condo boards must determine if noise complaints are valid. Here we explore noise complaints and what your board needs to do when the complaints are valid.

Types of Noise in Buildings

Condo boards have an obligation to determine the causes of noise due to occupant behaviour or the design or construction of the building. Buildings generally experience three types of noise:

  1. Airborne sounds travel through the building from unit to unit such as voices, music, televisions, etc.
  2. Impact sounds occur when something impacts the floor whether it is someone walking above, dropping something, dragging furniture across the floor, etc.
  3. Solid borne or structural borne sounds happen when systems such as the elevator, garbage chutes, plumbing or HVAC cause vibrations through the building.

When you receive noise complaints your board must investigate and address the issue.

Occupant Noise Issues

Your condo corporation has to comply with section 17 (3) of the Condo Act, ensuring all residents comply with your governing documents. Therefore, if the noise complaint is related to resident behaviour, condo boards must:

  • Investigate the complaint
  • Establish if there is a valid issue
  • Contact the occupant causing the noise

Always address valid complaints immediately. Your governing documents provide a guide regarding what bylaws the occupant is breaking. As well, according to subsection 119 (1) of the Condo Act, all occupants must follow rules related to noises or vibrations. Inform the occupant of the complaint outlining the nature of the complaint, any details such as dates and times the noises allegedly occurred, and a date they must respond.

Unresolved issues require a letter written by your lawyers showing legal reasons the occupant must comply with governing documents and/or local noise bylaws. If this step fails, boards must pursue private mediation, arbitration, dispute resolution, or other legal action.

Impact and Solid Borne Sounds

If you receive noise complaints from multiple units in a specific area of the building or building wide, you could have structural issues. Condo corporations have a duty to make repairs or upgrades that minimize sound transmission. Take the following action:

  • Call a meeting to discuss the matter with owners
  • Hire sound engineers to identify building deficiencies
  • Compare sound levels to your bylaws regarding noise levels or based on recommended noise guidelines in residential units
  • If the levels are acceptable, inform occupants work is not required to remedy the noise complaints
  • If unacceptable, your engineers can recommend upgrades to reduce noise levels

Appropriate action ensures you don’t breach section 117 of Ontario’s current Condominium Act.

How to Remedy Excessive Noise Transmission

Noise related solutions will take two possible approaches:

  1. Eliminate the source of the noise: Replace noisy outdated equipment or arrange for service to reduce noise.
  2. Eliminate the path of transmission: Determine how the noise transmits through the building and make upgrades to reduce severe noise transmission.

We expect some level of noise when people live side by side and on top of each other. However, if occupant behaviour, poorly building design or aging equipment interfere with residents’ rights to quiet enjoyment, your board must remedy the situation.

The experts at CPO Management Inc. a Toronto property management company specializing in condo management services, can help manage noise complaints. We resolve issues based on your condo corporation’s governing documents and the Condo Act. For more information about how we can assist with your property management, or for any other questions reach out to us today.

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