Q&A: Enforcing Noise Rules

Q I live in a three-floor, four-room,30-unit condo, mostly 50-plus, with the only family with children (ages two and three) living on the third floor above me. For the past year there has been an excessive amount of constant running; playing on tile floors with outside-type toys; screaming and crying from 7 a.m.until 8 p.m.; and playing in the bathroom. The sound from jumping off the sofa and onto the floor has become almost unbearable.In addition, the mother has very little control over the children and prefers to keep them in the house rather than taking them outdoors.

I approached the husband one night when the noise had gotten unbearable and he didn't realize that it was that bad. He apologized and said he would see that it didn't happen again. But the bottom line is that I complained to the property management company (as well as other owners) about the noise from the family, all to no avail. The parents were sent a letter asking them to control their children. The noise stopped for three days but has since started up again. They were notified again by property management but ignored the warning.

So my question is what is the next step to enforce these owners to follow the "noise" rules?

Can an attorney help me? I am at my wits end.

—Distressed in New Jersey

A “Noise complaints are very common in community associations,” says attorney Jennifer Loheac, an associate in the Real Estate Department and a member of the Community Associations Practice Group at Iselin-based Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis, LLP. “The problems are often attributed to thin walls or unpadded flooring in the upper units. Sometimes the issue involves disrespectful neighbors as well as overly sensitive neighbors.

“The issue is more complicated than meets the eye because communities are limited in how they can enforce ‘noise.’ For example, if the complaint from the first floor unit resident is that the upper unit resident stomps, takes late-night baths or is moving chairs in the kitchen, these things are virtually unenforceable beyond a call or letter advising to "please consider being quieter in the evening." Running a washing machine, vacuuming, laughing, crying, caring for children are also other lifestyle matters that are frequently hard to silence. Where a homeowner, however, is continually blasting a stereo into the late hours of the evening, hammering or drilling or entertaining five friends loudly every night after 11pm, these are somewhat easier to address because these activities may, indeed, rise to the level of a nuisance.

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