How to deal with noise complaints in your HOA

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Know your responsibilities as an HOA when it comes to noise complaints between neighbors.

Noise complaints can be a headache for everyone involved. As the board of your HOA, it’s important to understand your responsibilities and how you can help avoid noise issues in the future.  

Your CC&Rs should have a provision or two related to noise transmission between units. These may require your board to take a firm stance and intervene in a noise complaint, or to play more of a mediation role.

Most noise complaints relate to flooring, when homeowners rip out old carpeting and install new hardwood floors. Your HOA’s rules should state the steps a homeowner must take before remodeling their units, such as approval from the Architectural Control Committee.

Once a noise complaint is officially made to the board, the first step is usually to ask the parties involved to try to resolve the issue themselves. If the noise complaints continue, it’s important for everyone involved—including the board—to document everything: the times and frequency of the noises, the types of noises, dates of complaints and efforts to resolve the issue. This can help identify the severity and cause of the noise.

The board may also considering hiring an acoustical engineer to perform a sound test. Everyone reacts to noise differently, and what may seem deafening to one may hardly be noticed by another. A sound test can help determine if the noise level is within a “standard” range.

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If your HOA has clear rules on the type of flooring that can be installed and the homeowner did not follow these, the board may need to enforce the rules through fines and other measures until the issue is resolved. Replacing new flooring can be expensive and frustrating, so it’s best to try to resolve the issue without going to extremes, if possible. Simple fixes like area rugs or soundproofing the ceiling of the downstairs homeowner might be viable options.

If the cause of the noise is determined to be related building design, hire a qualified architect or engineer to review and identify the problem. Then be sure to discuss this at the next homeowners meeting.

Finally, it’s important to realize that not all noise issues can be fixed. The homeowners in question may have different schedules, or the upstairs homeowner may simply walk with a heavy foot.

Whatever the cause of the complaint, it’s important to take it seriously—brushing it off could result in litigation against the association. Follow the rules provided in your HOA’s CC&Rs and give both parties involved the opportunity to be heard.

And if you find your HOA’s rules and resolutions lacking when it comes to dealing with such issues, consider these tips to prevent noise disputes in the future.  

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Source: Executive Council of Homeowners, Realty Times
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