Noisy Condo Neighbors
Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A
By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Summary: What can you do if you own a condo
and your upstairs neighbor suddenly gets more noisy than usual? Ilyce Glink
and real estate attorney Samuel Tamkin help out a reader who just can't stand
the noise anymore.
Q: I own a condominium in a complex that was built in the 1960s. A family used to live upstairs from me, and the noise I would hear was typical for apartment living.
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They moved out and the new owner renovated the apartment and put in new carpeting. Now the noise is unbearable. He rented the unit and every time the tenant walks on the floorboards, there is a crashing sound.
I cannot bear to be in my unit when the tenant is at home, because the noise is so annoying. I spend my spare time at restaurants, coffee shops and the library to avoid the noise. The upstairs owner feels that it is not his responsibility because it is a structural issue but has given me his permission to fix the problem at my expense.
What can I do? Our condominium association is unwilling to help me.
A: There are two things you should do before your situation worsens. The first thing you should do is to try to find out what changed in the unit upstairs to make the noise worse.
It’s possible that the padding used for the carpeting in the unit upstairs does not absorb the sound as well as the old carpeting. You should call a couple of carpeting companies to find out if there are any inexpensive fixes to the problem. Once you consult with some carpet installers, they may offer some solutions for you.
If the solution they suggest is better or thicker padding, as a first approach with your neighbor, you can discuss with him whether he can contact his carpeting installer and convince them to reinstall the carpeting with the better padding.
The second thing you should do is talk to a competent contractor or carpenter to see if there is some other underlying problem with the unit upstairs. It seems strange that you would get “crashing” sounds when the people upstairs are walking. Your neighbor may have done more than replace the carpeting when he remodeled the apartment. It’s possible that he had other work done to the floors or moved walls and did not have the work done properly or changes to the unit caused structural problems between the units.
Once you’ve done your homework, you’ll be better able to decide what you want to do. If the cause of the noise is poor quality padding underneath the carpeting, you may be able to convince the neighbor to fix the problem he caused by failing to put in adequate padding for the carpeting.
Some condominium associations have rules and regulations relating to the type, quality and installation procedures for flooring and carpeting. If your association has these rules, you will want to make sure that the neighbor has abided by these rules or have the association enforce its own rules.
If there has been poor workmanship or work performed on the neighbors unit without proper city permits or condominium authorization, you might be able to force the seller to fix these issues by going to the city and reporting the violations. You may also have the condominium board cite the homeowner if he has failed to conform to the condominium documents.
Unfortunately, if the cause of the noise is merely that the new family upstairs is more active, you might be out of luck.
Some associations have rules relating to noisy activities. If there are violations of noise rules, and the neighbors are unreasonably loud, those rules can be enforced by the association.
But your problem seems to come about from normal activities in the unit. As such, its unlikely that you would be able to force the tenants or the owner to do anything if they have done everything right and the noise issue is only as a result of new tenants making use of an apartment in a usual and customary manner, although that might be different than your prior quiet neighbors.
A final thought: If changing the padding upstairs proves too expensive or unworkable for another reason, you might want to talk to a soundproofing specialist. This type of contract can assist you in adding insulating materials between the units. The contractor might recommend adding drywall, insulating or closing up canned lighting fixtures, and insulating or rerouting heating ducts.
These fixes can be expensive, but you may have to take action to preserve the value of your unit and be able to live at peace in your home.
If all these fail, your only other option would be to sell your unit.
Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce R. Glink’s latest book is The REAL U Guide to Bank Accounts and Credit Cards. This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. If you have questions for Sam and Ilyce, write:Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022 or contact them through Ilyce’s website www.thinkglink.com.