Q&A: I Want the Noise to Stop!

Q.  I have written several complaint letters to the board and the manager regarding a noisy neighbor. They did send a letter to the homeowner about a year ago, but the problem persists. Although I continue to write letters, nothing is being done. What is my recourse? Do I have to sue the board for not acting on my behalf? It really affects quality of life, and it's been going on for a long time. 

                                        — Seeking Quiet

A. “Disputes between neighboring unit owners are trickier than disputes between single-family property owners due to the existence of the third party:  the association,” says Gary M. Daddario, Partner in the Braintree, Massachusetts law firm of Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks PC.  “While association boards are generally responsible for enforcement of the governing documents, many people often mistakenly assume that the association should be involved in every dispute. This is actually not the case.  

“In order to justify involvement and the expenditure of the association’s financial resources, a board must genuinely feel that: 1) an owner is, in fact, violating the restrictions of the condominium; and 2) that the association is capable of sufficiently proving its legal case. If either of these components is missing, a board could reasonably conclude that the association should decline involvement in the situation. 

“As a unit owner seeking assistance, it is recommended that you try to document the alleged offense(s) to the extent possible within the bounds of the law.  Providing such documentation and agreeing to serve as a witness may help the board to feel that there is a case and that they can offer sufficient proof of any claim.  

“Another appropriate course of action for a unit owner is to register a complaint with the local police when a violation is in progress. Although the police do not necessarily enforce association restrictions, many municipalities have noise ordinances and virtually all will address anything they deem to be a breach of the peace. Some municipal officers have a simple piece of equipment capable of measuring the actual decibels of sound. This type of evidence could be crucial to any “noise” case, since outside of an objective measurement, the opinion of whether or not something is too loud will often be a subjective, personal opinion that differs from one person to another. If the police are involved, any police report on the matter could also assist the board with addressing the issue as well.”

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