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Q&A: These Kids are …Not Alright?

Q. I’m sure this is a problem in many condominium communities. It’s the age-old dispute of noisy neighbors and how to get a satisfactory resolution. By way of background, I live in a three-floor, four-room, 30-unit condominium. The community, though, is adult-oriented, a mostly 50-plus active adult condominium, with the only family with children (ages two, three and four) living on the third floor right above me.  I don’t believe that children are restricted, however. For the past year or so, there has been an excessive amount of noise emanating from my neighbor’s unit: constant running; playing on tile floors with outdoor toys; screaming and crying from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. and playing in the bathroom. The sound of the children 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 instead of taking them outdoors. I complained about it to both parents, and to the building management but it seems to have escalated.  The bottom line: The parents were sent a letter asking them to control their children. That seemed to work temporarily but the noise has since started again. They were notified again by property management but seemingly have 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? How can I get some peace and quiet? 

            —Frustrated in Framingham

A. “Noise disputes are, unfortunately, both common and complex in the condominium context,” says Gary M. Daddario, a partner at the law firm of Winer & Bennett in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts.  “While this writing is not intended to provide legal advice, it may contain helpful information. As with most issues, a first recommendation would be to review the rules and regulations of your particular condominium relating to noise. If there are specific rules, the condominium association has a duty to enforce them.  Sometimes, the rules specify ‘quiet hours’ for the community. Based on the facts provided (high noise between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.), there may or may not be a violation. Often, designated ‘quiet hours’ are more in the range of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

“In addition to ‘noise’ rules, your association may have rules pertaining to ‘nuisance.’  If the disruption rises to the level of ‘nuisance’ (which has particular legal requirements) and the association has a rule regarding nuisance, then the condominium association should enforce the rule.

“Further, your condominium’s documents may contain a provision regarding arbitration or mediation. It is worth examining any such provisions for potential applicability. They may provide a means of attempting resolution of this dispute as well.

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