Canada's Condominium Magazine
Life in a condominium comes with a lot of perks… a sense of community, a playground for the little ones, walking distance of local businesses, and access to a pool and gym without needing to pay a membership fee. One downside, however, is the potential for unwelcome noise emanating from a neighbouring unit. Certain levels of noise are to be expected when living in such close quarters… crying babies, rambunctious children, barking dogs (to an extent), etc. However, it becomes a problem when there is an excessive amount of noise or when it is consistent.
It can be maddening and leave you wondering how to handle the situation. Should you confront the noisy neighbour, take it to management, or forego condo life altogether and seek out something a bit more private? While it may be tempting to sell your condo and seek out lodging on a private island away from all the chaos, it is not the most affordable option. The following tips, however, will make life amongst the rest of civilization a little (or a lot0 more peaceful.
Give It Some Thought and Be Understanding
While it may be frustrating hearing your neighbours when you are trying to sleep or while relaxing after a long day of work, it may not always be the fault of the tenants themselves. They may not even be aware of the excessive noise level. If it is caused my children playing a little too loudly or sibling squabbles, it may just be a case of the parents becoming used to the noise and therefore unaware of how loud it is to others.
Plus, in most cases, it sounds much different from the outside, especially to neighbours who live in a unit under theirs. While you may not hear your own footsteps when walking through your unit, your downstairs neighbours likely do. This is not always the case, as many condos, especially newer models, have more insulation for greater privacy and fewer disturbances. However, even they are not perfect, and older units are less noise resistant. Is a lack of adequate insulation the issue, or are your neighbours genuinely noisy?
Another thing to ponder is whether it is a one-time thing or a consistent issue? If it is a one-off, then let it go. We all get carried away sometimes, laughing too loudly with friends or screaming like a banshee while watching a horror flick. However, if it is a persistent issue, then it may be helpful to speak up.
Timing is also important. Is the issue something that happens during the day or at night? While it may be frustrating, it is unreasonable to expect children to remain completely silent during the day so that you can sleep, even if you are working overnights. On the other hand, if they are partying until dawn or blasting their television at 2:00 a.m., then that is a problem and should be handled promptly. However, do not get carried away and go right to the police. Try speaking to the tenant face-to-face and find some middle ground.
The Polite Approach
Before considering any other action, such as complaining to the property manager or the condo board, try approaching the neighbour and discuss the problem with them.
Be understanding when you are simply hearing normal, everyday activities like talking or watching television (and not through an enormous surround sound system that makes it feel like you are actually being chased by dinosaurs or hunted by zombies), while also realizing that anything excessive may not be intentional. Approach them from that angle. Ask them politely to keep it down and reassure them that if they ever have any issues, they should feel free to come to you as well.
If you do not have noisy children or barking dogs and they do, try offering a trade. If they can keep their household’s noise levels under control, they you could babysit for them sometimes while the parents go out or run errands. Letting them know that you are coming to them as a well-meaning neighbour rather than someone who simply wants to complain will make them feel better about the situation, and they will not be as defensive as they otherwise may be.
Overall, it helps to be understanding and reassuring. Sometimes the noises cannot be helped (such as in the case of crying babies or children suffering from night terrors). In these instances, offer some helpful advice and perhaps invest in some earplugs. Most instances, however, will be different and can easily be addressed with the tenant.
If All Else Fails, Escalate the Matter
If the noise continues, especially late at night, you may need to contact security personnel and have them request that the tenant keep it down. Another option could be to call in a neutral mediator to help resolve the problem. Entire industries revolve around conflict resolution, and it may help to utilize their services. Sometimes, people are more likely to listen when they have a third party involved who will listen to both sides and help come up with a mutually-beneficial solution.
If your neighbours are less than receptive or if the excessive noise does not cease, then it may be beneficial to contact the property manager and have them handle the situation. They may send a notice requesting noise levels be reduced or approach them in person. Be sure to keep an incident report on file and document all encounters, just in case it is needed. You may also find yourself needing to go to the condo board with the issue. If so, be sure to have everything ready when you do.
A Last Resort
If your attempts at resolving the issue face-to-face do not work out and your manager and condo board are also unable to handle the situation, it may be necessary to call the authorities. This should be a last resort after all other options have been exhausted, or if things escalate and you feel threatened by the neighbour in any way.
Document any attempts at resolving the issue amicably with the neighbour, the incident report, any follow-up reports or inquiries, any additional issues that may surface due to the report, etc. Keep track of dates and times as well. While the issue is resolved immediately in the majority of cases, particularly troublesome neighbours can end up causing even more problems or retaliating after being reported. You will want to document everything in case the authorities need to get involved.