Noise Issues


Noise is endemic in condos--although some condos are much better than others, in part because rules are enforced. In fact, the pages on noise problems are the 3rd most frequently consulted page in this  website. As well, 23% of letters received are from owners asking for help about the serious noise problems they are facing, which often have been affecting them for years--and about which neither the boards nor the managements have done anything. Some solutions: strengthening the Building Codes of various provinces and having a Condo Umbudsman to help residents. It is also important to mention that a large number of owners have to go on disability as their health deteriorates or they become totally depressed as a result of lack of sleep because of noise. This is a serious health issue that is never addressed by a government that does not want to displease builders.

[The following letter is about noise, but it is also about conflicts of interest on the part of the management, bad board behaviour, money mishandled, mistreatment of seniors, abuse of liens, etc]

Letter: We’re trapped here, please who can help us? We have always been happy here for 25 years and we live on the first floor right next to the super’s apartment. Two years ago the board decided to transform this apt into a gym on our side and two guest rooms after this. There are many problems and the first one is that we haven’t slept well a single complete night for 18 months by now because of the noise in the gym and we both ended up on disability, with my husband’s heart problems getting worse and I had a nervous breakdown because of sleep deprivation and the stress of all the problems that followed. We tried to fight this but the board and manager say that we are trouble makers and now lots of people avoid us because they talk against us.

The other problems are that this transformation cost $90,000 and this is over 10% of our budget but most of this was paid for by the reserve fund and we know that this isn’t right. [Note: The Condo Act prohibits such expenditures being taken against the reserve fund.]. We got in touch with the auditor and he said that he was not a forensic auditor and the week after that we received a letter from the law firm [deleted] telling us that we have to cease our defamation ... This letter cost us nearly $700 and when we didn’t pay because we felt that this was not fair, they put a lien on us and that had to be paid and the entire cost went to nearly $2,000. We tried to sell but they delayed so much with the status certificate and the noise that our real estate agent said that it would be difficult to sell.

This idea of transforming the super suite arrived after we got a new management. The guy who did the renovations is her brother and the new plumber we have is her cousin and he started putting clean outs in units and they are not needed and already two older owners have sold because of this. [......] All our directors have been on the board for many years and whenever a new candidate comes up the president goes from unit to unit and he tells the elderly owners that he is their friend, that they owe him to vote for the board and that without them they would get less good service, he frightens them, I know because he did it with us before all this fuss started but now he doesn’t even see us. All directors get help in their units from the super for free even if there is other more urgent work to be done. We can’t live here anymore but we can’t sell. What can we do?

— January 2013, Ontario

Letter: [This is a long letter about recurrent noises from pumps and later from renovated elevators that have been going on for nearly a decade and about which the managers from a same company have refused to do anything and have ignored all phone calls and letters. The letter ends:] All of this is cumulative and I am totally unable to sleep now. I have had to take a leave of absence on account of stress. If we had known what we know today, we would never have bought a condo.

— January 2012, Brampton, ON

 Letter: [Another letter about party room noise ends:] I have had to get psychiatric help because of the stress caused by the noise and the added stress caused by the failure of the management and the board to do something, and not to forget the fact that they are all angry at me when in reality it should be the other way around. I desperately need some help because I can't afford a lawyer.

— January 2012, Ottawa

Letter: [A letter about noise from the exercise room from 6 a.m. to midnight that has been going on for nearly two years ends:] The lack of sleep and the way the manager is discriminating against us because I continue to ask each month that she does something has contributed to worsen my husband's heart problems. [This is one of several letters that refers to heart problems.] His health problems is what is preventing us from selling and moving out because he is too weak to cope with all of these changes. He has been sleeping in the den because there the noise is a bit less obvious. We are at the end of our rope. Help!

— January 2012, Toronto

Note to Readers: The above are some examples of letters received from desperate owners who have begged managers and even boards of directors to rectify the source of well-documented noise coming from common elements into their suite, even late at night or throughout the night. Various sugggestions were made to these owners, such as getting a court order to comply under Section 134 of the Condo Act of Ontario; however, as such a move requires legal help, most owners can't afford this option. Another option is to contact the referral services of the Ontario Law Society (Upper Canada) which allows persons to consult a lawyer for up to 30 minutes for a few dollars. Also suggested was to see if other owners were similarly afflicted and, together, requisition a meeting to discuss the issues or, this failing, to replace the board of directors. As well, contacting their municipal Health Dept is another possibility. But, overall, these examples clearly illustrate the need for an institution that would enforce condo rules, such as a Condo Ombudsman.

Letter: We moved into a 2-bedroom suite and we can hear the neighbours above us and next to us carry out conversations (although we can’t hear what they are saying and I guess that we should be thankful for this), get out of bed, go to the toilet, have sex, and you name it we hear it. Before this, we lived in a 30 year-old building with no such problems. We complained to our manager and management brought in a consultant because he says that a lot of other suites have the same problem. The consultant concluded that the noise just (but barely) meets standards. Are they on the take or what?

— August 2009, Hamilton area, ON

Answer: No comment... except to say that building standards are often more accommodating to the building industry’s bottom line than to us residents. I have received several letters on noise. And Noise Problems is one of the pages that receives the most hits on my website....

Letter: I was the treasurer of my condo for 4 years and resigned nearly two years ago when my term expired in order to spend more time taking care of my ailing mother. The president also completed his term after nearly 9 years and so did the secretary after 5 years. I will not bother you with all the problems that the new board has created and that are costing us a lot of money, but the point is that the former president and myself have tried to help and the new board is very angry at us about this. The former president is very elderly and a wonderful and intelligent man and all kinds of nasty things are happening to him, such as his parking being taken by someone and the manager refuses to do anything. In my case, the people above me happen to be the new treasurer... and they are now making so much noise, especially at night, that we can't sleep. Note that they were quiet before that and in fact they used to agree with our work before. (You would think that they would follow the good work we did. It's surprising how some people change completely when they go on the board.) This noise has been heard by friends who have slept here and we have recorded it and followed all the steps you detail in your website. The manager refuses to do anything about it and of course so does the board because they all say that we are the only ones complaining. We called the police once and they have made even more noise after to get even. We can't go to mediation because the condo lawyer that we know well also refuses to do anything, of course, as he doesn't want to risk his contract. Our suite is very lovely and there are two real estate agents with a waiting list for suites like ours so we decided to sell. We feel bad about leaving the old president on his own.

— February 2011, Toronto

Letter: They have replaced some parts in the elevators and they are now so noisy that they sound like a truck especially at night. We asked the people living on the other side and they hear it too. We also asked the people above and below us and they hear it as well. We asked the manager to come and listen to it and she did but she said that we were the only ones complaining and it is because our suite is built the way it is. End of the conversation for this really insipid woman. The board is as good as useless because they do what she says. We went back to talk to another owner and he appeared very fearful and didn't want to talk about it any longer and apparently the manager sent a letter to some owners telling them that it was illegal of us to knock on doors. Now everyone is afraid that if something happens in their suites and they need repairs, they shouldn't talk with us about this noise, otherwise the manager will not take care of their needs. Is there something we can do? We feel so isolated, and of course we can't sleep much.

— February 2011, 905 area, ON

Note to Readers: The two letters above are very representative of some other letters received concerning noise issues. Owners are too often told that they are the "only ones complaining" and this seems justification for not doing anything. As the owner above writes, they feel very isolated. Feeling "isolated" is a recurrent theme in complaints received on a wide range of topics. A board and a manager have to attend to noise issues, even if only one owner is affected. At this point, there is no quick solution for such owners nor any inexpensive remedy. These two letters are also related to other issues with boards, managers, and lawyers already presented in earlier sections. In other words, problems tend to come in multiples with bad boards. Problems also repeat themselves from condo to condo. See also some of the letters in "Troublemakers" and "Traitors"