Q&A: Dealing with Noisy Neighbors

Q I live in a three-floor, four-room,30-unit condo, mostly 50-plus, with the only family with children (ages two and three) living on the third floor above me. For the past year there has been an excessive amount of constant running; playing on tile floors with outside-type toys; screaming and crying from 7 a.m.until 8 p.m.; and playing in the bathroom. The sound 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 rather than taking them outdoors.

I approached the husband one night when the noise had gotten unbearable and he didn't realize that it was that bad. He apologized and said he would see that it didn't happen again. However, the wife simply ignores him and the kids continue on.

The bottom line is that I complained to property management (as well as other owners) about the noise from the family.The parents were sent a letter asking them to control their children.The noise stopped for three days but has since started again. They were notified again by property management but 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? I am at my wits end. I leave my unit for most of the day and wind up going to bed at 7 each night just to have some peace.

—Sleepless in Chicago

A “You and your association board each have a role to play in solving this problem,” says attorney Mark Rosenbaum of the Chicago-based law firm of Fischel & Kahn, Ltd. “Many declarations, by their terms, prohibit excessive noise. And if nothing else, almost every declaration has a "use and occupancy" provision that prohibits actions that are an annoyance or nuisance to others.

“In addition, many associations have rules that require “quiet hours” or otherwise deal expressly with excessive noise. Many associations also have provisions on floor soundproofing (like carpeting), which might help with the kids’ jumping around.

“As with any possible violation of the condominium instruments or rules, you need to look at your association’s own rules to determine the way to formally make a complaint to the association on the issue. Many associations will not take any action unless the formal process is followed. That may mean filing a written complaint, and possibly making yourself available to attend a hearing on your complaint.

“Assuming you follow the process required to make a formal complaint, your association board has the obligation to take your complaint seriously and to take steps to enforce its own documents. The most effective remedy is often to fine the persons who have violated the documents. The board has the power, after giving the persons against whom you are complaining notice and an opportunity to be heard, to issue a reasonable fine against them if the board finds the complaint to be justified. See IL Condominium Property Act, Section 18.4(l). Such a hearing will reinforce the fact that the Board is taking the matter seriously and that the board is willing to take affirmative steps to enforce the condominium documents and rules. Many associations have other rules that spell out the hearing process. And some associations have a sliding scale of fines for multiple violations of the same provisions, increasing the amount of a fine for a 2nd, 3rd or more violations. It is even possible for there to be other, more serious, remedies available to the Association if the problems continue.

“Having said all the above, you must remember that small children do not always behave well. Even the best of parents may have trouble getting young children to conform to community living norms. A board may give the parents more leeway on the noise issue than it would give to adults who, for example, throw loud parties repeatedly. Most children grow out of the noise issues you mention. But even so, taking the step of getting your board formally involved should reinforce to the parents the need to work harder to allow their neighbors to have some peace and quiet.”

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  • i've had problems with my neighbors who live below us for the past 10 years. as of now she said she has moved out but someone is still living there. isn't the place to be empty and if someone is there she should receive the fine that is in the rules for having someone renting when you cant rent?
  • Does Washington Condo Law require that all Board Meetings be pteosd to the Association publicly, though the Association is a private entity? Are there laws preventing board members from meeting without the knowledge of the full board (ie 3 of 5 members meeting casually to discuss condo business)?