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Community living: Wood flooring causes noise problems

Upstairs neighbor's wood flooring has resulted in a noise problem

Q: I live in a two-story condominium and the upstairs unit has installed wood floors. It sounds like there is a broken washing machine all day long slapping against a wall. It is almost mind-bending. Is this legal? What would have had to be in the documents for this to even possibly be legal? You have no idea of what a disappointment and of what disturbing effect this has had on my life. This was the worst purchase I have ever made. I would have rather bought a frame home infested with termites.

A: Of all the problems in condominiums, this is the one that I hate. The reason is that all parties stand to lose. The upstairs owner, the downstairs owner, the board of directors, and all owners in the association will suffer a devaluation of the units and possible property devaluation.

To correct the problem it often results in a lawsuit. In such a situation, the board must take corrective action to have the wood flooring or tile removed or maybe covered by carpet. Some condominiums allow soundproofing to be installed but even this is not the final answer.

Here is how the parties lose: For the downstairs person the penetrating noise is disturbing and can be a health problem. If they sell the unit they could be sued by the new owner because the defect was not disclosed. At the low end, they must then sell the unit at a lower value. In other words the upstairs unit devalues the downstairs unit. For the board, they must take steps to enforce the documents and this can result in legal fees and extra work and time.

For the upstairs owner, they either must remove the floor and restore the floor to the original carpet or take measures to install soundproofing. The other owners will find that when one unit sells at a lower price, their unit will suffer in the lost value. Boards must take action any time an owner attempts to install a flooring other than carpet.

Bylaws likely allow non-owner to remain on board of directors

Q: If a board member sells his house, is he automatically disqualified from being on the board? Our documents say you must be a lot owner of record to vote, and members only are allowed to vote, but they do not address what happens when a board member no longer owns any lot in the association.

A: You are mixing two situations. The voting your documents refer to is for member meetings or annual meetings, not a board meeting. As such, a member that attends and votes at an annual meeting must be an owner. At board meetings, unless your documents have specific qualifications on just owners serving, any person of legal age serving as a director may qualify to serve and vote.

There are a couple of exceptions not discussed here. This would mean that with most associations, selling a home or unit does not automatically remove the director from the board. I do suggest that a director who sells and moves from the community should resign from the board. If he/she does not, then the other directors should ask for a resignation. They should point out that there is a liability problem if the former owner remains on the board. But contrary to any bylaw requirements, the director must submit his/her formal resignation and cannot be removed solely because they are not an owner.

Formal action is best solution to owner's sweeping problem

Q: I live in a five-story condominium with open walkways on each floor. We have an owner who uses the rails on the upper floors to remove the dirt from his doormats. He also sweeps his balcony, causing dirt to fall into my balcony. When confronted, his rationale was that there is nothing in the documents prohibiting such actions. I sent an e-mail to the manager and in turn the president sent an e-mail, which was ignored. What can I do to resolve this problem with my neighbor?

A: I do not have an answer for inconsiderate people. I do not like e-mail as a form of rule enforcements or to correct problems such as this. I suggest formal letters, in some cases sent by certified mail, return receipt requested. I do not like direct contact or knocking on doors. Such contacts present the offender with excuses and defensive positions and no documented proof of what was said.

I am sure there is something in your documents that refers to nuisances by residents that is a source of annoyance to other unit owners. Maybe the documents have references that discuss improper usage by an owner that interferes with other owners. I would start taking pictures of the events, collect dirt or debris that comes into your balcony, and write the board with specific dates and times of the problem and copies of the photos. Ask the board to discuss the matter and that it send formal letters to the unit owner asking him to stop.

Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115. Please include your name and city.


Community living: Wood flooring causes noise problems 11/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 19, 2010 3:30am]
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