With 20 years living in a strata condominium & 4 years on strata council (past), Sylvia is here to share her experiences & hear about yours!
Quest For Quiet!
Want To Talk About Noisy Neighbours?
It sounds like the boys living in the apartment below us have invited 20 of their closest friends over for a video-game tournament. A glorious symphony of hollering, electronic gunshots & explosions play for the next 6 hours.
Later, the hockey game is on. It’s an important one & the volume needs to be cranked so loud that the boys have to shout over it to be heard. By the end of the game, all 20 boys have sufficiently medicated themselves to become thoroughly intoxicated.
We can’t imagine what they are doing now but it sounds like the demolition phase of a renovation. Except for those boys who have wandered outside & are now yelling, chucking beer cans & urinating off the balcony.
Sleep isn’t friendly tonight. However, seven AM still comes early.
The two little girls who live in the apartment above us are practicing their gymnastics routines. Their Dad doesn’t like being woken up either. He gets up & yells at the children to be quiet. But Mom doesn’t quite approve.
Hence Mom & Dad’s argument, that eventually becomes heated. Screaming, stomping, slamming cupboard doors & finally a slamming bedroom door ends it.
We can hear the children crying.
Noisy Neighbours & Residential Noise Studies
Studies have shown that residential noise (meaning noise from neighboring apartments, as well as noise within one's own home) can cause significant irritation & noise stress due to the great deal of time people spend within their residences. This can result in an increased risk of depression, psychological disorders, migraines, & even emotional stress.
The U.S. EPA has provided a list of recommended noise levels in its Model Community Noise Control Ordinance, published in 1975. For example, the recommended noise level for indoor residences is no more than 45 dB.
Take comfort - you’re not on your own. There are laws in place within your building & within your city to help you achieve your quest for quiet.
Comic Relief: Is This Really What's Going On?
Your Strata Corporation’s Bylaws
Excerpt taken from Schedule of Standard Bylaws in the Greater Vancouver Area that relates to noise:
(1) An owner, tenant, occupant or visitor must not use a strata lot, the common property or common assets in a way that
(a) causes a nuisance or hazard to another person,
(b) causes unreasonable noise,
(c) unreasonably interferes with the right of other persons to use and enjoy the common property, common assets or another strata lot,
(d) is illegal, or
(e) is contrary to a purpose for which the strata lot or common property is intended as shown expressly or by necessary implication on or by the strata plan.
One strata corporation added the following to their bylaws. Perhaps just to strengthen the laws against noisy neighbours?
(4) An owner, tenant or occupant shall not:
(b) make undue noise in or about any strata lot or common property
Your City’s Noise Control Bylaw
Excerpts taken from Noise Control Bylaw 5819 – North Vancouver City:
Quiet Area Sound Level
A person may make, cause or permit to be made, a continuous sound with a sound level during the daytime of 55 decibels or less, and during the nighttime of 45 decibels or less when received at a point of reception within a quiet area.
“quiet area” includes any area of the municipality where the absence of noise is of particular importance to persons in that area at any time, and includes any area within the municipality shown on Schedule “A” attached hereto; (the areas zoned residential were included in the quiet area shown on Schedule A).
“noise” includes: any sound, continuous sound or non-continuous sound which disturbs or tends to disturb the peace, quiet, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of the neighbourhood in which such sound is received, or, of any reasonable person in the vicinity of the source of such sound who receives such sound.
What is a Decibel?
A unit of loudness (volume) usually ranked between 0 dB (the threshold of human hearing) and 140 dB (the point where loudness can cause pain or hearing damage).
Noisy city traffic
You’re Ready to Take Action in Your Quest for Quiet!
Take this seriously. You’re accusing another condo dweller (defendant) of excessive noise & subjecting him to a fine. There can be no mistakes.
Depending on how your building was built, sound will tend to travel vertically & diagonally, from both above & below or horizontally from the apartments on either side. This makes it difficult to discern exactly which suite any particular sound emanates from.
Quietly listen at the door of the suite that’s suspect to ensure that is indeed where the noise is coming from.
If the noise is ridiculous, as in the above example, call the police. However, that’s only a short-term solution. You’ll need something that will help over the long haul.
I usually start by sliding an anonymous note under the noisy neighbour's (defendant's) door. I include information such as what I heard (keeping it objective) & the time that I heard it.
I find that this usually does the trick! Often my neighbours just don't realize that anyone can hear them.
For help with writing a "first contact" anonymous note, plus an example: AnnoyZneighbour.com
Time To Get Serious!
Some people are just downright selfish & will disregard your anonymous note. That's when you feed them to the dogs...
Compile, in writing, over seven days (consecutively or unconsecutively) the following:
- A description of the noise trying as much as possible to keep your descriptions objective. If need be, write what you believe is causing the noise in brackets.
- The date including the exact time of day or night that you hear the noise.
- If you hear music, & if you can, name the band & song or even some words.
- Keep your descriptions free of location (such as ceiling, floor, up, down etc.) as it is important to keep your identity confidential.
Work the above detailed information into a letter & mail or email it to your Property Management Company. By law, they have to present it to the Strata Council & forward a letter of warning to the defendant with an invitation to either: write a defense/admission letter, or attend a Council hearing as per Strata Property Act 135 (in British Columbia).
Such exacting information will help tremendously, as it will go a long way to:
- Quash notions of denial & stories of innocence on the part of the defendant.
- Educate the defendant on how much noise is respectful.
- Startle the defendant into changing her/his behavior after the first warning letter.
As per the privacy act, your identity must remain confidential.
If the problem is not rectified, continue to compile information, sending the details in letter after letter to the Property Management Company. After the initial warning, the defendant can be fined once every seven days.
For help with writing an email to your property manager & strata council, plus an example: AnnoyZneighbour.com
The Waiting Period
This is the period of time between making a formal complaint & waiting for due process to unravel until your noisy neighbour finally realizes that allowing noise to escape his dwelling is no longer an option.
Some strata corporations insist on delivering a warning letter first. This means that you may have to organize further information & make another formal complaint before your neighbour's noisiness is finally subdued.
This also means more time being privy to the sounds your neighbour's life.
White noise! Or otherwise known as background noise can drown the worst & ease your suffering. A fan can be an excellent source of white noise. Any other white noise ideas? Please share with us what you do for white noise in the comments below.
Never Let Them Know it Was You!
There’s all sorts of advice about doing the neighbourly thing. Advice about politely & courteously explaining to your neighbour that his noise is bothering you.
Never approach your neighbour!
At first glance this might seem cowardly. It’s not. People turn at the drop of a hat. Even reasonable folks will retaliate when confronted & criticized, no matter how polite you try to be. If you complain to your neighbour even once, all subsequent complaints, whether they are made by you or not, will be blamed on you. By approaching your neighbour even one time, you make yourself a target.
You have every right to a reasonably quiet home.
You’ve done your part by explaining the problem with a detailed list that doesn’t leave anyone guessing. Then you’ve sent this list through the appropriate channels allowing the people who are trained to handle these issues, deal with them properly.
If you like this article, please share it!
- Sylvia Leong
© 2010 Sylvia Leong
Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver (Canada) on December 13, 2019:
I'm so glad, and thank you, minion89. I hope so too.
Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver (Canada) on July 18, 2015:
Hi Linda Edamura,
First, snap a picture of that silver plate that hangs near the metal post.
Do you live in a strata? If so, please scroll up to the end of this article & click on the link that goes to the website, AnnoyZneighbour.com. This website will guide you through a step-by-step process in how to properly deal with your noisy neighbour.
Do you live in a neighbourhood of detached houses? If so, then you'll have to make a trip to your city hall. Take the snapshot with you, show one of the employees & tell them about your noisy neighbour. The city hall employee will guide you on the proper way to make a formal complaint. Your formal complaint will give the city bylaw officer the right & reason to first warn your noisy neighbour. If your noisy neighbour does not remove the silver plate, then the bylaw officer can fine him.
Good luck! And please check back & let us know whether or not you are successful.
linda edamura on July 16, 2015:
as far as we know that our neighbourhood is affected by noise from a owner of the house
we don't know what is the noises for
but we are sure that the owner hangs a silve plate at the balcony near a metal post
we are living in a windy neighbourhood. the owner doesn't really concern our noise problem. the owner is abit selfish at all . the owner ignores all of us when we reach the owner. the plate now is giving us noises at all. we dont know what to do. we HOPE that god could give us a hand,
we don't want to hear any more noises at all
Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver (Canada) on June 16, 2015:
That excerpt was from a specific strata corporation's bylaws. They added it to the standard bylaws. I've clarified that in the article. Thank you for pointing it out.
Yuki on June 16, 2015:
Could you direct me to where you found the second bylaw listed above?
((4) An owner, tenant or occupant shall not: (b) make undue noise in or about any strata lot or common property) I'm just having a hard time finding it...
Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver (Canada) on May 09, 2015:
Thank you Jaime Sommers. In my opinion, your comment is bang on!
Jaime Sommers on May 05, 2015:
I feel compelled to post @Tony, I, as much as the next person enjoy having a few drinks at home with friends and often do on weekends. However, waking someone up from a sound sleep when you live in a community setting such as an apartment building or condo is not a matter of being a 'prude', it's downright inconsiderate. The general sounds that eminate from neighbors do *Not* constitute waking them from a nights sleep. We all have bills to pay, and cannot afford to be half asleep during deadlines and meetings from an inconsiderate neighbor waking you up at 2 or 3AM. That's just NOT okay. You are free to move to a house near an industrial neighborhood where noise may not be an issue, if you do not want to curtail the noise for the sake of anyone else after a reasonable time. Personally, I don't notice noise unless I am awoken by it, and then, I would take Sylvia's advice and file a complaint. No one needs that, students too cram for exams and also need sleep. I suggest you take into consideration that your lifestyle may not be compatible with community living.
Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver (Canada) on May 05, 2015:
I’ve approved the above “hate mail” because it’s an excellent opportunity to show you a prime example of exactly the sort of character you’re likely to come up against.
Quote: “Noise is a relatively small issue, when compared to being served a 2 week eviction notice. An eviction is a huge inconvenience and it is much more stressful to be uprooted from your home, and have to find a new one mid month in a rush, especially if your new apt needs references.”
This is so specific that I have to believe that he’s writing from experience. This is very telling. British Columbia’s Residential Tenancy Act is heavily skewed in favour of the tenant. The fact is that a tenant would have to be quite inconsiderate over a long period of time in order for a landlord to legally be able to evict due to noise.
Personally, we can hear the lady upstairs chopping-up food on her countertop. Sometimes they wear hard-soled shoes while walking across their tile. We know when she’s vacuuming. We know when one of them drops something.
We can sometimes hear the folks downstairs talking (if there are a few of them down there).
These are the normal activities of daily living. These sounds are short-lived, perfectly acceptable & pretty much expected whilst living in a multi-family dwelling.
No one is expecting silence.
I don’t own a television. However, when we watch movies on our computer, the volume is never above talking levels. We never hear our neighbours’ televisions either. We don’t hear our neighbours’ music. They definitely never hear ours. If anyone regularly has 6-person dinner parties, all the power to them, we certainly can’t hear them.
It doesn’t matter what you’re actually doing. The fact remains that as per law & logic, each of us must be responsible to ensure our noise stays within our home. This is called respect & consideration. It’s part of strata living. It’s part of being a decent human being.
Consider if the bylaws were reversed. Imagine if each & every resident of a strata complex was inconsiderate of one another & made as much noise as they wanted. The complex would cease to be a community of little sanctuaries where it was possible to rest, relax & regenerate. Instead it would become a ghetto where it was impossible to recuperate from the stresses of the outside world & get a good night’s sleep.
As for holding B.C. housing to a higher standard: we know of a residential building in our neighbourhood that has no insulation in the walls between the suites. I have a friend who rented there for a very short period of time. You could hear the telephone receiver being placed on the cradle through the wall! My point: it is unbelievably easy to tell if noise is due to poor construction rather than human inconsideration. My friend had no problem getting out of her lease. Like I said, the Residential Tenancy Act is heavily skewed in favour of the tenant.
Case-in-point: this is an example of a man who cannot be rationalized with. Most likely the inconsiderate neighbour keeping you up at night cannot be rationalized with either (no matter how nice he seems to be in the elevator). If you confront him directly, you’ll have to live with him causing you further anguish for as long as you remain neighbours. Keep your identity secret!
Tony on April 17, 2015:
The fact that you admit that you were on a Strata Council is very revealing. I am going out on a limb to guess that you are a conservative prude.
I only say this as you often quote a US ruling that states that acceptable decibel level in a unit should be 48db. That is 12 decibels less than normal talking level of . As most people watch TV above talking levels, and commercials on TV are programmed to play at a higher volume than the TV show.
Why do we always want to oppress our neighbours/brothers. Normal people want to listen to music while cleaning, or want to have a dinner party with a few friends over. Even with just 6 people in a 1 bedroom apt the noise level can and is well above 65db.
Noise is a relatively small issue, when compared to being served a 2 week eviction notice. An eviction is a huge inconvenience and it is much more stressful to be uprooted from your home, and have to find a new one mid month in a rush, especially if your new apt needs references.
How about taking on the responsibility yourself. How about looking at the issue from the reverse angle. You are the issue. You are uptight. You should wear ear-plugs. It is not your neighbours fault that you have to wake at 630am on a weekend.
You are probably offended that i say it is your fault...No problem. It is no longer your fault. How about we hold the BC housing to a higher standard. For 30-40% higher cost, the builders could use thicker drywall, and a better sound absorbant insulation. This would curtail the problem instantly.
My wife and I can hear our neighbours have a conversation through the wall, and we know what tv shows they like to watch. That is not their fault.
Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver (Canada) on September 26, 2014:
Thank you for your comment Min. Your situation is intolerable. Party rooms in residential buildings are ridiculous.
As you can see above, both my city bylaws & my building’s bylaws allow no room for parties at any given time night or day. Furthermore, even if the floor of your party room was sound-proofed, chances are you’d still hear parties through the windows.
Personally, I would not tolerate this situation!
I would write a letter to the strata council (emailed through the property manager making it a legal document) requesting that the party room be shut down permanently & the following special resolutions be brought forth at the next AGM:
➢ The Party room floor to be properly sound-proofed
➢ The Party room to be converted into a livable suite
➢ The suite to be rented out to tenants with the profits going to the building’s operating fund
You will need 75% of those attending the AGM to vote yes. So you need to do your due diligence. The more work you do up front, the more likely your resolutions will be passed. Gather the following information & include in your letter:
➢ Point out that allowing parties in the party room are in direct contravention of the city’s & the building’s bylaws (if this is true). List the specific bylaws.
➢ List possible pubs & banquet rooms in the area for people to hold their parties (including the cost)
➢ Party rooms are often used for a building’s AGM. You’ll need to find another area for this important yearly meeting. Cite that the profits from the rental suite will more than cover a space rented elsewhere for the AGM.
➢ Talk to as many neighbours as you can, get them to understand why you want the party room shut down & how converting it to a rentable suite will benefit the building.
The more well written your letter is (proper spelling, grammar & sentence structure) the more chance you’ll have at being taken seriously.
Now, if the strata council fails to put forth your requested special resolutions, or if the special resolutions fail, you have two options:
➢ Hire a lawyer, take it to court & force the resolutions through.
➢ Sell your condo & move.
Good luck & please check back & let us all know how it goes.
Min on September 19, 2014:
Hi, I just had to read this.
I have different but similar problem:
I am having noise issue with common property. we live under the common area room, and sometimes people rent the room and have a party.
the problem is that the floor that is installed is too bad that we can hear people walking very clearly.
I have contacted the concierge, the manager, and the council. what they did is they gave the renters 30 more minutes to clean up without our consent when the common area closes 11 sharp. so basically, we have to be kept awake till 11:30.
I don't know why the council is doing this, but what i know for sure is they are not helping.
Would you happen to know any solution or help that I could get for this kind of problem?
Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver (Canada) on December 30, 2010:
Ha, ha! Yeah, earplugs are a must in our neighbourhood as well.
Thanks for the comment & I'm following you now too!
b. Malin on December 30, 2010:
Very good and informative Hub. We normally live in a house, in a lovely neighborhood. Our bedroom faces the front of the house...I've mastered the use of "ear plugs" because I am such a light sleeper. Now we are away for a few months in Florida, lots of NOISE here, I was smart...I bought along a BIG BOX OF EAR PLUGS!
I look forward to reading more of your work, as I will be following you. Hope you will join me as well.
Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver (Canada) on December 23, 2010:
Thank you for reading, commenting & linking! I read your awesome hub & I totally see your point. A possible compromise could be to slide the letter under their door first (anonymously) as an initial warning.
I think it really depends on the situation, the culture of the building & even the culture of the area you live in. We live in a neighbourhood that although now trendy, was a dreadful down & out area a very short time ago it. Hence the type of people living in our building – many have been here for 20 years.
I used to believe all people were basically “good at heart”. Then I spent 4 years on Strata Council. Each resident who received a noise complaint knew they were being noisy & didn’t care. Rather they were under the impression that it was their “right” to live their life exactly as they saw fit. I was appalled at how people treated each other.
From my experience:
It’s really shockingly simple. If you stomp, shout, turn your electronics’ volume any higher than a normal speaking voice, slam your cupboard/bedroom doors - then your neighbours are going to hear you. If you do any of the above on a consistent basis, your neighbours are going to be annoyed.
If people live their life this way, then it’s habit. Some people have loud talking voices or are heavy on their feet when they walk. Changing a habit is a gargantuan effort. People do not change unless it’s in their own best interest – like they’re tired of paying fines.
The man who owns the unit below us rents it out. When we first moved in, his daughters lived there. We checked with each other on several occasions – we never heard them & they never heard us. Bliss!
Then the daughters moved out. For the last 4 years that condo has been a revolving door for young men under the age of 25. Show me a 25 year old who cares about someone other than himself & I’ll show you someone lying about his age. The entitlement is astonishing!
It is not my responsibility to educate each new tenant that moves in on how much noise is acceptable. That is the owner’s responsibility – he’ making the profit, not I. So I have him fined each & every time his tenants bother us. Although the owner still only rents to young men (I think the suite is trashed & that’s the only people he can find) they get quieter & quieter. The owner is warning them.
Do they know who we are? No! They never will. Both our cars are in the underground garage. It would be nothing for the young men to knife our tires or key our paint.
Perhaps when we move into a more upscale building that doesn’t allow rentals I’ll approach my neighbours more openly about issues. I guess it’ll depend on the culture of the building & neighbourhood.
brentwilliams2 on December 23, 2010:
Great hub, Sylvia, but I tend to disagree about whether you should contact a neighbor directly or call the cops. In fact, I wrote a hub response: https://hubpages.com/living/Should-You-Confront-a-...
I hope you don't mind! I like talking about issues like this, so I hope you are not offended! (When I use the word "you", I am referring to the reader, not yourself)
I linked to your hub - feel free to comment and debate! :)
Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver (Canada) on December 19, 2010:
Thank you, Pam!
Pam Roberson from Virginia on December 19, 2010:
I also think approaching a neighbor about a noise issue may start problems because many people consider this confrontational. I suppose it depends on who you're dealing with. The problem is that many times you don't know who or what type of person you're dealing with until you start dealing with them. ;) Very nice hub.