Renovations to upper floor unit causes grief below

L.R. writes:

Dear Paul:
We have a situation where a new owner has taken out the old floor and replaced it.  This has caused a significant problem as the owner underneath has complained strongly about the noise from walking etc. which was not there before this new owner changed their floor.

An architect has given us this advice:
“The underlayment rating is a reference to the “Impact Insulation Class” of the underlayment.  It is related to the acoustical performance of the underlayment as a means of controlling noise transference through the floors between suites.  Simply put, the underlayment helps to reduce the sound transmission through the floor – sounds like people walking across the floor, or dancing, or moving furniture, etc.

Typical condominium developments would have a minimum underlayment rating of 50.  The higher the rating, the better the underlayment is at reducing the sound transference through the floor.  50 is good, 65 is better and 72 is better yet.  So as long as you are getting an underlayment with a rating of 65 or better you should be good.”

Should this criteria be given to all owners and be adhered to?  The owner who installed the new flooring did tell the board via an e-mail that they would be doing this, but nothing more than that. Thanks very much,

Paul replies:

Dear L.R.:
It is understandable that the owner in the suite below is upset. If your governing documents do not already contain a provision that requires owners to receive the corporation’s approval before making any changes to their unit, I would recommend drafting one. The Rule could set out how an owner gets approval, to more details regarding the type of alterations allowed, and the criteria that the reno must meet. Such a Rule could avoid the situation you describe. All owners should be aware of the alteration Rule and must follow its directions. The owner in the unit on the lower floor can now claim that the noise caused by the floor replacement is interfering with the enjoyment of her unit.

You are wise to get an architect’s advice. If your corporation does have a Rule that requires the Board’s approval before making any changes to the unit, and no approval was provided, you may have a case to have the new owner reduce or eliminate the noise to the lower unit. In any case, you should obtain legal advice before taking action that can be challenged. I have heard that some condos only allow carpeting on upper floor units.  Good luck.

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