Unit owner cannot sleep due to noise from unit above

S.W.writes:

Dear Paul:

I have lived in my condo for over 10 years. I never had an issue with the older gentleman that lived above me. But about one year ago he moved to a seniors’ home. A lady moved in and she changed the flooring from hardwood to engineered flooring. She babysits her grandchildren during the day. I am going insane with the noise. I can hear children running I can hear her flush the toilet and run water I can even hear her walking across the floor. I cannot sleep due to the noise.

So, I complained to the management company.

I cannot take a nap during the day and at night as soon as she flushes the toilet I wake up, I am crying all day and I need to get medication to help me relax.

The management company investigated the flooring underlay and has told me it exceeds the underlay policy for the property. They said they spoke to the owner above me and she never wears shoes in the apartment. The manager told me that hearing the toilet flush or water run is normally living noise. I told them they are taking her word over mine. They denied it and said there is always to sides to every story and they cannot help any more with this.

They had the nerve to refer to Condo Act that apparently says if two owners have a dispute they can go to mediation. I don’t want to do that why should I, I have done nothing wrong.  I want the management to do their job.

Paul replies:

Dear S.W.:

I am sorry that you find yourself in this situation. Community living does not always go according to plan, and conditions will change over time. I am sure you realize that noise is a normal part of high-rise condominium living, there is no escaping it. I agree with you that sometimes it may become a nuisance. How great a nuisance depends on each individual’s reaction.  A sound that may be unbearable for one person may be quite acceptable to another.

You mention that the new owner above your unit changed the flooring. While I am not an expert in this area, I do know that there is not much difference in sound transmission between a hardwood floor and an engineered hardwood floor. Sound will usually cause any hard surface to reverberate.

The older gentleman that used live above you probably did not move very much, and as a result the noise he did make was less noticeable. Unless he  had health issues, I am sure that he flushed the toilet and ran water for bathing and making meals. This is to be expected. Since you have been for 10 years, you were probably accustomed to his noise habits and adapted to them.

Children will run around and jump. You may want to ask your upstairs neighbour if she could create a quiet time (maybe 45 minutes) in the morning and afternoon for the kids to rest and also provide you with a bit of respite. I understand from your message that the grandchildren are only present during the day. I would assume that it is quieter at night. Your previous upstairs neighbour I am sure used the toilet facilities at night. I am at a loss to understand what noise is left that is different now preventing you from sleeping.

I believe that the Board did its due diligence by speaking with the unit owner and checking the flooring underlay.

I would urge to check your governing documents to determine if there exists a “quiet time” provision. This provision is  usually found in bylaws and specifies when the quiet hours should be in effect. For instance, several condominiums establish quiet time to be from 10:00 PM or 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM or 8:00 AM. This is considered reasonable.

You have done nothing wrong. Unfortunately, none of us live in a bubble and we must all strive to respect and tolerate each other’s imperfections. If you do not want to go the mediation route to see if you and your neighbour can find a solution, all I can suggest is to invest in a pair of earplugs or look into the possible benefits of a white noise machine. There are no guarantees it would work for you, but these are possible options aside from relocating to a higher floor.

I wish you well!

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