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Home COFSAB Forum Communication & News ‘Inordinate’ noise: Judge orders downtown condo corp to investigate longstanding

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  • Dana Bouwman

    November 3, 2022 at 9:45 am

    A judge has ruled a Downtown Edmonton condo corporation acted improperly when it declined to fully investigate if a wall in one of the owner’s suites was deficient and allowing in too much noise.

    The ruling follows a longstanding complaint from a resident of Hillside Estates at 9903 104 St. who described the noise from the common lounge that is next door to her unit to be “inordinate.”

    “When only two people are in the lounge I can generally hear any conversation between them,” she wrote in an affidavit, adding the sound was clear enough that she could sometimes make out what they were saying.

    “When a party is being hosted in the lounge then the noise level is to such an extent that it (is) as though the party is happening within my bedroom.”

    The resident complained about the noise as early as 2012 and, by 2018, the board had taken a number of steps including changing the lounge’s operating hours, moving furniture away from the wall alongside her unit and installing a clock and sign advising the room must be vacated by 11 p.m.

    She later testified those steps did little to solve the problem.

    “I am not comfortable in my own home,” she said. “I need relief from this situation and to be able to enjoy the place that I live.”

    A boarded up home along 95 Street near 110 Avenue. On Friday, Oct. 27, 2022, the community and public services committee tasked city staff with drafting a new tax subclass for rundown homes and ways the bylaws can be changed to target them.

    A majority of the condo’s board of directors believed that the common property walls are in a state of good and serviceable repair.

    “We have no obligation to do anything about the wall,” one of the board members wrote.

    The owner launched legal action in early 2019 shortly after hiring an acoustic engineer to examine the wall and finding that “the airborne sound isolation is very low.”

    In his Oct. 31 ruling, Alberta Court of King’s Bench Judge Brian Summers cited the engineer’s report in ruling that the condo corporation had a duty to investigate the wall given “evidence has been provided that it is inadequate.”

    “The refusal of the (board) to at least investigate the issue is oppressive and unfairly disregards the interest of the (owner),” Summers wrote in finding the corporation had conducted itself improperly.

    “It was not unreasonable on the part of the (owner) to expect that more be done.”

    He noted it was up to the condo corporation, not the individual owner, to ensure the common property like a wall was up to standards.

    “It is not reasonable or fair to expect (the owner) to build a sound barrier on her bedroom wall.”

    He also rejected the corporation’s arguments that the owner’s claim was too old, and barred by limitation rules.

    “Just because the applicant tolerated the situation for a prolonged period of time does not mean that she lost all right to ask the board to reasonably investigate her complaint.”

    Summers ordered the condo corporation to retain an expert to investigate the wall and evaluate if and how its sound dampening needed to be improved.

    He ordered it to take “reasonable steps” following the investigation but declined to order what, if any, repairs should be made, acknowledging the case could be back in front of a judge again before long.

    “It may be that the parties will require further direction from the court on this subject.”

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  • Terry Gibson

    November 3, 2022 at 10:04 am

    Thanks for sharing.

    Noise issues are so difficult to deal with. Something I cannot hear may drive another crazy.

    There are very sophisticated companies that deal with sound issues, initiated mostly from the oil patch. With sound issues, you need to go to independent scientists as we all experience sounds differently.

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  • Phil

    November 3, 2022 at 10:20 am

    Yes saw this article this morning. Boards can’t continuously ignore requests for them to look at items that might be a default that is depriving an owner of quiet use and enjoyment of their home.

    This is particularly onerous when it comes to noise complaints. Boards have to do their due diligence in investigation of a complaint and avoid the temptation to say that the request is spurious to write off.

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  • Michelle J Lucente

    December 20, 2022 at 11:55 am

    It’s reassuring to hear the judge’s input on this case. I am aware of some cases where judges have indicated that because we live in condominiums, we can’t expect the same level of quiet use and enjoyment of our properties. I disagree. I have also seen opinion pieces where someone living next to a lounge or gym “should have known better and expect to hear noise.”

    As consumers, we need to understand and demand better building practices.

    The webinar Creating Your Place of Zen – Acoustic and Noise Issues in Condos (HGC Engineering) emphasized the importance of dealing with noise issues at the source vs. the destination.

    · Sound = air pressure fluctuations in the audible range of 20 to 20K cycles per second

    · Noise = any unwanted sound

    Sound transmission in buildings is either through the air (STC) or through the structure (IIC)

    Sound transmission tests have their uses, but also their limitations.

    Much easier to design & build a condo with noise mitigation in mind than to try to remediate afterwards!

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