Common HOA noise complaints within associations that govern condominium communities which consist of stacked units that are located on multiple floors of a building is neighbor-to-neighbor disputes that result from the noise transmissions caused by hardwood flooring or tile that has been installed by a homeowner in an upper level unit. Frequently, such hard surface flooring is installed without approval from the homeowners association and in violation of the associations governing documents, but in many instances the flooring was installed with association approval, but the association lacked adequate standards that were adopted to limit the level of noise that would be created by the flooring.
Owners of lower level condominium units that believe their unit has been negatively impacted by the noise created by walking on the hard surface floors in the unit above them contend that the flooring installed in the unit above them constitutes a private nuisance and expect assistance from their homeowners association in eliminating it. A private nuisance is a condition that interferes with an individuals lawful use or enjoyment of their property. Quiet enjoyment is the right of a property owner or tenant to enjoy his or her property in peace and without unreasonable interference from others.
The CC&Rs for a homeowners association will almost always contain standard provisions that prohibit activities which are deemed to constitute a nuisance that interferes with the quiet enjoyment of other owners and tenants use of their property, in the event of HOA noise complaints. The following is an example of typical standard-form language contained in CC&Rs that prohibits activities that are likely to be deemed a nuisance:
“No noxious or offensive activities shall be carried on in any Condominium or in the Common Area, nor shall anything be done therein which may be or become an annoyance or nuisance to other Owners.”
When it comes to issues involving the HOA noise complaints caused by walking on hard surface floors, the nuisance category that is at issue is noise. While owners and tenants cannot reasonably expect to live in a totally noise-free environment, persistent noise created from walking on hard surface floors may rise to a level of annoyance and a disruption of the quiet enjoyment of ones property that constitutes a nuisance which necessitates action on the part of a homeowners associations board of directors to abate it. Because the noise created by walking on hard surface floors typically does not involve common area property that the association can easily take steps to correct, the association must take appropriate action that is designed to prevent the problem from occurring (such as the imposition of standards relative to the installation of hard surface flooring) or in situations where the flooring is already installed, action that requires the condominium owner to fix the problem.
Although most jurisdictions have local building codes that place some degree of restrictions on the noise that can be created by hard surface floors installed in condominium units, many association boards that have experienced the problems created by neighbor disputes relating to the HOA noise complaints caused by the installation of hard flooring have adopted standards that impose more stringent minimum acceptable noise levels than those permitted by the local building codes. Such action on the part of the association results in a reduction in noise related issues and neighbor-to-neighbor disputes over hard surface flooring.
For an example of an associations standards for flooring that is more specific than the general language contained in the above provision that prohibits noxious or offensive activities in general, see Standards for Flooring
For an example of very comprehensive and detailed standards relative to hard surface floors see: Restrictions on the Installation and Maintenance of Flooring in Units
When dealing with the adoption of standards relating to the installation of hard surface flooring, associations must balance their restrictions against the special needs of a disabled person residing in the unit that contains the hard surface flooring. When confronted with situations that involve disabled individuals, an association may have to grant a reasonable accommodation to the disabled person that allows for a deviation from the standards adopted by the association. Because the ramifications of wrongfully denying a request for an accommodation by a disabled person can be very serious, association directors should be aware of their responsibilities when it comes to acting on a request for an accommodation and before denying any such request, the associations management personnel should consult with legal counsel.
For more detailed information on dealing with a request for an accommodation see: Member Guide re Accommodations Due to Disability.