The Noisy Garage Door Dilemma

The following email was sent to me recently. It is a real dilemma. The HOA has to have a garage door – the question is – how quiet does it have to be?

Email

“I was wondering if you could provide some insight.  I own a condo that is adjacent to the garage door for the condo building.  Recently the motor on the garage door was replaced.  However, now everytime the garage door opens/closes, there is a loud noise from the motor that echoes throughout my unit.  I have asked the condo board about this issue, but they have been unresponsive.

 Is there anything that I can legally do to get this issue resolved?”
The real question is – why did things change, if they did? It sounds like it was not as noisy before. I have had client associations where owners complained about similar situations and my advice to the association was to check with the vendor and find out what measures, if any, can be taken to alleviate the noise. It could be considered a nuisance if the board is not doing what it reasonably can do to minimize the noise.
As for what you can do if the board is non-responsive – one thing is to file a small claims complaint for nuisance and seek damages. However, it would make sense to do whatever research you can first to find out what measures can be taken to minimize the sound of garage doors like the one in your association. If you go to court armed with solutions the Board has not tried or considered, you will likely get a better result, which might include a warning to the association to take more extensive measures, or maybe even a damage award for the time period encompassed. If you were to get an award of any amount, even a dollar (which judges sometimes order to make a point), it might push the association into action.
If on the other hand the Board can show that it took all reasonable measures to get the best result possible, you might be told you have to live with it. Sounds unfair, but the key will be whether all reasonable measures were taken, because I assume no hearing officer would order that the garage door be removed assuming it provides important benefits for the owners.
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2 Responses to The Noisy Garage Door Dilemma
  1. Daniel Howard
    January 18, 2011 | 10:06 pm

    If there was a quieter solution but it was significantly more costly (say, twice as much), would that be a reasonable defense for the HOA Board?

    In other words, could the HOA win a court case if the noisy garage door brings benefits to the entire HOA (lower cost) at the expense of an individual owner (more noise)?

    Dan
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    • Beth Grimm
      January 30, 2011 | 3:04 am

      That’s a tough question. Saving everyone else money but making one unit owner’s unit unmarketable might not seem a fair balance of things. How would you like to be the one owner left out to dry! I certainly wouldn’t, and an owner left in this situation might look for a solution such as suing to force the board (and the other owners) to buy the unit! Drastic maybe, but ….