I am on a kick today about noise issues. Why? I am surrounded by clients dealing with very real ones. Like a client who lives below a condo unit where some owner before the current one changed out the carpeting and padding for laminate floors.

The dispute is very real. The upstairs neighbors, whom I am told by their lawyer are “reasonable people”, ¬†instead of attempting to resolve the noise issue which has been ongoing by replacing the padding and carpeting would seemingly rather:

(1) decieve any new potential buyers by ignoring the fact that the noise transmission is an issue, or

(2) spend money on an attorney to threaten the victim of the noise for speaking out about it.

What do you think about that? I am interested to hear what reasonable people think. Have you ever been on either side? I take comments!

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  1. John Stephan Edwards
    April 24, 2011 | 9:21 pm

    Anyone who buys a condo, especially in an “up-down” stacked complex, should have the common sense and foresight to recognize that there WILL be sound transmission between units … unless the units are utterly soundproofed. The extent of that transmission will depend on the activities of the owners. Some people, myself included, do not wear shoes in the house, so noise is minimized. But I’ve also known people to bounce baskteballs on their living room floor! If a buyer wants dead silence, he should NOT buy a “down” unit!
    And it is entirely reasonable that some owners will not or do not like carpeting. It can be a cleaning problem and become seriously unhygenic. I live in the “up” of an “up-down,” and I took out the carpet and padding when I bought the unit. I then installed full-thickness hardwoods. But only after doubling the thickness of the subfloor. Our HOA has subsequently adopted some rather draconian CC&Rs relative to flooring, with a ridiculously lengthy list of criteria that must be met before removing carpets … including putting up a large cash deposit against future claims of noise. It did not affect me, but may affect my resale potential.
    Again, condos are usually close-quarters communities, so any buyer or owner should expect noise. If you require silence, do not buy a condo! How much simpler can it be?

    • Beth Grimm
      May 11, 2011 | 4:12 am

      Now see everyone, there are two sides to every issue!

  2. A. White
    May 6, 2011 | 5:44 am

    I own and have lived in the lower flat of a stacked two-unit condo in S.F. since 1988. There is an unambiguous requirement in the CC&Rs that 80% of the “wood” flooring in the upper unit be covered with carpeting (dense rug/pad can be equivalent) to mitigate transfer/impact noise. There have been very few noise issues until the upper unit was sold in mid 2009.

    In mid 2010, the current owner of the upper flat rented his unit to a highly regarded /reasonable couple (he’s so lucky to have found them). However since their arrival, they have not complied with the CC&Rs. It’s been nearly a year now and their “heavy foot fall noise” is adversely affecting my quality of life. All my efforts to gain their cooperation have failed. The renters believe I am unreasonable. They do not intend to do anything more about impact noise. The owner, motivated by income flow, has sided with his tenants. To date, they are not in full compliance with the 80%, carpet equivalent, floor coverage requirement. This week the owner suggested I sell my condo or wear ear plugs. What can I do about such inconsiderate people? The problem is festering…

    • Beth Grimm
      May 11, 2011 | 4:10 am

      I do consultations on noise issues about every week. One of the options is small claims (nuisance claim). The pro side, sometimes it gets the owner’s attention and sometimes the small claims judge or hearing officer will understand the nuisance issues. The con side is that the hearing officer might side with the other party. Another option is mediation. Strategies can be developed when considering all possibilities. Check out the consultation form if interested at

  3. sandra
    May 10, 2011 | 6:56 pm

    A recent news story in San Francisco deals with a new upstairs condo owner who wants to remove his carpet. The lower condo owner is saying if you do you will hear “leather sex” which is very loud and could be upsetting to your son. I am awaiting to hear the outcome of this. The realtor felt it was not his responsibility to reveal the noise issue. In my condo I hear children running through the halls and fear for their safety. But are there some issues not worth exploring. Is condo living worth it? that’s what I’m dealing with this morning.

    • Beth Grimm
      May 11, 2011 | 4:06 am

      The noise issues are insidious and never ending. I was just getting ready to do another blog on the topic. In many cases people seem to covet hardwood (or laminate) flooring over peace of mind and quiet. Thats a sad commentary on human behavior. I realize though that many times it is just due to the fact that people cannot fathom how disturbing it is when someone’s unit becomes unmarketable because of noise issues, or that even though a situation is working today because the person living in the unit with the hard surface floors walks in stocking feet and is careful, the next family that moves in 5 years later with 3 kids will be unable to control the noise.