Real Estate is valued on location, location, location. Stacked condo values can be affected by noise, noise, noise!

It doesn’t matter whether you live upstairs or downstairs, noise transmission issues can devalue your condo. Maybe its the noisy family upstairs, maybe its the disturbed single downstairs pounding on the ceiling with the broom, noise issues can be material and I believe they have to be disclosed if you don’t want the chance of the sale biting you on the behind just when you think you are safe.

Here’s my latest on the subject relating to the question from a client on the unauthorized change out of carpet and padding to laminate floors.

The Board has asked for recommendations on how to proceed with the situation. The owner claims they will walk stocking footed and is quiet. More power to this owner. That does not mean the waters are safe for future owners above or  below.

My response was this. Over the past many years I have received numerous emails and been involved in advising owners and associations on how to “try” and resolve issues over replacement of carpet and padding in stacked units with hard surface flooring. No one wins if the parties are not cooperative when the noise issue arises. That often happens after flooring has been changed out, and the upper unit is vacant for a time, or the resident is thoughtful and considerate – and quiet!

But – at some point circumstances always change! So things can go on for years without a problem and then boom, all parties are threatening to sue each other. The quiet one moves out and a family moves in. That is the end of peace as the under-unit owner knows it.

 Thus, my advice is to enforce the CC&Rs that prohibit the change out to flooring that increases noise transmission. It serves an important purpose and that is to avoid to the extent possible noise complaints. Laminate flooring is not soft covering. It echoes – many installers will make that disclosure because people complain about it after the fact. I do not know whether this owner’s installer did or not.

 Enforcing the CC&Rs would include a hearing notice, hearing and decision. Taking action in California would require an Enforcement Policy outlining the disciplinary requirements, namely addressing the possibility of fines.  There are several enforcement Primers on my website that can be purchased for $25 that outline the steps and the law. If you draft your own policy, I suggest you have it reviewed for legality.

 I generally suggest staying on top of matters and getting the owner to replace the laminate flooring with carpet and padding or have it laid over the top. The owner who just installed the unapproved flooring will squawk about the money – but all parties will easily spend as much fighting a noise issue and this is one just waiting to happen. And, failure to enforce consistently can lead to problems enforcing at all.

 On the other hand, some boards adopt policies allowing for flooring with certain protective padding. If the Board chooses that route instead the Board can give the option of replacing the flooring with identified soundproofing materials or applying retroactively for approval so proper requirements can be considered.  And some research should be done by a board allowing the changeout of flooring to hard flooring on what can and should be used for padding to minimize noise transmission, given the construction of the building.  And any agreement to allow flooring changeouts should be memorialized in a written recordable agreement that would provide remedies if a noise issue were to arise at a later date, and would provide notice to future owners.

Touche – I will offer up the talking stick to anyone with a usable comment.


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