Q&A: Can You Hear Me Now?

Q Our downstairs neighbor's children always have the TV turned to an extremely loud volume. Our condo building is older and everything can be heard from below. We have tried to resolve the issue peacefully and spoke to them to turn it down, which they always did but it still continues. Our bylaws don't really specify any rules about noise except that it has to be "reasonable" and cannot occur between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. The noise is outside of those hours but it is truly disruptive to us. We are not sure what to do next, please advise.

—Loud in Largo

A “Noise problems,” explains Attorney Rosa de la Camara of the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff in Coral Gables “come in many varieties and are a constant issue in community living, whether it is a noisy TV or a dog barking or heels on the hard flooring above. Usually the first step is to review the governing documents to ascertain what behaviors or disturbances are banned. Even these documents indicate that noises have to be "reasonable." This means that noises cannot disturb the residents' peaceful possession of their units, regardless of the hour that the noise is occurring. Whenever it is confirmed that a violation of the rules or the documents exist, a violation letter should be sent, first by the association and then, if that does not resolve the problem, by counsel. Keep in mind that for enforcement of a nuisance violation, Section 718.1255(4)(b), Florida Statutes, requires that a violation letter be sent. Said letter must outline the provisions of the documents that the resident has violated and provide a reasonable opportunity to comply. This puts him on notice that the association will commence arbitration or suit in Circuit Court (wherever jurisdiction is appropriate) if non-compliance continues. The association, as the prevailing party, would be entitled to collect its attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in such action. Also, Section 718.303(3), Florida Statutes, provides that an association may levy fines against a unit for the failure of the owner of the unit, or its occupant, licensee, or invitee, to comply with any provision of the declaration, the association bylaws, or reasonable rules of the association. There are multiple enforcement techniques available to the association, but the first step is for the complainant to notify the association and get the attention of the board or management to come investigate the level of noise in order to confirm that it is unreasonable and, thus, a nuisance. Once that occurs, it rises to the level of a violation of the documents which can and should be prosecuted by the association.”

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