Q: I am having problems with a neighbor downstairs. Since my boyfriend moved in, she has been complaining about noise.
I’ll admit that he has a “heavy” walk, but we have made numerous accommodations to try to relieve this situation. We now never wear shoes in the house. We bought foam-bottomed flip-flops to help with his heavy step and have done everything we can think of to appease her and work out this situation.
Unfortunately, she is on the board and has convinced the entire board that we are bad neighbors. One of the board members said and I quote, “She makes it sound like you lace up your combat boots everyday and stomp around to make her miserable.”
I don’t understand where this is coming from. We don’t play loud music nor do we have parties. All we do is live. We walk in our home. We are not devious or mean. We are not trying to upset anyone but this whole situation has made us completely miserable in our home.
I cringe every time I step, the dog barks, or my boyfriend walks to the back of the unit.
I am at the end of my rope and don’t know what to do. I feel harassed by our downstairs neighbor and the board (one member told me not to have guests or parties in my home), and nobody will listen to our side or try to resolve.
There is a meeting on Saturday with them where I think they will try to fine me (even though I have never been formally warned by the board) and I do not think it is warranted. Do you have suggestions or can you help?
A: Unfortunately, condo living is about neighbors. Neighbors who are wonderful, neighbors who are nightmarish, neighbors who are judgmental, and those who have very sensitive hearing.
Your first move should be to go to the condo board meeting and stand up for yourself. You are also an owner and you must be able to enjoy yourself in your own home, which includes having the ability to walk to the back or front of your condominium.
But, you have to feel bad for your neighbor downstairs as well. Unless she’s making this up because she doesn’t “approve” of you or perhaps your lifestyle choice, she’s in a tough spot, too. It doesn’t appear that she complained before your boyfriend moved in, so now she, too, can’t enjoy her home.
Ultimately, both you and she will have to compromise if you’re going to live as neighbors. If that’s impossible, either you, or she, will have to move.
By the way, should your board start to fine you for noise violations, I would ask them to put the fine on hold, reconvene in your neighbor’s apartment, so that the board (and you) can hear for yourselves how bad this sounds. It’s entirely possible that there is no sound-proofing between your units, and the noise is truly unbearable.
In some cases, you might benefit from a sound specialist — a person who specializes in minimizing sound in condominium buildings. If you have hardwood floors in your unit, you might benefit from the use of area rugs with thick padding. Wall to wall carpeting helps minimize sound between floors in units. While some of these suggestions may not be the most desirable, they may help your neighbor and may help you out.
If the sound specialist suggests some changes, it might be that the building would be willing to pay for some of the changes. But you will need to attend the building meetings to make sure you know what is going on and make a case that it is not you or your boyfriend that are the cause of the problem, but the building itself and that you are trying to do your share in minimizing the noise.
You may also wish to speak to a real estate attorney to discuss representing you before the board. You might want to do this before you meeting to see if he or she has any other ideas. It might also be a good idea if the attorney attended the meeting as well. If everyone gangs up on you, you’ll need someone on your side who can help keep the situation in check.
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