What can I do as a condo owner now that noisy tenants live above me?
October 3, 2011 5:01 PM   Subscribe

What can I do as a condo owner now that noisy tenants live above me?

I own a ground-level condo – my fiancée and I have lived here for two years now and have never really had any noise problems until recently. There are new renters in the condo above mine; now I hear stomping at all hours (and I do mean all hours; someone came home stomping as loud as possible at 2am Saturday night to the point that dishes were clanking together in my kitchen -- up until that point, I'd been giving them the benefit of the doubt that it was something about their unit rather than them). They’ve got hardwood floors and their entry way is directly above our bedroom…

I’ve gone up a couple times to complain about noise during the daytime – both times I spoke to the renter’s daughter (who is 12, approximately). She seemed chagrined and the noise died down for a short period both times (the second time, she said her dog had “hot spots” and that she was trying to calm it down).

I’m feeling extremely frustrated by this – we’ve been looking into soundproofing now that it’s clear that it’s not an issue that will resolve itself. I am feeling very upset about this as I’m an owner who is being inconvenienced to the tune of several thousand dollars (especially now that we have a wedding to plan and pay for). We’ve contacted the homeowners association about this and they stated that a letter would be sent asking them to not wear shoes during certain hours and to place area rugs down – is there anything more we can do? Ear plugs and white noise machines have been vetoed by the fiancee...

(I’d also like to apologize for any sort of pissiness to my tone – the lack of sleep is catching up to us)
posted by Strang to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a condo board? I'd record the noises and take it to them.
posted by Raichle at 5:06 PM on October 3, 2011

For starters, I would complain directly to them WHEN the noise is being made, rather than the next day or whatever. 2am? So be it. March up and knock on their door right then.
posted by tristeza at 5:06 PM on October 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I've complained during the day when it's happened, but at 2am I thought better of it -- I figured that louder-than-normal stomping right as the bars close here in Seattle made it more than likely that they would be drunk and I didn't want to pour gas on the fire... That said, if it happens again at that time of night, I'm definitely going up there.

I do have a condo board and have been in contact with the property manager (who is our liaison with the board). I'm not sure if recording would help that much since it's mainly stomping noises and rattling.
posted by Strang at 5:37 PM on October 3, 2011

Best answer: Keep a pad and paper in every room. Document for one week. Turn that into your relevant parties. Attempt to make recordings, but don't get too crazy over that.

Forget the sound proofing for now and operate under the expectation that this will all work out. Use official channels, avoid dealing with the neighbors directlyas they are not your tenants!

Make sure the owner of the unit above is notified in writing about every complaint via the condo board. This is his/her problem as the landlord.
posted by jbenben at 5:45 PM on October 3, 2011

Someone will come along and say this better than me, but don't just talk to the 12-year-old. Talk to the parents.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:53 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Before you go spending your money on soundproofing: does your building have a carpeting requirment, and is their place in compliance? Most places require a minimum of 80% of the floor be carpeted.
posted by easily confused at 5:56 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

As much as it sucks...they probably aren't actually "stomping" around, that's not really something people do at home unless they're big into DDR or Tai-bo or something. Even normal walking about from some people can be quite loud from underneath. I've lived under people before and it was unbelievable how much noise the tiny woman who lived above me made just walking around when she came home every night about an hour after my bedtime. You can ask them nicely to not wear shoes in the house or to put carpets in their entryway but approaching this as some terrible thing they're doing is probably not the way to go...from their perspective they're just walking around!
posted by ghharr at 6:16 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Was it a fast stomping like their dog was scratching and banging their bony leg onto the floor? That could be really loud, and would explain the hot spot comment...
posted by thatone at 6:19 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I used to rent a condo, and one night I was very sick with a really bad cold. I was watching TV and had taken Nyquil, which totally knocked me out. I woke up in the middle of the night to my downstairs neighbor pounding on his ceiling (my floor) to turn down the TV. I literally was so sound asleep I hadn't realized it was loud.

The next day I had a letter from the condo board (with a copy sent to the owner of the condo I was renting) saying that if there was one more complaint against me I would be told to leave. Two strikes and you were out at that complex.

You should see if your condo board has the same kind of policy for renters and definitely report the noise.

(I felt so horrible about what happened that I met with the guy and apologized profusely - it turned out OK - but I was awfully embarrassed. Makes me very wary of ever taking Nyquil again....)
posted by la petite marie at 6:21 PM on October 3, 2011

Get their cellphone numbers.
posted by rhizome at 7:30 PM on October 3, 2011

Response by poster: Believe me, this is more than just normal walking -- the previous neighbors never made noise like this (although sometimes I'd hear that dull head-throbbing walking noise). The 2am incident, I could literally hear the wood from the stairs that run from the lobby to the 2nd floor (which is not over my condo -- it's across the hallway) squeaking. This is above and beyond normal multi-family-building noises.

I like the idea of asking the board if there's some sort of renter-specific policy and the idea to copy the owner on this stuff -- I hadn't even thought of that.
posted by Strang at 7:37 PM on October 3, 2011

Regarding recording them... IANAL but I'm wondering if that would violate any laws against recording a party without their notice (if your state has such laws). Best to avoid that part altogether.

The whole passive aggressive thing won't win you any friends but it looks like you've already gone that route. What will happen is that the upstairs neighbor will know its you, and things will likely get catty. By just going and making sure you speak to an adult, you can address the situation head on and at least get a sense for whether the building manager/condo board needs to get involved.
posted by Elminster24 at 7:48 PM on October 3, 2011

Been there, done that. You have a technological problem here and a social solution will never cut it. They can lay down rugs, but now your tolerance for noise will go down and you'll be pissed when you hear anything. They'll lay down new carpet and then the same will happen. You'll glare at your neighbors and be "that guy" at condo meetings demanding a level of quiet that's impossible for human beings to maintain. Why should your neighbor sacrifice his nice wooden floors and worry about your crazy demands? He paid for his unit with good money just like you did.

Look, you bought a half-assed condo. Lots of people do. The developers never want to put in sound isolation because it costs a little money. Its hilarious, because for the dollar its one of the best investments for a condo. Turns out we humans are nasty little beasts and our territorial instincts are set off by things on the border of our space.

Just pay for the insulation.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:08 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think your complaining is backwards. Why would you go up and complain about noise in the daytime, when people are normally awake, and not complain in the middle of the night, when people are asleep? You need to contact the owner - and then the condo association - to determine and confirm what normal noise hours are. In my city, the residential noise ordinance prohibits loud noise from 10pm-8am.

Find out from the association what the consequences are for noncompliance to their request from the tenants, and find out from the owner how the current renters are different from the previous ones. There's got to be some clue there.

But for real, daytime noise is in the daytime. Focus your energy on abating noise when you're sleeping. And focus your energy on the owner! He or she is the one who rented the place, not the condo association. That's like going to the principal when all you need to do is talk to the teacher. The owner has the ability to police his or her tenant(s) and would probably prefer you dealing with them directly rather than getting them involved with the association.
posted by juniperesque at 8:31 PM on October 3, 2011

Best answer: OP, I'm disappointed folks are taking issue with your perception because you've lived there for two years prior, and by now you, surely know what "normal" is via two years experience.

Renters don't care what the neighbors say to them if they are the type to forget your direct requests. When their landlord is pressuring them because the board has brought this to his attention in a formal manner = solution. If you remain professional and put it politely to the board, I don't see how you could be viewed as "that neighbor."


This girl moved into an upstairs unit in my building recently, and she is a tiny thing, that CLOMPS up and down the steps outside of my front door like a Clydesdale.. She is so loud, tenants from 4 doors down the hall have talked to her about it. I know!

You're not crazy. Some people do walk heavier and make more noise than others. It's OK for their landlord to ask them to be respectful, especially since other folks in the same unit previously were able to keep the noise bleed to civilized levels.

Keep your calm, but do follow through via appropriate channels that minimize drama.

Again, maintain the positive outlook this will be resolved and everyone will move on happily from this learning experience, rather than holding the demeanor of, "OMG! Dramaz!"

That is the most important component here!
posted by jbenben at 10:12 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

This tends to happen when people wear trainers all the time:

In a 1997 study, researchers Steven Robbins and Edward Waked at McGill University in Montreal found that the more padding a running shoe has, the more force the runner hits the ground with: In effect, we instinctively plant our feet harder to cancel out the shock absorption of the padding.
posted by Lanark at 12:09 PM on October 4, 2011

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