Resolving Noise Complaints
November 21, 2015
David Degnan, Esq.
Owner, Degnan Law, PLLC
Condominium owners often confront noisy and rowdy neighbors. The unruly neighbor may drop weights on the ground, play extremely loud music, or host loud parties at all hours of the day and night. These neighbor issues are often compounded and require prompt action when the noisy neighbor prevents the owner from selling its property; causes a tenant to break its lease; or, perhaps most importantly, interferes with the owner’s ability to sleep at night.
In Arizona, a condominium owner generally may bring a claim under the community documents for nuisance and other illegal activity for breach of contract. This is an important distinction because the owner can sue to recover its attorney’s fees if it is able to prove that the community documents allow owners to bring a claim directly against another owner and the offending party violated the community documents.
If the documents do not expressly authorize the owner to bring a claim independent of the Association, the Property owner may still bring a claim for nuisance against the offending owner. To prevail, the property owner must prove that the noise “unreasonably interfere[s] with [the owners] use and enjoyment of their property, causing significant harm.” See Nolan v. Starlight Pines Homeowners Ass’n, 216 Ariz. 482, 489, 167. P.3d 1277 (App. 2007).
If a neighbor unreasonably and continuously interferes with the property owner’s use and enjoyment of the property, the following steps are available to resolve the situation.
File a complaint with the Association: The Association has a duty to investigate noise complaints. If the Association does not take prompt action, then it could be named in a lawsuit.
Confront the neighbor: Sometimes asking one’s neighbor to turn down his or her music may be enough to resolve the problem. However, if the neighbor attempts to start a fight or shouts profanities, then call the police immediately.
Call the police: The Police often respond to noise complaints. See, e.g., Loud Party Ordinance, Phoenix City Code, Ordinance G-5444.
Write a warning letter: Sometimes the owner may not be aware of the noise disturbance. Also, in order to recover damages for nuisance, one generally must show that the offending party knows that they are causing this problem.
File a lawsuit: If the problem persists, the next step is to file a lawsuit to obtain an injunction to prohibit such conduct from continuing or to seek an award of damages to compensate the property owner. If the owner cannot sell its house or loses a tenant as a result of the noise, the damages may be significant.
Noise complaints are often difficult to resolve because what is “loud” to one person may not be loud to another. The property owner should document the noise level with video recording on their phone or by taking other steps to determine the decibel level (there’s an app for that!). This will ensure that the court is able to hear the same thing you do each night. Finally, if you have an unruly neighbor, then please seek counsel immediately.