CAT Rules Against Noisy Parties

The Condominium Authority Tribunal has been busy releasing decisions so far in 2023 with 5 decisions released in the first two weeks. In today’s post we discuss a common situation – an owner complains about intermittent noise from the unit above for several years, eventually becoming frustrated by the continued disruptions so he begin to act aggressively toward the condominium’s staff and directors.  

The unit owner brought the application against the condominium alleging it had failed to address his noise complaints, but the hearing was adjourned to add the noisy neighbour above as a party when it became obvious to the CAT member that the issue was really whether the noisy neighbour violated the rules against noise.

Interestingly, the condominium also tried to argue that the CAT had no jurisdiction to hear the matter as the owner’s claim was more like an oppression claim. The CAT member disagreed as the dispute was about the noise and the CAT could address the related issues, such as damages, as part of its process. 

The CAT member found that the owner had repeatedly violated the rules with respect to noise intermittently over four years and the inconvenience to the unit owner was not trivial. There were over ten incident reports disclosed (more not disclosed) and at least ten enforcement letters or emails to the noisy neighbour about the noise. The testimony of the condominium and noisy neighbour were not credible, often inconsistent with previous testimony, or more like submissions than evidence.  

With respect to the condominium’s actions, the CAT member found the condominium had failed to discharge its duties under the Condominium Act, 1998, to take reasonable steps to ensure the noisy neighbour complied with the Act and the declaration, by-laws, and rules. The condominium argued the noisy neighbour responded in a timely manner after each of its letters or visits by security, but the condominium’s own evidence suggested otherwise. Furthermore, the CAT member felt that “a response which depends on [the noisy neighbour] lowering the volume voluntarily in response to a security request will not solve the problem and does not constitute taking the reasonable steps required by the Act.”

The noisy neighbour complained that he had to walk on eggshells in his unit and could no longer listen to music or socialize in his unit. The CAT member had the following to say about these complaints:

While these measures may seem draconian, if ceasing to socialize and host parties in his unit is the only way he can avoid creating disruptive noise, then that is what he must do. Whether [the noisy neighbour] will be able to listen to music in his unit is entirely a function of whether he is able to keep the volume of the music within acceptable limits.

The condominium sought its legal costs from the unit owner for sending him a letter for his aggressive conduct toward staff. The owner wanted a direction that the condominium was not entitled to charge the amount or collect it from him. The CAT member found the owner had repeatedly spoke aggressively toward the condominium’s staff and board members. While the CAT member was sympathetic to the sleep disruption he had endured for years, that did not justify him threatening the staff or knocking on a board member’s door in the early morning hours to report the noise. The CAT member was also critical of the unit owner for showing no remorse for his actions and no understanding of what he did wrong.

The owner sought a penalty of $4,000 from the condominium for its failure to take effective action to stop the noise and another $4,000 from his noisy neighbour. The CAT member found the CAT had no jurisdiction to order a penalty for a condominium’s failure to enforce its rules. While the CAT could award damages to the unit owner, the CAT member declined to do so as they felt it would condone his aggressive conduct toward the condominium’s staff and board members. As such, no award of damages was made. The condominium was ordered to pay the owner the $200 filing fees. 

This case is a good reminder for everyone involved in these disputes to be civil and work together to find solutions to problems. The CAT member had a good reminder for us all:

Living in a condominium has its challenges. Communal living requires civility, compromise and patience. Far too often, the parties before this Tribunal have notably failed to demonstrate one or more of these attributes. All people or organizations involved in the management or regulation of condominiums must speak with one voice against aggression, verbal or physical, within a condominium.