Creating a Condo Flooring Policy to Address Noise Issues
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As a board member, you’ve probably received your share of complaints about noise. Perhaps a resident questioned whether a herd of elephants had moved in upstairs. (You, of course, assured the resident that there are size restrictions for pets!)
So are the upstairs neighbors just ignoring the law? Actually, it could have more to do with the way your building’s floors have been constructed. Flooring is a major contributor to how sound conducts, and it can affect how much noise residents hear.
This is not a simple issue for your condominium board to address, but a flooring policy can help you manage noise issues. These five tips can start you on the right course in creating a policy that works for your community.
1. See what your governing documents stipulate about flooring. Your bylaws should already specify what kind of flooring is allowed. Can homeowners put down anything other than carpeting? Are there soundproofing specifications? These are just some of the questions it should address.
You also need to determine if there is a well-defined process for residents to follow if they want to install new flooring. This way, your condo board will be aware of residents’ flooring plans, including the materials they will use, how they will meet sound requirements, and the contractor who will handle the installation.
2. Consult with qualified experts. Oftentimes, non-experts such as lawyers, board members, or developers create a condo’s flooring policies. These well-meaning parties do not have the specialized knowledge to develop appropriate policies, yet they don’t always obtain input from people who do. Product specialists, acousticians, or architects can ensure that your flooring policies are sensible and structurally sound so your condo corporation can avoid problems in the future.
For example, acousticians understand how factors like materials, building plans, and ceiling and flooring assemblies (subfloors, gypsum board attachments, and insulation) can affect sound transmission. They can tell you if it makes sense for new flooring to meet the same sound rating as the original floors. And they can determine how much noise other residents will hear when a particular type of tile or hardwood flooring is used in combination with certain construction approaches or with different amounts of isolation.
3. Create an approval process. Although some do-it-yourself builders may do a good job, most of them think they are better than they are. Lack of knowledge can result in homeowners using inappropriate materials or applying faulty workmanship. You can avoid subjecting residents to noise issues down the road by requiring homeowners to submit flooring plans both to the condo board and to a sound or floor products expert prior to doing the work.
You should require that homeowners who hire contractors to install their flooring submit flooring plans as well. They should also be required to provide the contractor’s credentials, licenses, references, and any other information that can verify the contractor’s work quality.
4. Provide a way for residents to file a complaint. Unfortunately, it’s possible that even when residents follow all the rules, one of their neighbors will experience more noise than before. Having a clear process for residents to voice their complaints about noise lets them know that the condo board will hear and address their issues.
5. Share your approved policy. After your condo board, your condominium management company and perhaps your legal advisor have reviewed the policy, your board should do its due diligence to effectively communicate the new policy with residents. Your condo management company can help you determine the best ways to communicate the new policy with your residents.
A good way to share the new policy is on your condo corporation’s website and social media sites. You will probably want to share the policy via email and possibly postal mail, too. Consider having a homeowner meeting so you can explain it in more detail and take questions. Alternatively, you can hold seminars to educate residents.
Of course your condo corporation wants to enable homeowners to make improvements to their homes. Setting policies will allow everyone to enjoy their homes with a minimum of unnecessary disruptions.
For more information on how to draft flooring policies, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s residential community association management leader.