Protracted dispute over B.C. strata noise settled by tribunal
A B.C. tribunal has ruled on a protracted dispute in which a condo owner described the noise from her upstairs neighbours as "torture" and "violence."
The Civil Resolution Tribunal's decision was posted online Tuesday, describing the conflict, the harms the woman said she suffered as a result, and the strata council's response to the complaints.
Eun Kyung Ahn was claiming a total of $20,125 in damages for the harms she said the noise caused her, which included negative health effects and the loss of her job.
The tribunal did not find she had proven the noise was "intolerable," but did rule that her complaints had not been investigated adequately when they were first made.
"I find that if the strata had more thoroughly and promptly investigated, it may have revealed objectively intolerable noise and sparked the strata to take further action. I find the strata’s half-measures and delays in investigating allowed the noise dispute to linger and bad feelings between Ms. Ahn and the tenants to fester," tribunal member Micah Carmody wrote.
"I find that a fair and prompt investigation would have, at least, prevented Ms. Ahn from several months of frustration with her living situation."
The dispute began shortly after a family of four with two children moved into the unit above Ahn's in May of 2021, according to the decision. The initial written complaint to the strata council described the noise and the impact Ahn said it was having on her.
"The tenants had been making noise that included children running and yelling, adults stomping, and people throwing, dropping, rolling and moving heavy things on the hard-surface floor. She said she could hear 'each and every step' and had trouble studying, working, and falling asleep," a summary included in the decision said.
"She complained of extreme stress, heart palpitations, anxiety, headache, indigestion, sleep deprivation, tiredness and poor concentration."
In all, Ahn would submit four complaints over a period of roughly six weeks before receiving a response. When a representative from the company managing the strata did respond, Ahn was told that her complaints had been investigated but that the noise did not rise to the level of a bylaw infraction. Although that response included an offer to visit Ahn's unit and assess the noise, the tribunal noted that no one ever followed through.
A period of relative calm followed Ahn's fifth complaint, after the strata said a visit to the upstairs neighbours showed that foam tiles had been put down and covered by area rugs.
"Ms. Ahn said that since the tenants were making efforts to reduce noise, she would make efforts to put up with the noise," Carmody wrote in his decision.
But a month later a sixth complaint was submitted and the conflict apparently escalated. In December of 2021, roughly five months after the first complaint, Ahn "began posting noise recording videos publicly on YouTube," the tribunal's decision says.
In January of 2022, the upstairs neighbour submitted a noise complaint to the strata alleging that Ahn had "connected a speaker to the ceiling and played a variety of 'zombie music [and] bad annoying sounds like someone banging,'" it said, also alleging Ahn had "spoken profanities through the speaker."
The next day, Ahn was notified that she had been fined $400: $200 for breaching the noise bylaw and $200 for "harassment," the tribunal decision says.
Testing was conducted later that year – 15 months after the initial complaint – and the strata concluded its investigation by finding that the tenants had not violated the noise bylaw. Ahn filed her claim with the tribunal the following month, saying the noise persisted.
The tribunal awarded Ahn $1,000 in damages as compensation for the way the strata responded to the complaints.
"I find the strata took too long to investigate Ms. Ahn’s complaints, did not take sufficient investigative steps, had no rational basis for concluding that the bylaws were not contravened, and did not consider each complaint on its merits," Carmody wrote.
"I find the strata violated Ms. Ahn’s reasonably-held expectation that it would fairly and reasonably investigate her noise complaints, which was burdensome and unjust. I find the strata was significantly unfair to Ms. Ahn."
The fines the strata imposed on Ahn for violating the noise bylaw were also reversed.
The tribunal did not find there was sufficient evidence to support Ahn's claim that the noise, which she described as "vivid," "unbearable," "torture," and "violence" was objectively intolerable.
Her claim for $20,125 worth of damages was dismissed for that reason and because she had not provided evidence of the negative impacts the noise had on her health or her career.
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