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Acoustical problems sound familiar

DEAR BENNY: We purchased a condo four years ago and for the last two years we’ve had a problem with our upstairs neighbor. Their floor above our bedroom squeaks when they walk on it.

We can tolerate it during the day, but it is ruining our lives at night because we can’t get any sleep. The noise seems to be a problem only during the summer months when it is humid.

Our neighbor denies that there is a problem, and the association did nothing to help us last year. According to our documents, quiet time is from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. We have had enough of this and need to solve the problem.

My questions are this: Who is responsible for repairing the floor, the condominium association or the upstairs neighbor, and can we demand that it be done? We have a new board of directors and a new management company and they seem to be more sympathetic. –William

DEAR WILLIAM: Unfortunately, you are not alone. Too many new developments that were built in recent years have acoustical problems. And I suspect that your association legal documents define the floors as “units” and not “common elements.”

Do you have proof of the noise? While board members will not like this advice, I recommend that when you hear the noise in the middle of the night, call your property manager — and your board members — and invite them to visit your unit and hear the noise themselves.

Some boards will be cooperative and arrange to hire an acoustical engineer to provide a written report. The report will contain two things: (1) a summary as to the extent of the noise and (2) a recommendation as to how to correct the problem.

If your board of directors is unwilling to pay for this report, you will have to do it on your own.

I am sure that your condo documents contain language prohibiting noise in the units. Once you have the proof (and the engineer’s report), confront the board and remind them that they have a fiduciary duty to enforce the legal documents of your association. You should also provide a copy of the report to your upstairs neighbor so that he is aware of the problem.

Often, the noise problem is resolved simply by putting carpeting throughout the unit. Suggest to your neighbor that before you get involved in a legal battle, he should understand your concerns and be cooperative.

Ultimately, you may have to retain legal counsel to assist you. Hopefully, however, now that you have a more sympathetic board — and property manager — you will all be able to resolve this problem amicably.

DEAR BENNY: Someone in my church may need to go the reverse-mortgage route in order to stay in her home due to a divorce. Can you point me to any printed overview of reverse-mortgage companies? –Pete

DEAR PETE: Thanks for writing. I make it a practice not to make any recommendations of any private companies. However, I do recommend that you contact AARP, since they have done a lot of work — and research — into reverse mortgages. You can locate them on the Internet: aarp.org and type in “reverse mortgage.”

Benny Kass is a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. No legal relationship is created by this column. Questions for this column can be submitted to benny@inman.com.

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