What do I need to do to stop my neighbour complaining about floorboard noise?
Property Clinic: We are at the stage where we are practically tiptoeing around our own property
Noise is a common source of complaint in apartment developments and can be a source of tension between neighbours
I am an owner occupier in an apartment building and I’m having trouble with my downstairs neighbour. My girlfriend and I have had consistent complaints about noise and walking too loudly. I can see where he is coming from as our timber floor boards are quite squeaky. We are at the stage where we are practically tiptoeing around our own property to keep the peace, but our neighbour is persistent. Do you have any advice? Do I have a responsibility to soundproof my floorboards in some way?
Noise is a common source of complaint in apartment developments and can be a source of tension between neighbours. It is also the case that issues relating to noise can have a subjective element and what some apartment residents will consider a normal level of noise in an apartment development can cause disruption and stress to a resident who is very sensitive to noise.
The starting point for any owner in a multi-unit development is the lease agreement they sign when they purchase their apartment. This sets out the various obligations of both the individual property owner and the owners’ management company. Some leases are silent on this matter; some specify that wooden floors are not permitted; and still others provide specifications as to how wooden floors, if installed, should be installed.
As such, you should start by asking your solicitor for a copy of the lease agreement for your property and then reviewing this to see if it sets out a responsibility for you in this regard. Your owners’ management company (OMC) or their appointed managing agent may also be able to assist you in this regard as the issue may have arisen previously in the development (and they may even have some suggested solutions to the matter).
Sound absorption layer
Secondly, the surveyor could check if the floor has been cut short of the perimeter walls to allow for necessary movement. If this is not done, then this can cause noise transfer to the apartment below. The gap is normally covered by the skirting board but should leave the floor some space in which to move.
You mention that you and your girlfriend are already trying to minimise noise from overhead. A further relatively easy action is to invest in some good mats which will absorb sound, particularly in rooms where this seems to be causing annoyance to your neighbour. Using soft-soled shoes or slippers may assist.
The house rules in the development may also have an influence. Normally these prohibit noise from apartments during certain hours but, in general, they tend to be directed at the behaviour of residents (eg the playing of music) rather than structural aspects of the apartment.
If you have taken the above steps, and this has still not solved the matter from your neighbour’s perspective, then there may be other steps that your neighbour can take in their property. However, even then, there is no guarantee that all noise transfer will be eliminated, eg noise may be generated through vibrations through the flanking walls.
Finbar McDonnell is a chartered property manager and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie