Piano Practice regarded as nuisance. Here is what you should do! Part 2

In my previous blog, I posted on what preventative measures to consider and how to deal with sound mitigation for your piano should you receive a complaint from your neighbour(s). In this second half of my blog, I would like to shed some light on the legality aspects of this issue.

I was fortunate to have a student who is a professional legal counsel and had referred me to speak to a lawyer who specializes in Condominium and Owner disputes. In most cases, lawyers offer a complimentary 30 minutes consultation. This legal counsel had advised me that:

a) if the efforts you put into mitigate the sound level of your piano are not successful and your playing is still deemed as unreasonable or unacceptable by your neighbour and property manager, you may need to request your property manager and Condominium Board Members to conduct a sound assessment. Although the City and Condo Bylaws do not stipulate acceptable decibels for the sound emanating from the piano playing, generally speaking one needs to use the common sense as to what is deemed reasonable.  What your neighbour’s opinion or view is on your piano playing sound emanating from your suite is a subjective opinion. Some neighbours may be hyper-sensitive and have low endurance for noise of any kind, and others may be not even notice because of their own activities, such as watching television or listening to music.

b) Should you be unsatisfied with the outcome of the decision made by your property manager and the Condominium Board members, you may escalate (or appeal) your request to the Board to have a sound assessment conducted by an independent professional acoustic engineer, who investigates commercial and residential noise issues. This may be very costly though. Hopefully you are a shrewd negotiator and are able to persuade the Board to share the cost between the Board an yourself.

The Law of Nuisance defines that the test for determining whether there is a nuisance is an objective one: the questions that poses the test is whether a reasonable person in the specific locality would find the impugned activity to be a nuisance. Various decisions of this court has adopted the following statement from RFV Heuston, Salmond on the Law of Torts, 17th ed (London: Sweet & Maxwell 1977) at pg. 56 as the standard:

” The question in every case is not whether the individual suffers what he regards a substantial discomfort or inconvenience, but whether the reasonable man who resides in that locality would take the same view of the matter. The reasonable man connotes a person whose notions and standards of behaviour and responsibility correspond with those generally obtained among ordinary people in our society at the present time, who seldom allows his emotions to overbear his reason and whose habits are moderate and whose disposition is equitable. He is not necessarily the same as the average man – a term which implies an amalgamation of counter-balancing extremes…”

As a result of all the sound mitigation methods that I implemented and my persistence, I was able to get my restriction lifted and I am now allow to practice within certain time limit each day. Fortunately for me I did not have to go to the extent of requesting an assessment conducted by a professional acoustic engineer.

In conclusion, property managers and Condominium Board Members need to be open minded and unbiased to striking a reasonable balance between all party’s rights to the enjoyment of their private homes.  It is only hopeful that a sincere sign of goodwill will cause your neighbour(s) to reciprocate your gesture and do their own research and recognize the efforts invested in noise reduction as an attempt to make living in an apartment building comfortable for everyone.

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