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Condo Q&A: Must I Sign My Name on a Noise Complaint?

A common condo complaint focuses on noisy neighbors, but an HOA has limited options. It depends on the governing docs – and sometimes it’s a police matter.

STUART, Fla. – Question: One of our homeowners has weekly pool parties and the noise is very disturbing and sometimes the parties go late into the evening and keep us awake. The HOA is requiring that we file a complaint and they won’t accept anonymous complaints. I am fearful to sign my name to a complaint, but the noise is overbearing. What can be done? – T.D., Treasure Coast

Answer: This is a common concern and the association frequently has limited options, and those options largely depend on the exact language in your governing documents.

First, if the noise constitutes a violation of local noise ordinances, the owners should consider calling the police or local code enforcement. It is possible that the police may deem the matter a private and/or civil dispute, but if the noise level violates a local ordinance or statute, the police may take measures to mitigate the noise without involving the homeowners association.

Next, the noise may violate your community covenants. The problem is that noise can be subjective, and it is difficult to draft a rule which prohibits owners from being “too loud” because most homeowners associations do not traverse the community with decibel meters to determine the exact volume.

Other communities seek to enforce noise disputes through their prohibition against nuisances. Here, your documents may be very helpful and provide that a nuisance is defined as anything that is offensive or bothersome to other owners. Conversely, a nuisance in covenants may be limited to nuisances involving toxic materials or physical disturbances as opposed to noise. In this context, the specific language in your covenants will dictate whether the association can point to a specific provision in the documents governing noise disturbances.

With respect to your hesitation to file a complaint, the simple fact is that the association will be hindered in enforcing a violation without some form of reliable evidence. If you are not willing to sign your name to a complaint, it is difficult to expect the association to utilize its resources, which may end up scrutinized in a courtroom. There is also no exemption in the statutes concerning official records to exempt your complaint from public access – meaning the complaint may be reviewed by the offending party and other members.

Question: We received an application to approve the sale of a condominium unit and the buyer on the contract is an LLC. We fear that the LLC will be owned by multiple families and result in revolving door of occupants. Is this legal? – P.M., Stuart

Answer: The answer to your question really depends on the language in your specific condominium documents. Yes, it is legal to purchase a unit and place title to the unit in the name of a limited liability company. That being said, many condominium documents provide that approval of a corporate entity as a unit owner is conditioned on the LLC designating a “primary occupant” and limiting the number of times per year that the primary occupant can be changed.

If an LLC owns a unit, it is technically possible for the LLC to be owned by 52 separate families and attempt to run the unit like a timeshare where each family can use the unit for one week a year. If you use the primary occupant vehicle, then only one of the 52 families is the “owner” and the other 51 families are guests and subject to your specific guest occupancy restrictions.

This needs to be clearly laid out in your condominium documents, so the recommendation is contact a licensed Florida attorney to review your covenants and determine whether an amendment is appropriate to help effectuate your goal.

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