Practiced in the UK, Australia, Canada, and many other parts of the world, common law (aka case law) is a body of unwritten laws based on court-established legal precedents set via individual cases. It comes into play when existing laws fail to provide an adequate foundation for judicial decision making. In contrast, civil law is, by definition, official legislation stemming from established civil codes.
So, where and how does nuisance law fit in? Although it sounds like a tasty baked treat, tort plays a role across legal categories. A cornerstone of the Canadian legal system, tort law provides compensation for people who have been injured or whose property has been damaged by the wrongdoing of others. When someone’s misactions result in, for instance, serious bodily harm, the criminal justice system may employ tort law in seeking a fair ruling. A lesser offence may be seen as more nuisance than crime; hence, nuisance law. I know more about it now than I did a week ago, and in future articles will rely on the mnemonic device “Nuisance law: It’s a piece of tort.” to help me remember it.
When strata corporations fail to mitigate unreasonable noise situations, affected unit owners can, as alluded to in Part I, apply to the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) for dispute resolution. As applicants make their way through the five-part CRT Process, they may consider engaging an acoustical consultant at any stage, ideally early on.
With the help of BAP Acoustics consultants, two Vancouver-based apartment owners recently won a dispute with their strata council, which had failed to maintain and repair elevator equipment. The elevator, and related mechanical room machinery, had caused what was ultimately deemed an unreasonable level of noise and vibration in their master bedroom. The owners’ claim, that the noise interfered with “quiet enjoyment of their strata lot”, was agreed valid by a senior-level Tribunal member, who ordered the respondents (i.e. strata corporation) to compensate the applicants in numerous ways.
In a lengthy document detailing how decisions were reached, the overseeing CRT member states “I find the BAP report persuasive, and I rely on it.” Summarized here as per the CRT document, the BAP Acoustics report included the conclusions that:
- The maximum elevator noise levels measured in the two bedrooms exceeded the recommended criteria in both sets of guidelines*.
- Noise levels experienced in the unit […] are subjectively approximately twice as loud as the recommended maximum when the ensuite door is closed, and three times as loud when the door is open.
- The maximum noise criterion level from elevator noise was over 30 in the unit […] bedroom, 30 in the living room, and 35 in other areas. The CMHC’s guidelines set a maximum elevator noise criterion objective of 20 in bedrooms and living rooms.
- It is reasonable to expect noise complaints may arise from the occupants of unit […], and that remedial measures can be implemented to reduce noise levels by using the best available techniques (i.e. vibration isolation of structure-borne noise sources).
- While it may be that the noise levels are typical of the [the manufacturer’s] elevator, comparing [previous] noise readings [to our test results] indicates that industry noise standards are exceeded.
- BAP agreed with [a previous engineer’s] findings are elevator motor and the brake contactors are the source of the noise transmitted into unit […], and that while the control room wall maybe acoustically week, the main issue results from structure-borne noise transmission.
- BAP agreed with [a previous engineer] that the controllers should be isolated from the concrete slab. BAP also said that the control room fan should be resiliently mounted if supported within the structural slab, to reduce fan noise transfer.
- While acoustic weaknesses in the control room wall identified by [a previous engineer] should be addressed to increase sound insulation, the wall weaknesses were not responsible for the elevator noise transmission, [and that] the elevator noise can only be remedied by decoupling the elevator controller from the supporting floor slab and walls.
BAP Acoustics has been called upon to provide expertise in numerous similar cases, and once again, it turns out that structure-borne noise—for which the Building Code makes no provisions—is the sleep-robbing culprit that needs remedial attention. Wherever and however unacceptable noises originates, we can help you win back peace and quiet.