Richmond condo owner shares common wall with music school, complains of noise and wins $2,000 damages

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      The owner of the music school says the business was one of the first residents in the Richmond strata development.

      As for the homeowners who later bought into the condo complex, the proprietor noted that they knew there was a music school in their midst.

      Musical instruments and voices produce sounds, and how these are heard depends on who’s listening.

      In the case of Geoff Plante, the condo owner shares a common wall with the Richmond music school.

      Plante co-owns the unit with his wife, and he has complained of noise coming from the music school for three years since 2017.

      The property owner filed a claim before the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT), but it was not directed against the music school.

      Instead, Plante listed the strata as respondent, arguing that it did not do enforce its nuisance bylaw 5(1) to address his complaint about noise.

      “Mr. Plante says the music school creates unreasonable noise, which often goes on for hours every day,” CRT vice chair Kate Campbell wrote in her reasons for decision in favour of the Richmond man.

      The couple would hear noises six days a week.

       “He says he regularly hears singing and piano playing, even over the sound of his television,” Campbell added.

      On Saturdays, the noises coming from the music school start at 9 a.m.

      Plante sought $2,000 in damages against the strata for three years of ongoing nuisance and failure to enforce bylaws.

      He also asked for an order directing the strata to hire a soundproofing company to test the noise transfer between the two strata lots, and remedy the noise.

      Campbell granted the two remedies sought by Plante, as the tribunal member noted that the strata did “not take reasonable steps” to enforce its bylaw on nuisance.

      In her reasons for decision, Campbell related that the strata agreed with Plante that the sounds coming from the music school were disturbing the man and his wife’s enjoyment of their property.

      The strata imposed a $200 fine on the music school, but the penalty was “disputed and never paid”.

      “The strata says it should not have to pay for sound testing, as Mr. Plante’s complaint is with the music school,” Campbell wrote.

      The CRT member related that the music school considered the bylaw complaint and the strata’s warning letter to be “invalid”.

      Campbell recalled that the music school wrote to the strata that the strata “cannot restrict or impair the operation of a business in a commercial strata lot that is permissible under applicable laws”.

      However, the school also said that the “owners and occupiers of commercial strata lots will use reasonable efforts to ensure their activities do not cause a nuisance or disturbance to other owners or occupants”.

      Prior to this, the music school provided the strata a “renovations list, which showed that 26 new acoustic panels were recently installed”.

      Earlier, in 2018, the owner of the music school told the strata that the business "followed the engineer’s recommendations about noise reduction, which was much more expensive than regular construction".

      "The owner wrote that it had also added ceiling insulation later, to address complaints about drumming," Campbell related.

      In her reasons for decision, Campbell wrote that she has determined that the strata did not pursue bylaw enforcement options.

      “Instead, it allowed the noise, which it admits was contrary to bylaw 5(1), to continue from October 2017 onwards,” the CRT member noted.

      “I find the strata was slow to take any enforcement action, and the action it did take was insufficient in the circumstances. I therefore conclude that strata has not met its duty to enforce bylaw 5(1),” Campbell ruled.

      The CRT did not name the music school.

      Available property information indicates that the two-building strata complex with residential and commercial uses is located in Richmond’s Steveston neighbourhood.