Tribunal orders B.C. strata owner to stop using hot tub on patio after neighbour complains of noise

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      A tribunal has ordered a B.C. homeowner to stop using the hot tub on her patio for a while.

      That is until Debra Balmer ensures that the bath is running quietly.

      Balmer faced a complaint from her neighbour Thomas Westerby, who claimed that the noise from the hot tub disturbs him.

      According to Westerby, the sound was keeping him awake at night.

      Hot tubs create sounds not only when they are operating.

      These pools also generally have pumps that are set to run at certain hours to circulate water and prevent it from getting stagnant.

      Westerby and Balmer live next to each other at a Kelowna strata development.

      Balmer installed the hot tub on her patio with permission from the strata council.

      The strata council tried to settle the dispute between the two neighbours.

      Balmer took measures to mitigate the noises, but her neighbour was not satisfied.

      At some point, the council indicated to Westerby that it wishes no further involvement.

      Julie K. Gibson, a member of the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal, settled the dispute in favour of Westerby.

      In her reasons for decision, Gibson related that Balmer has said that she drained and turned off the tub pending the resolution of the dispute.

      “I accept that the noise created a nuisance for Mr. Westerby and interfered with use and enjoyment of his strata lot and patio,” Gibson wrote.

      The tribunal member considered readings of decibels weighted for human hearing (dBA) that were presented.

      For reference, she cited a B.C. court ruling indicating that 40 to 50 dBA at a property line constituted a nuisance.

      Based on the evidence, the hot tub creates 55.3 dBA of noise inside Balmer’s unit SL16 with the patio door closed when the bath is running.

      Gibson noted that the noise at Westerby’s home also “exceeds 50 dBA”.

      “Given my finding of nuisance, I order Ms. Balmer to abate the noise nuisance by ceasing use of her hot tub unless and until she abates it…,” Gibson ordered.

      The tribunal member also stated that Balmer cannot use the tub until she “obtains and provides Mr. Westerby with a written report from a properly qualified acoustical engineer that the hot tub noise inside SL17 [Westerby’s unit] and on its patio is reasonable, considering both decibel level and the character of the noise, at Ms. Balmer’s own expense”.

      In addition, Gibson directed Westerby permit reasonable access to his unit for the acoustical testing.

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