Lawsuit against noisy neighbours nets frustrated B.C. condo owners $2,500 in damages

A woman covers her head with a pillow in a stock image.

Loud music and lively conversations have cost two B.C. condo owners upwards of $2,500 after they were sued by their downstairs neighbours over many nights of disrupted sleep.

In a ruling posted online last week, the province's Civil Resolution Tribunal found Seyed Mohsen Hashemi Sefat and Hirad Abbaspour liable for "unreasonable noise" coming from their unit between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on 16 different nights from February through August 2020.

Downstairs neighbours Yang Chu and Felix Tan said the racket coming from the home was sometimes so loud, they were forced to go sleep at a relative's place.

While Sefat and Abbaspour denied causing a nuisance, the tribunal noted that their neighbours came equipped with thorough evidence that included "several sound recordings, emails to the property manager written when the noise was observed, text messages with the respondents about the noise while it was happening, and statements from other strata residents."

There was also a video that captured a live decibel reading outside Sefat and Abbaspour's front door.

"The sound recorded is loud conversation and repetitive music with a significant bass component," tribunal member Julie K. Gibson wrote in her decision.

"The applicants' noise recordings show noise over 50 decibels at some times, which I find is an unreasonable volume at night in a multi-unit residential building."

The decision doesn't specify where the parties live, but points to a noise bylaw in the City of Burnaby that limits residents to 45 dBA – the measurement of decibels weighted based on human hearing – after 10 p.m.

Sefat and Abbaspour argued the dispute should be handled by the building's strata, which has a bylaw banning unreasonable noise, but were overruled. Gibson noted B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal Act allows the small claims court jurisdiction over some strata matters.

Chu and Tan asked for $200 per night of unreasonable noise, for a total of $3,200, as well as $795 in compensation for three days they claimed to have taken off work due to lack of sleep.

Gibson said the condo owners failed to present evidence of their time off work, and used a different formula for compensation based on previous decisions related to noise nuisances.

She awarded Chu and Tan $2,500 in damages, plus about $335 in fees and pre-judgment interest.