In gyms around the country, dropping weights is generally seen as violating workout etiquette. In condominiums, this might be violating something more severe. In November 2023 alone, the Condominium Authority Tribunal (“CAT”) decided three cases relating to unreasonable noise and vibrations stemming from condo gyms. Some amount of noise is to be expected when living near a gym, but in all three cases, the CAT ruled that the noise was unreasonable and ordered the respective condos to make changes to their respective gyms.
As we will see, the three cases follow a pattern. The unit owner will complain about the noise and vibration from the dropped weights. The condo either does not take the complaint seriously or argues with the owner.
Our first example follows this exactly. In Reany v Waterloo Standard CC 670, 2023 ONCAT 163, the unit owner lived on the same floor as the gym and complained about the sound and vibration of dropped weights. The condominium did not seem to take this seriously: it took three years for the condo to attend the unit and hear the sounds for itself, and that was only after the unit owner filed the case with the CAT.
The CAT relied on three factors when assessing the noise: its frequency (gym open 14-hours per day), its timing (several early morning complaints) and its impact (“above average” rating based on an acoustical engineering report). All of this pointed to an unreasonable noise nuisance.
The condominium, to its credit, started posting signage and looking to soundproof the floor in an effort to minimize the noise and vibration. Because the dropping weights were the main complaint, the CAT ordered the weights removed until the floor repairs were complete.
Next, in Park v Toronto Standard CC 2775, 2023 ONCAT 171, the parties appeared to have considerably animosity. The condominium took the complaints seriously and did a number of things right: it sent emails to owners and posted notices about not dropping weights, installed security cameras to catch offenders and commissioned an expert report. The board refused, however, to enter the unit and experience the sound for itself. As a result, the CAT characterized the condominium as using its resources “to try to establish that Mr. Park is not experiencing unreasonable noise,” rather than looking for a mutual solution. The condominium was ordered to make a proper investigation and make a plan to address the noise.
Finally, Gamat et al v TSCC 2745, 2023 ONCAT 169 is similar. The condominium again took complaints seriously, soundproofing portions of the gym, posting warning signs and writing compliance letters to known gym-users that dropped weights. However, the condominium seemed to favour the majority of owners that wanted to use the gym over the minority that were complaining about the noise. For example, the condominium relied on an owner survey to determine the gym hours, which at times opened as early as 4am. Like the other cases, no board member personally attended the units to hear the noise.
Because the complainants did not produce an expert report, the CAT was limited in what remedy it could order. Repairs to the floor, for example, may have been optimal, but the CAT had no evidence in support of this. Instead, it prohibited the use of free weights before 8am and after 9pm.
The Bottom Line
In all three cases, a sense of “buyer beware” seemed to animate the condominium’s response. “Of course there is noise coming from the gym! You should have realized that before buying your unit.” This thought process, natural as it may seem, may have encouraged the condominiums to dismiss, or even actively argue against, the unit owners’ claims, rather than objectively investigate the complaints. No one will confuse living near a gym with living near a library, but gym noise can nonetheless become unreasonable, and the condominium, regardless of how it might feel about the merits, has a duty to investigate such claims.
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