Sunday, August 21, 2011

Empowered Owners: The Barking Dog Story

This is a short story about an owner whose neighbor rents out the unit next door, barking dogs, pro-active and appropriate action to minimize noise and a happy ending for all.

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The owners M&M, work from their unit, and enjoy the convenience of this work/ live arrangement.

Their neighbor, RM, owns the condominium only as an investment. It is the most expensive unit in the building, and the rent tops US$5,000 per month. The unit is never empty long.

Two tenants ago, M&M were distressed to discover a consistently barking dog, who called for its owners about every 30 seconds or so when the dog was alone, and who had taken up occupancy of the elegant unit next door. M&M spoke to the tenant-neighbor, who promised to 'get a bark' collar for the dog. The peace lasted about a week, then started up again.

In a chance encounter, the tenant-neighbor explained to M that 'the dog became so depressed, we had to take the collar off.'

M&M worked with their board to devise an appropriate and civil process to eliminate the unwanted and disruptive noise. They developed a personal note for M&M to use, that advised the tenant-neighbor about the barking dog and how the noise disrupted both their work and their lives. (Personal attempts to remedy the differences.)

After the first day of slipping the note under the neighbor's door with no response, they slipped another note under the door, labeling it '#2'. Again, no response and continued barking. Thereafter and daily, M&M slipped notes #3 and #4 under the door, again with no response.

The next step was for M&M to document their personal efforts to mitigate the noise with their neighbor, with no resolution, and to request that the board notify the owner in writing, and include the fine schedule in place for noise violations. (Official board action taken after personal attempts fail.)

The letter to the owner produced zero results in barking reduction, but it did serve to begin building the fine amounts for the noise violation. After a period, the owner contacted the tenants and attempted to extract payment from them for the fines, which had accumulated. The tenants refused and moved out.

Before long, another small-barking-dog-loving tenant moved in, and on the first day as the barking began, M&M greeted the new tenants and spoke up about their concerns regarding the barking noise. The tenant agreed that it was unacceptable, and that their dog would calm down soon.

The next day, after the new tenant-neighbors left the dog alone, it began to bark. M&M went to work immediately, and notified the neighbor using note #1. Daily for the next three days -- with no reduction in the noise or response from them -- notes #2, ... and so forth were slipped under the neighbor's door.

A board letter went out again to the owner, who contacted the tenants immediately and asked them to pay the fine and silence the dog.

Wind-up: The second dog has been adopted by the owner and taken out of the unit; the new tenant-neighbors have visitation rights with the dog; M&M enjoy the peace and quiet of their unit.

Empowered owners who understand their governing documents and work pro-actively and cooperatively with the board to guard their private enjoyment, provide us a great example for how to maintain civility and quiet harmony in a condominium community.

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