Sleepless nights: Noisy BC man ordered to pay $5,000 to downstairs neighbours

May 17 2023, 4:55 pm

A resident who was living above two people in a four-storey building in BC has been ordered to pay them nearly $5,000 after they filed a small claim against him over a noise nuisance that lasted months. 

Patrick Edward Knowlan and Shan He said they started to hear noise coming from above them at night in November 2021. 

They describe the racket as a “series of intermittent taps with what sounds like a glass or steel ball or disc” hitting the bare concrete floor. By January 2022, they said the noise got more frequent.

In late March, Knowlan emailed their upstairs neighbour, Alan Zenuk, that he had pinpointed the noise and was certain it was coming from a hard object contacting the floor in Zenuk’s bedroom. 

Knowlan asked Zenuk to find out what was causing the noise and stop up, but Zenuk was apparently “mystified” as to what could be causing the noise and asked Knowlan to stop the accusations. 

Knowlan and He said the noise is so bad they haven’t been able to enjoy quiet in their home. 

Zenuk denied making the noise and instead filed a counterclaim for the stress and anxiety he said resulted from the pairs’ wrongful accusations.

Strata investigation

Knowlan and He informed and provided dozens of noise recordings to the strata that have bylaws which prohibit residents from causing a nuisance, unreasonable noise, or “unreasonably interfering with a person’s right to use and enjoy their strata lot.”

The Civil Resolution Tribunal decision goes on to read that according to a letter from the strata to Zenuk, he prevented the council from entering the unit to investigate the noise complaint, arguing it is “impractical and invasive.”

Zenuk told the strata that Knowlan was bullying him, harassing him, and invading his privacy. 

Knowlan did admit he banged on the ceiling once in response to hearing noise from his ceiling.

Knowlan and He said they logged the number of “strikes” they heard from above their unit and that they doubled in September 2022, then doubled again in October. They said they documented 38,621 strikes in the last three months of 2022, an average of 316 strikes per day.

“They describe the noise in late 2022 as long sequences of Morse-code-like tapping,” the decision reads.

Knowlan and He also provided five signed witness statements — three of which were current or former strata council members who attended the unit above to hear the noise. 

“In general, the witnesses consistently heard loud rapping or banging coming from unit 102’s bedroom ceiling. Many witnesses said they could pinpoint the noise to a specific area of the ceiling within a few feet. They generally said it lasted for a few minutes and was repetitive but irregular or inconsistent.” 

110 noise samples

Knowlan and He were able to record the noise levels on their iPhones. 

Based on the more than 110 noise samples, many of which were logged between 10 pm and 1 am, the tribunal member heard, “I find noise at that volume and time of night would likely disturb an ordinary person’s sleep.”

“The applicants report that their habitual 10 pm bedtime was either delayed or they were awakened on 63% of the nights in the last nine months of 2022. Mr. Knowlan says it wakes him even though he wears industrial earplugs to bed,” tribunal member Micah Carmody said. 

“The applicants say they can no longer retire at their customary 10 pm bedtime because it is impossible to sleep anticipating the ‘near-nightly barrage’ of noise.”

The Carmody added they found the strikes were loud and disruptive and the noise was loudest in the applicants’ bedroom, “which makes them particularly disruptive given their timing and their inconsistent nature.” 

“I find a reasonable person living in unit 102 [where Knowlan and He live] would find this degree of noise disturbance intolerable.”

Zenuk claims the noise must be coming from somewhere outside his strata lot and suggests the noise comes from building mechanical equipment.

However, the strata council tested Zenuk’s hypothesis for 10 nights, and the applicants’ noise logs show that noise continued.

According to Zenuk’s physician, the respondent is dealing with mental health problems and receiving treatment. “The symptoms have worsened in the last year, and the respondent believes this to be for unstated ‘external reasons,'” the decision reads. 

However, Carmody said, “I find this is insufficient to establish any causal connection between the respondent’s anxiety and the applicant’s conduct.”

Given the applicants’ evidence and noise logs, the tribunal awarded the applicants $4,500 in nuisance damages.

In total, Zenuk was ordered to pay $4,778.94, which included pre-judgment interest and CRT fees. 

Nikitha MartinsNikitha Martins

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