By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
What happens when families with young children live in condominium apartments?
Quite commonly, children make noise — laughing when happy, crying when upset or hungry, running or jumping in the apartment when excited, perhaps raising their voices in squabbles with siblings.
And while a parent can take action to prevent tantrums or inconsiderate behavior, it’s not always possible to keep a child silent and sitting still — at least not while the child is awake!
Toddlers are especially notorious for their awkward and loud footsteps. The sound can be amplified through the floorboards, causing disturbances to downstairs neighbors.
Unfortunately, unless you live in a luxurious condo tower designed and constructed to with walls, floors, and ceilings that are relatively soundproof, condo living is going to be just as noisy as living in any average apartment building.
But if you’re a parent of a toddler and your downstairs neighbor happens to be the President of the condo board, look out!
As Shinae Inamori explains, the family is being fined $25 per day by the condo association, until the noise stops. But Inamori says it’s unrealistic to expect her toddler to stop walking or running around a small condo.
Family feels they’re being forced out of their home due to noise complaints
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. – A Gwinnett County family told Channel 2 Action News they’ve been fined hundreds of dollars by their Homeowners Association because of their toddler.
Shinae Inamori told Channel 2’s Carl Willis her 2-year-old’s instincts have been met with noise violations and fines.
Inamori said it’s to the point where she said her family feels they’re being bullied by the HOA at the Wedgewood Condos in Tucker.
She said the first fine was $25.
“The second one was $50 and then we got a third violation that was $25 per day until the noise stops which clearly hasn’t because we live here and she’s a toddler who plays,” she said.
Some condo residents believe that children should live in single family homes. Sometimes they’ll even go as far as shaming the parents for being too selfish or irresponsible to buy or rent a house with a yard for their kids to play.
But charging daily fines to parents for noise disturbances caused by a toddler’s pitter patter crosses the line.
If families can afford to move to a house, most will do so as soon as possible. But sometimes a move is not practical or affordable.
In some expensive real estate markets, the high purchase price of a detached single family home with a yard is completely out of reach for many families. A townhouse might be a better alternative than a second or third floor apartment or condo. But even townhomes share common walls, making it likely to hear noise from the neighboring homes.
So what’s a parent to do? Keep the kids quiet in front of the TV or with video games or an iPad? It’s certainly not responsible parenting raise children to be couch potatoes or internet Zombies.
Send the kids outside to play? Where? In many association-governed communities, there are few open spaces for children to enjoy being outdoors. Tiny townhouse yards or space between condo buildings don’t provide enough open space for active play.
Pocket parks and playgrounds that kids soon outgrow just don’t cut it. And if the playground is not well-maintained by the association, it can be downright unsafe for kids.
Unfortunately, when the kids bring their bikes, scooters, and wagons out into the street, some neighbors will complain that it’s not safe, and that it makes driving within the community inconvenient.
With homes and condo buildings clustered so close together, outdoor kid noise just bounces off all the hard surfaces, amplifying the effect, creating even more friction with neighbors seeking peace and quiet.
It’s obvious that housing consumers want and need a bit more space and privacy, both indoors and outdoors, especially families with children.
Yet most local governments only seem to approve two types of housing: spacious single family detached homes on private lots that very few buyers can afford, or densely packed townhouses, condominiums, and apartments with insufficient green space, parking, storage space, and privacy.
In other words, local government development planning policies create many of the pervasive housing problems and community conflicts in the U.S.
The only practical and socially responsible solution is for governments to change their development codes and zoning ordinances. Concerned citizens must pressure local planning boards and elected officials to amend zoning ordinances to allow for new construction of modestly-sized single family homes with private yards, without onerous Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), a definitely without a mandatory homeowners’ association.