Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Spring 2010 – page 4

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Successful court cases

Last year we were asked for advice in the case of a neighbour-to-neighbour dispute over loud music. In November the case went to court in Kamloops.

Music ruins neighbour’s peace, bylaws judge rules

A continuous barrage of loud music—from rap to disco—is more than a neighbour needs to bear, a justice of the peace ruled Tuesday. Joan Hughes found C.A. H. guilty of destroying her neighbourhood’s peace and quiet by playing loud music. H. was issued a city-bylaws infraction notice May 30, after a complaint from one of her nearby neighbours.

D. L. told the court she complained to City bylaws in May, after H. started playing music loudly and continuously through the day. The music started in the morning and didn’t cease until the evening. It was played loud enough she could clearly hear every word.

 

“It was the constant nature of the noise. There was no reprieve. If I wanted to sit on my back door step... I didn’t feel comfortable because of the constant music,” she testified. H. did not show up for the trial. It was held regardless in her absence.

Bylaws officer David Caldeon testified he’d visited H. more than once in the past and issued several warnings to the woman to turn down the noise. She always refused and took the attitude she would continue to do as she pleased.

Justice of the peace Hughes fined H. $300, even though the ticket she was issued called for a fine of $100. Hughes said amounts indicated on tickets apply if a person pleads guilty immediately. In this case, H. did not and then refused to attend her trial. The City asked for a greater fine because H. has been uncooperative and has been warned several times.

—The Kamloops Daily News

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From the website of the B.C Supreme Court we chose two other cases to report.

First, we take that of a noisy air-conditioner posted under http://www.canlii.org/en/bc/bcsc/ doc/2009/2009bcsc1403/2009bcsc1403.html:

“Mr. and Mrs. Suzuki claim that their neighbours Mr. and Mrs. Munroe have committed the tort of private nuisance. They say that the installation of a central air conditioning unit outside the Munroes’ home and just a few feet away from the home of the Suzukis, has created a nuisance as a result of noise. They seek damages and an injunction.

The Munroes deny that any nuisance was ever caused by them. They say the Suzukis are unduly sensitive. They say that the air conditioning unit was reasonably quiet when first installed, and has been made quieter through various modifications that they have voluntarily undertaken. They argue that central air conditioning appliances like the one they installed are common in the neighbourhood, and that their appliance complies with the relevant local bylaws.”

This case started when the air conditioning unit was installed on Sunday, June 25, 2006 and escalated from there via the City of Coquitlam’s noise inspector all the way to the court.

The entire legal text is far too long to print in this newsletter. Noteworthy are the following comments by the judge:

 

[108] I will award $4,000 to Mrs. Suzuki and $2,000 to Mr. Suzuki as damages for nuisance. If I were not granting an injunction, the damages awarded would be significantly higher.

[116] On the evidence, no objective standard is available to me concerning acceptable noise standards other than that which is reflected in the various bylaws.

[117] It is unfortunate that the City of Coquitlam has no applicable bylaw containing an objective standard. In my view, had such a bylaw existed, this lawsuit would have been unnecessary.

V CONCLUSIONS

[119] I order as follows: a) The Munroes may not operate their air conditioner such that it causes sound beyond 55 dB(A) during the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and 45 dB(A) during the remaining hours of the day, measured at any point along the Munroe Suzuki property line; Note: b) and c) are unrelated to the noise issue.

[120] Subject to submissions within 45 days concerning the potential effects of Rule 37B of the Rules of Court, the plaintiffs are entitled to their costs of this action.

[121] Both parties sought special costs. Special costs are usually awarded only in relation to misconduct in the course of litigation. There is no basis for an award of special costs in this case.

“The Honourable Mr. Justice Verhoeven”

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Second, the case of noisy parties and barking dogs posted under http://www.canlii.org/en/bc/
bcsc/doc/2010/2010bcsc129/2010bcsc129.html:

“The Fraser Valley Regional District has received numerous noise complaints from several of Mr. Van Geel’s neighbours with respect to the activities on the Property including howling and barking dogs, loud parties, loud and offensive music, and loud vehicles or snowmobiles.

Two bylaw offence notices were issued to Mr. Van Geel pursuant to the Local Government Bylaw Notice Enforcement Act, SBC 2003, c. 60 for September 27th, 2008 and February 8th, 2009 contraventions of the Bylaw.

 

On July 10th 2009 the adjudicator, being satisfied that the contraventions occurred as alleged, ordered Mr. Van Geel to pay the penalties set out in the notices.

Mr. Van Geel has failed to pay the penalties. ...the very nature of the bylaw in issue before me is subjective. Given the limited discretion that I have in this matter and the circumstance that the objectionable behaviour of Mr. Van Geel diminished only after these proceedings were commenced, I consider it appropriate to grant injunctive relief in this case.”

Justice Sewell imposed an injunction restraining Van Geel from causing, suffering or permitting any noises or sounds to be made which disturb or are liable to disturb the neighbourhood. He declined to grant any peace officer enforcement order but said they could apply for one.


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