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Car alarms and beeps: What boards and owners can do about the noise

March 14, 2010|By Stephen Glassman and Donie Vanitzian

Question: I have been on my homeowner association board of directors off and on for more than 15 years. With more than 40 town houses in our development -- and with nearly every unit having more than one vehicle -- we've got a growing noise problem.

Angry homeowners write the board asking that something be done about car alarms that go off at all hours day and night. To activate and inactivate some alarms, including opening and closing car doors and trunks, the vehicle owner has to press a button that honks the horn. Some owners have a type of backup beeping system that emits a loud beep every time the vehicle reverses.

What can we do about stopping this unnecessary noise? Would the rules regarding this type of noise be different if it were not a common-interest development?

Answer: If the car alarms are activated often by the user or set to such a level that they go off easily, those vehicle owners could be alleged to have created a nuisance interfering with the quiet enjoyment of other property owners. Honks to announce the activation or disarming of an alarm or security system and vehicle backup beepers contribute to noise pollution.

These are pressing topics that boards should include on their meeting agendas and minutes distributed to all titleholders -- but for anything to change, the owners have to cooperate. Boards can also institute their own action providing they have followed proper legal protocol, circulated notice and published rules and procedures in advance.

Although boards may pass rules attempting to address these issues, titleholders have the ability to revoke those rules, thus preventing reenactment for at least one year. Civil Code Section 1357.110 and subsequent sections outline the procedure for boards to enact rules and outline steps titleholders may take to revoke them.

Inside the deed-restricted common-interest development, titleholders are bound by covenants, conditions and restrictions and must follow procedures that exist in those documents.

Titleholders must give the board written notice of the nuisance and request to meet and confer with the directors. Information may be presented during a board meeting "open forum" and at the "meet and confer" session, stressing the urgency of the situation. Depending on the scope of the problem, an action in Small Claims Court could be filed at any time against the vehicle owner and the board. However, titleholders may be required by law to attend arbitration before filing an action in Superior Court. Use the same information presented to the board in court.

Outside of the deed-restricted common-interest development, neighbors can typically achieve quicker redress because they are not bound by covenants, conditions and restrictions and community-based rules and regulations before declaring such activities a nuisance and taking action. Sometimes a simple "cease and desist" letter is enough. If not, a temporary restraining order can be sought using the collected documentation consisting of the number and type of disturbances, along with supporting witness affidavits.

Whether inside or outside of a common-interest development, anyone affected by noise may bring a nuisance lawsuit against the perpetrators. Keep a journal with dates and times of the disturbances and, if known, the location of the vehicle and owner name and address. If an alarm is activated and is not turned off within a reasonable time, call the police and register a "disturbing the peace" complaint.

Send questions to Box 10490, Marina del Rey, CA 90295, or e-mail noexit@mindspring.com.

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