Realtor.com quoted me in Neighbor Files Noise Complaint With HOA for Crying Baby. It opens,
People file noise complaints against neighbors for all kinds of reasons, from dogs that won’t stop barking to partiers who won’t stop blasting Britney Spears. (Britney? Really?) Yet recently intrabuilding warfare—and a resulting official noise complaint—was lodged against a far more dubious target: a baby. A crying baby, to be exact.
The conflict escalated when condo owners Jessica and Karl Ronnevik in Greensboro, CT, learned just how much impact their 1-year-old son’s bawling was having on their next-door neighbor, via the following passive-aggressive (emphasis on aggressive) note.
“Please consider buying a parenting book or consult with a child care expert,” the missive read, according to local news channel Fox 8. “Your baby should not be crying that loudly and for that long. Try more calming techniques, music, turn on a vacuum, rocking chair, go for a walk … anything!”
File that under “helpful, not.” A parenting book! Some really out-of-the-box thinking there, neighbor! If only more parents knew about those, there would surely be no crying babies, ever. The note goes on to say, “If you don’t make changes immediately, you risk being fined by [the homeowners’] association.”
And apparently, the HOA isn’t keen on crying babies, either: A previous noise complaint by this neighbor, in December, spurred the HOA to send the Ronneviks a warning to shut their kid up—or pay a penalty.
The frazzled parents told Fox they’re doing their best to keep their son, Peter, quiet, but come on—kids cry. They contend that their son squalls no more than any other 1-year-old. The couple is also expecting a second child soon. So they caved and decided to move.
“I don’t feel comfortable living here, knowing that our neighbor is so intolerant,” Jessica Ronnevik told Fox. “It makes me feel like we have been bullied in our own home.”
So Fox asked this neighbor for further comment (he’d left his name on the note but preferred to not be identified in the press).
“I stand by the note and its contents,” his statement read. “Any excessively loud noise that interferes with the rights of neighbors is subject to possible fines, as indicated in section 4 of the HOA Rules & Regulations.”
Which got us wondering: Is this ruffled neighbor right? The experts we spoke to say no.
“The Fair Housing Act generally prohibits discrimination on the basis of familial status by housing providers,” says David Reiss, research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. This is also true for common interest communities such as those under the mandates of HOAs. “So, if a CIC discriminated against a family with children by unreasonably requiring that infants only cry softly or not at all, it could run afoul of the FHA.”
In other words, the Ronneviks could have had a decent case to stay put and let Peter cry to his heart’s content.
“Households that believe they have been discriminated against can file a complaint with state and federal regulators or consult with an attorney,” Reiss continues. “The CIC could face lawsuits which could lead to judgments where they pay damages.”