Opinion

Fines for noisy kids forcing family from their home

BC mom Kathryn Mackenzie lives in a townhouse with her husband and two sons. The family is moving to avoid weekly noise fines.

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Photo: iStockphoto

An Abbotsford, BC, family says they’re being forced out of their townhouse because neighbours complain their kids play too loudly.

Kathryn Mackenzie lives in the upper-floor unit of the townhouse complex with her husband and sons Jacob, 5, and Gabriel, 2. Their neighbour living in the unit below has complained about the boys being too noisy for more than a year. The complex’s strata council twice fined the Mackenzie family $50 for excessive noise.

Mackenzie claims she’s not able to parent the way she wants because she lives in constant fear of her neighbour’s written complaints. The family’s unit is carpeted and they purchased a foam mattress for the floor so her kids could jump around without disturbing others. She told the CBC: “It’s as if they have decided we don’t have the right to live in our home and they are going to drive us out one way or another.”

She admits her kids are noisy (but whose aren’t?) saying, “I have a two-year-old. He does scream, he has tantrums… I know it’s really loud. He’s supposed to be loud. He’s two years old and there’s nothing I can do to stop that.” It also sounds like the neighbour was on high alert for noise: “Every time the boys fell down or dropped a toy, every time I opened a closet, she would start banging on her walls or the ceiling,” Mackenzie adds.

The strata council—an elected governing body made up of townhouse owners—issued two fines already. Mackenzie says they’ve been told that if the noise continues, they will be fined $50 weekly. The Mackenzie’s have decided they can no longer live with the stress of worrying about their kids’ behaviour and are listing their unit below the assessment price. They’re searching for an affordable home that is not part of a strata complex, but it won’t be easy—finding an affordable home for a family is becoming increasingly difficult in Canada. The Globe and Mail reports that the average price for a detached home in Abbotsford reached $452,686 as of December 2014.

The situation regarding the Mackenzie family is a complicated one. You can see both sides of the argument and there’s no clear right answer. I don’t know how loud is too loud in this particular case, but I do know from experience that multi-family dwellings can be noisy and a wood-frame construction (as is the case in the Mackenzies’ complex) is not the best for sound-proofing. It’s not always easy to be a good neighbour.

Do you think there is someone to blame? Do you live in a multi-family complex? Is noise a factor where you live?

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.