No relief from noise of upstairs neighbours

| 05/07/2017

Recently we purchased an apartment in an upscale multi-storey building here in Cayman. The entire structure is of poured concrete and appears to be well built. All of the apartments feature marble floors that really look nice but cause the sounds of people walking and running or generally coming in contact with the flooring to resonate to the apartments below them. This occurs on all floor levels, I’m told, and in most, if not all, apartments.

The development company is non-responsive to the plight of the owners. Are there any building laws/requirements that require steps to be taken during construction to mitigate sound resonating through the concrete flooring? If so, is there any recourse if these steps were not taken?

Auntie’s answer: While I (and I think most people in Cayman) do not have to deal with neighbours above them, I can still appreciate how annoying and distracting it would be to hear footsteps and assorted banging and moving of furniture all the time.

I took your question to the Department of Planning, and I am afraid you will not be happy with what I was told. Though the good news is that the newly adopted building code requires compliance according to ASTM standards, this only applies to buildings constructed after 31 December 2016. This code specifically addresses sound transmission and the acceptable level of both air- and structure-borne sound “between adjacent dwelling units or between dwelling units and adjacent public areas such as halls, corridors, stairs or service areas”. The previous code, which applies to buildings before the new rules were adopted, did not require sound-mitigation testing.

In other words, “Structures that predate the adoption of the new code will be exempt from the code requirement for sound transmittal,” an official from the department explained.

And, unfortunately, I was informed that the department does not currently have a policy in place for noise pollution, which also means there is no complaints procedure or relevant regulation you can turn to.

The official suggested you might want to take up the issue of noise with your strata committee.

Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (10)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Two of my former co-workers, had rented a condo to share few years ago. It was in a brand new modern building with a great view of a canal. Shortly after they had moved in, one of them started having some weird health problems and ended up quitting her job, for she could not work, and leaving the island. The second one continued renting that condo. She is dead now from an aggressive brain tumor.
    I was thinking that it was rather weird that both of them got ill. Does that condo have some hidden health hazards? All I can say that the bedrooms were very small with king side beds in it. Headboard in one of the bedrooms was just inches away from the many kitchen appliances on the other side of a wall- major source of very high EMF/ voltage. Main breaker box was in another wall that was just 2 feet away from the side of a bed. This literally created a high voltage/EMF pocket and a person sleeping in that bed was exposed to it every single night. I don’t know if that second person had moved into this bedroom after the first one moved out. All I know she died less than a year after the first one moved out.
    The point of this is that building codes should never allow the constructions of residential dwellings like the one I just described, where sleeping areas are exposed to high voltage/EMF. The size of the bedrooms should allow a tenant to rearrange beds away from the walls with major wires in it. In this particular condo, you could only walk sideways around the beds, that is how small the bedrooms were.
    Buyers and renters should educate themselves about biologic effects of EMF. Real estate agents must be equipped with appropriate devices to measure the exposure and be legally responsible for at least checking properties for the known health hazards.
    Noise, like the one described in the question to Auntie, also constitutes a health hazard.
    Lastly, building coded in the CI must guarantee the absence of hidden health hazards that are known at this day and time. Radon is another one nobody talks about.
    People should not be dying and getting ill from poor construction practices.

    • Anonymous says:

      This will blow your hair back. A lot!

      “You might need to inform yourself of things you do not know…. Do not blame your politicians or corporations for this. The data has been under your nose since the 1960’s and 70’s. We were too busy living the vida loca to notice. Blame yourself for staying in the dark so long. ..I know that sounds grandiose, but…..”(JK)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Any cure is going to cost somebody money. That someone is you. You can buy your neighbor a carpet (who knows, if you mention the problem nicely like a normal person, they may decide to add a carpet themselves.), you can install insulation on your ceiling, or you can get the condo assoc. to fix the whole place in which you will get a bill for your share. Had the developer done the work to make it quieter in the first place, you would have paid for that as well. Everyone wants a free ride on someone else’s wagon.

    • Anonymous says:

      You sound just like a developer who doesn’t give a “you know what” about what unsuspecting buyers have to deal with.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It is an easy fix. Sell the condo now , buy a house in one of the eastern districts.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do they legally have to disclose the “issue”?

    • Anonymous says:

      Right, and have noisy Jamaicans playing their music very very loud night and day 24/7.

  4. Anonymous says:

    A friend of mine have purchased an expensive condo in the heart of SMB. An expensive condo doesn’t mean it was nicely built. It was build cheaply in a nice location which have become a prime location with time. They could hear an upstairs neighbor taking a leak, let alone other noises. Needless to say their life has become a nightmare. They have invested lots of money to mitigate this by employing noise muffling solutions that are available.

    Unfortunately this requires more $$$$ out of your pocket.

    Many people purchase apartments and condos without testing it for noise, EMF radiation or radon, or even for mold, which could be hidden.

    The residents of Cayman have to pray that they would not face the fate of the USA with EMF.
    “…..The way they are rolling out the 5G is they are going to put 5G antennas on all of the existing power lines.” So that power line near your house will soon be a hotspot 24/7. This means that you will now also have 5 G signals coming into your house via the power grid “..“lots of countries are holding off on 5G because of environmental concerns and health concerns”.” All with FCC permission : FCC recently said ‘We’re not going to let research slow us down.’”

    • Anonymous says:

      Proper acoustical design is not just a matter of insulation, but includes things like sound deadening matts and acoustical isolation between the walking surface and structure. You need an acoustical engineer to evaluate the situation and recommend a fix.

      If your residential dwelling is relatively new or if you are contemplating the purchase of a unit, do not be afraid to question the contractor and the real estate agents about the sound isolation characteristics of the unit to make sure the building is built specifically to be sound dampened.
      (For newer or remodeled multi-family dwelling units, the various Building Codes throughout the United States require a measure of sound privacy between multi-family dwellings. The Building Codes specify a minimum architectural design standard of privacy of 50 STC (Sound Transmission Class) and a 50 IIC (Impact Isolation Class))


      Electromagnetic fields (EMF) have traditionally not been part of a due diligence real estate inspection and evaluation. This has changed in the last few years. Concerns about potential health impacts have brought up questions about significant EMF and radio frequency (RF) sources at the property, building or in its proximity.

    • Anonymous says:

      “An expensive condo doesn’t mean it was nicely built” No truer words have been written here. The stories I (and many others) could tell you about how cheaply and what shortcuts are taken with developers with these properties.
      For a fact there has been absolutely NO consideration for sound between units. That would cost money!
      It would be a great selling point if they did but you’d want to see proof.
      Yes, I can hear my neighbours headboard and their dog.
      Those developing or considering buying one of the new properties going up (ie Fin on S. Church St. would be a good start), you’d be ahead of the game getting this in at this point in the project.