Hot tub hubbub: Condo owner ordered to cool jets unless she can lower hum decibels

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Balmer disagreed with Westerby’s complaint about the “nuisance” hum and vibration from the hot tub, saying she followed strata installation requirements. Balmer said a Styrofoam wall she installed made the hot tub “reasonably quiet.”

Westerby complained that the Styrofoam didn’t fix the problem and was “unsightly,” and he wanted it removed. The tribunal referred a decision on the wall to the strata council.

The dispute dates back to early 2013, when Westerby first complained, about a year after Balmer installed the hot tub. Last year, the strata council said his claim of excessive noise was “unfounded” because it had been reduced to an “acceptable level,” thanks to the soundproofing. But Westerby never accepted that, Gibson wrote.

Earlier this year, about the same time COVID-19 hit, a wind storm blew down the Styrofoam wall, and Westerby complained again but this time the strata said it wouldn’t get involved.

Balmer had sound readings taken next to the hot tub, inside her unit with the patio door closed and inside her unit next to the shared wall with Westerby’s unit, with levels that varied between 44 and 68 decibels.

Westerby, meanwhile, said he recorded 64 decibels.

Gibson referred to a Kelowna city bylaw that prevents a resident from in any way causing “nuisance or hazard to another person.”

She relied on precedents set in similar cases relating to a hot tub in one and an air conditioner in another, in which both were considered nuisances based on World Health Organization guidelines for community noise, which state 30 decibels would disturb sleep in a bedroom.

Balmer referred to a guideline from the Canadian Safety Council for “office noise and acoustics” of 40 decibels but Gibson wrote, “I find the WHO guidelines more appropriate to this residential setting.”

But she left the door open for Balmer to try to reduce the noise to a “reasonable” level and to have the levels tested in Westerby’s suite.

Westerby didn’t return a request for comment left at his home. Balmer couldn’t be reached.

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