Q: We have some new neighbors who just moved in, and they have hung some loud wind chimes on their patio/trellis that borders our house (the side where our bedrooms are located). I can hear the bells inside our home even with all the windows and doors closed. After exchanging greetings and introducing ourselves, I asked the neighbors if they could remove the chimes since I can hear them inside my house. I invited him to come in our home and hear for himself.
He said it should not be a problem, and as he was saying this his wife emerged from their house. He introduced her, and then asked her if they could remove the chimes. She said no, that she loves hearing chimes. I asked her if she could at least tie them up at night so that they would not keep us awake, and she also said no. Then she started scolding me about how I reported their patio/trellis to the city, and how I created a lot of problems for the selling process (turns out, her sister was the previous owner).
The city made the former owners move the trellis since it did not meet setback requirements. She said that if anyone else were to ask her to remove the chimes, she would do it, but she would not do it for me.
I relayed this information to our homeowners association, and someone called the husband. He said the chimes remain hanging because his sister-in-law (former owner) had issues with me. The woman from the homeowners association told him that he should use his moral conscience and remove them. Needless to say, he did not.
Shouldn’t the association be able to enforce this? The police department said that chimes are a civil matter and that they cannot respond to them, even though they may disturb residents during the evening hours. I have asked these people politely to remove the bells, and because the woman is holding a family grudge, she refuses to remove them. How can I get them to remove the chimes?
A: You could try getting someone else to ask her to remove the chimes.
OK, let’s assume that doesn’t work. It’s obvious there is some bad blood between you and your neighbor. Be that as it may, there are only a couple of ways a C.C&R restriction is enforced.
I don’t know what authority your homeowners association has. Your C.C&Rs and homeowners association bylaws should lay out whether the association specifically has the power to terminate the chimes.
Many, probably most, associations are toothless when it comes to enforcement.
Their bylaws allow them to file a lawsuit, but as a practical matter they almost never do. Usually the expense, coupled with the politics of running an association, prevents them from filing a lawsuit.
Homeowners almost always have the right to bring a civil lawsuit.
But the cost, not the mention the fact that neighbors usually don’t like having neighbors who file lawsuits, usually prevents such actions.
If your association does have the power to remove the chimes then you need to make your case heard. If there are any other neighbors who are willing to side with you, it will make your case that much more compelling.
A strong homeowners association can take care of the problem very quickly.
If not, a lawsuit or ear plugs are probably in your future.
Tim Jones is a real estate attorney in Fairfield. If you have any real estate questions you would like to have answered in this column you can contact him at [email protected].