Condo unit owner fails in bid to end 'noise' from pool pumps

For over two years, a condo unit owner tried to get his estate's management corporation (MC) to resolve the noise from a swimming pool pump system, which his occupier had found "unbearable".

The unit is located below the rooftop pool at Luma, a 27-storey development in River Valley Grove.

The MC tried everything, from hiring an acoustics consultant to conducting noise tests in the unit, one of 75 in the development. But nothing worked, so owner Lim Yew Loon eventually took the matter to the Strata Titles Board last December to press for more remedial works.

The owner's lawyer, Mr Low Cheong Yeow, argued at the hearing in June that the MC did not do "their utmost" to get to the root of the problem, and that the noise persisted.

In decision grounds issued early last month, the board found it was not "technically possible" to end the noise from the pump system, and there was no guarantee that the unit occupier would not be disturbed if alternative vibration isolaters were installed.

To define what acceptable indoor background noise levels were for apartments, Mr Lim's hired expert suggested using criteria from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers.

The expert found the noise in the unit exceeded the American standards.

But the MC, defended by lawyers Murali Pany and Ng Lip Kai, countered that the National Environment Agency's (NEA's) guidelines ought to be used as a comparison. The MC pointed out that the readings from the unit were within the ranges cited in the NEA guidelines.

The board, comprising Mr Alfonso Ang, Mr Zahidi Abdul Rahman and Mr Tony Tay, noted in its decision: "All parties agree that there is no prescribed noise limit from within residential property in Singapore.

"The board cannot import and apply the American standards. It is for the relevant authorities in Singapore to decide."

The "incessant loud noise" was first noticed in 2014 and the MC took several measures, including reducing the operating hours to between 9am and 8pm daily, to allow the pumps to start later and end earlier.

The MC also hired two specialists last September and in June to conduct noise tests in the unit.

The board found the MC had acted promptly on receiving the owner's complaints, and also recognised the various steps it had taken to reduce the noise impact level on the occupier.

It said the owner had bought the unit with full knowledge of its location below the swimming pool and other amenities.

"Any reasonable man knows or ought to know that these amenities operate on pumps where noise can be expected."

The board added that as the pumps are switched off daily, the occupant has some 13 hours of undisturbed time at night.

Noting that no other units on the same floor appeared affected, the board found that the occupier was "particularly affected" by the noise from the pump system, and the only way to stop the noise completely was to switch off the pumps.

"It has happened before but it deprived the other (owners) of the use of the swimming pool and the other facilities," said the board in dismissing the case.

"This is untenable."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2017, with the headline 'Condo unit owner fails in bid to end 'noise' from pool pumps'. Print Edition | Subscribe