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CCOC Decision Summary

#373-O, Harary v. The Willoughby of Chevy Chase (September 4, 1998) (Panel: Gardner, Krampf, Weiss)

The condominium owner (CO) challenged $600 in fines levied against her for 6 noise violations and argued the amounts imposed were unreasonable.

The evidence at the hearing showed that in 1995 the condominium association (CO) adopted comprehensive rules governing the conduct of the residents and providing for fines from $25 to $100 per violation.  The new rules provided that the sound of tv's, radios, etc., not be so loud as to unreasonably disturb neighboring residents.  The CA testified that it had had a history of complaints about noise from the CO's unit in 1994 and again in 1996, including loud banging noises.  The CO admitted that she banged on the ceiling of her unit to prevent the person upstairs from shooting death rays into her unit..  The complaints of noise continued into 1997; the CA investigated and verified them and took action under its new rules.  The CO complained to the CA and the hearing panel that she had no control over the sound of her radio and tv because these appliances were controlled by the residents living above her unit.  The CA board held a hearing, found that the CO was guilty of 6 noise violations and fined her $600, and it justified this level of penalty on the grounds that nothing less would make the CO change her conduct.  At the hearing, the CA also requested $1170 as its attorney's fees in this dispute.

The hearing panel found that the rules of conduct had been properly adopted, and that the CA had properly followed its rules when it took action against the CO.  The CA's decision to impose the maximum penalty was reasonable under all the circumstances.

The hearing panel further found that the CO's complaint was frivolous and that therefore, under Section 10B-13 of the County Code the panel had the right to award reasonable attorney's fees against the CO.  The panel noted that the CO had produced no evidence that the fees were unreasonable and that she conceded the noise she made was excessive; nor did she produce any evidence to support her defense that the upstairs neighbors were using unseen and unproven devices to control her radio and tv.  "Where absolutely no evidence has been shown to support the Complainant's allegations, [the panel finds] that the Complainant must contribute toward the Respondent's attorney's fees in order to deter such frivolous filings in the future and to defray the expenses incurred by the Respondent."

The panel ordered the CO to pay the $600 fine and to pay $500 in reasonable attorney's fees for the CA's costs in this matter.

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