Q: We live in a gated townhouse community in Essex County, N.J. When we purchased our unit two years ago, there were tennis courts behind our deck, which never caused a problem. But now the two courts closest to us have been converted to pickleball courts, and the noise from the balls and the players is loud, disturbing our quality of life. Play starts at 7:30 a.m. on some days. We can’t use our deck, and our bedroom faces the courts, so we can’t sleep with the windows open. The overhead lights are on until 8:30 p.m., shining into the back of our house. We have asked the property owner’s association to move the courts farther away and to put up soundproofing, but we’ve been ignored. What action can we take?
A: Pickleball, the increasingly unavoidable game with paddles and balls that make a distinctive popping sound, is causing disputes among players and court neighbors around the country. In public spaces, local governments are asked to intervene when arguments erupt over when and where the game should be played, and what kind of accommodations should be made for residents close to noisy play.
Your situation is different. Your property owner’s association board has a duty to protect the health and welfare of all unit owners. They cannot ignore your concerns, said Anne P. Ward, a lawyer who practices in New Jersey and oversees condo and co-op cases at Ehrlich, Petriello, Gudin, Plaza & Reed.
Check the governing documents for your association, which control the permitted uses on the property. The board has to follow proper procedure in authorizing new activities. Depending on the type of change, this could require a board vote, or a majority vote of all owners. In many cases, these communities prohibit nuisances, such as noisy activities that interfere with residents’ comfort.
Before getting into a lengthy, expensive legal battle, try to resolve it amicably. It’s possible that your messages to the board aren’t getting through the way they should. “Call the association attorney and hopefully it can be resolved internally,” Ms. Ward said.
You can hire a lawyer to make the call, or do it yourself. Let the association’s lawyer know that the placement of the pickleball courts and the noise is affecting your quality of life.
If that doesn’t work, you can file a complaint to seek an alternative dispute resolution hearing. New Jersey law governing condominiums requires that associations adopt a procedure for such hearings and to make it available to unit owners. And if that doesn’t yield results, you can file a lawsuit.
But first, try telling the board about new paddles that quiet the sound of the balls, and ask that these be mandated in your community. The new paddles have been approved by USA Pickleball, the governing body for pickleball, said Bob Unetich, an expert on pickleball noise.
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