Neighbor's condenser under our bedroom windows

twilitezoneMay 17, 2007

I realize that nobody wants to get involved in this, but our next-door neighbor has moved his condenser between our houses (which are on 50' lots) and directly under our bedroom windows. So, his unit is about 5' from our house! He runs his AC 24/7 and we Might put ours on maybe 6 times during the summer! He insists that we won't be bothered by the noise, but already I'm bothered by his lack of concern for our relationship. Is there some kind of rule (or guideline?) for the best placement of an a/c condenser unit? Any guidance on where to look will be much appreciated!

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I guessing you're noise sensitive like myself. If he runs it
24/7 then it should help mask other noises like traffic. In
a city setting this can be helpful. Newer AC condensers are
much quieter than previously. In hot climates like mine all
the condensers run almost all night and they are usually
located between the houses with narrow lot lines. I doubt
you have a code issue here.


    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 6:15PM
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See if you have a code issue.
Most of the time AC condensers must meet the setback rules.
You may also have a noise ordinance that could be used against the change.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 7:52PM
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pull the fuse out of the disconnect before you go to bed. ( dont tell him) and if mine is missing i know you did it.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 8:44PM
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wow you have a great opportunity to use your statesman skills here. People really can be persuaded to do almost anything so git er dun. Your main selling point is not to just present the problem to the man but have several easily workable solutions prepped and ready to be laid out, plus a offer to assist with the project either hands on or financially as required. If my neighbor comes to me with a problem he will probably be wasting his breath unless he has viable solutions and is willing to help implement them, then and only then we can head for the beer fridge and do some serious negotiating and most likely reach a suitable to all parties solution. If you are unwilling to go to the trouble of researching and coming up with solutions and or assisting with the project prepare to have a noisy condensing unit under your window GRIN AND BEAR IT. Clear as Mud right?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 10:34PM
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Depending on the location of the indoor unit, it needs to be as close as possible for the best efficiency. Sometimes it cannot be placed just anywhere. Electrical wiring may be extra expensive, the lines may not be easily placed in another position.

In my area many houses will have a unit between the houses. Dads house has about 10 feet between the houses. his AC is on the garage side of the neighbors house. This was the closest location. It is also between 2 windows of dads house. His and a brothers. It does not seem to affect anyone. I have seen houses that have multi[ple units almost side by side and the noise can be loud. In my area HVAC is not a luxury, but necessary, so there are no zoning issue, with the exception of the unit not being visible from the front street. Many homes in my area have units visible from the street. Even million dollar homes.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 12:40AM
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Where did he move it from?
And why did he move it?
Building Inspections office might be of help to you.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 5:44AM
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If the present location is where it will remain, heavy drapes at the nearest window will help muffle the noise. Adding a separate storm window might help too.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 12:40PM
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I appreciate everyone's feedback. We live in a quiet almost suburban part of Chicago. And like most Midwesterners, I live for the barely 3 months of nice weather to have the windows open and hear the birds singing and lawn mowers mowing. So I'm not a big fan of AC unless it's extremely humid. Our neighbor, though, runs his when it's 70degrees with a breeze off the lake!! He's installing a $10K brick patio and moved the unit from the back of his house to the bedroom side of our house because "he doesn't want it in his backyard." We asked again very nicely if he'd consider moving it along the fence line in the back BEFORE the bricks wentin, but he insists we won't notice the difference! His friend is an HVAC contractor so it's costing him ZERO. We would do anything to make this work for everyone cuz everyone knows there's nothing worse than bad blood between fences. It's a bit of a disappointment, because we like this couple. We've lived in our house 18 yrs and they're kinda new at 4 yrs. I just don't get it...But thanks again for listening!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 12:57PM
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Some folks only care about themselves. How about a small deflection fence that will deflect the noise back at them. Plant shrubbery and flowers on your side.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 5:18PM
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Scoop a pile of dog poop into a paper bag and some dark night sneak over and place it on that fancy brick patio. Light it with a match, knock on his door then run like hell. After he stomps out the fire and walks back inside he'll probably shut the A/C off because the smell is traveling all through the house. ;-)

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 11:34PM
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I tend to identify with your neighbor, just based on the demographics. Our neighbors across the street, who've been here 40 years or so, consider us kinda new at 8 years. They pointedly ignore us now, after we've declined to accede to their requests/demands involving their view of our property. They've complained about reflectors I installed to keep cars from parking on the grass. And they're indignant about a pile of wood chips next to the street. Sure the chips could theoretically go anywhere on my 2 acres, but I'm not going to let the tree trimming truck drive across my lawn to dump them.

You sound a lot nicer than my neighbors. Nonetheless my point is this: Your neighbors can site the compressor based on their priorities for use of their property (assuming the site is legal). You're asking them to let your priorities override theirs. That's a big favor you're asking for, and you have no right to expect them to grant it.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 10:15AM
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I had a one armed elderly neighbor who apparently was hard of hearing as his wife was always screaming nastily at him when she was upset.

Anyhow he complained frequently that he didnt like my old shadow box fence - it blocked his view.(of my back yard) Fence was there for years before he bought that house, and so was I.
He would often complain that my bushes were growing through the fence onto his side.. I would always trim them back, including his bush branches that poked through on my side. I was always nice to this guy, yes sir, no sir, I'll take care of it right away. He was always rude as can be to me.

I was kind of happy when he died. Suddenly all I had then was nice friendly neighbors.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 10:50AM
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Thanks for your input, suburbanmd, but we're of the opinion that people who live in close proximity to each other must observe a kind of "code" of consideration. If we had a 2 acre lot, there would be no issue. We asked nicely if he could put his unit elsewhere; he declined. Another neighbor down the block was asked by their 30-yr resident neighbor to move their unit after construction, and this younger couple said it never occurred to them to consider the impact of its placement. They were more than happy to move the unit to maintain goodwill. My husband is pragmatic like you; he thinks we all have the right to do whatever we wants on our property--and yes, this is true. I, however, am dissappointed that our neighbor doesn't value our relationship enough to want to find a workable solution. Before I plant a tree on the fenceline, I would, out of courtesy and respect, ask my neighbor if he minded. Am I crazy???

    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 10:53AM
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twilitezone, those last two posts are comparing apples to oranges here. I don't see what a pile of wood chips, a few reflectors or a shadow box fence, none of which make any noise what so ever have anything in the world to do with a condensing unit that is going to run in the middle of the night and disturb your attempt at peaceful sleep with your windows open as you have every right to. It is because of people with attitudes like suburbanmd that I choose no to have any neighbors at all. Check with your zoning board. there may be noise ordinances in place. And good luck

    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 11:42AM
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Of course you're not crazy for trying to minimize your impact on your neighbors. I'm just pointing out there's another aspect of courtesy and respect, that of letting your neighbors enjoy their property within its boundaries, and within the law. I lived in apartments for the first 40 years of my life, so I know what it's like to live in close proximity. You aren't living quite that close, but obviously your house is no more than 5 feet from the property line, which seems more urban than suburban to me.

As other posters suggested, maybe the unit violates setback or noise laws. Where I live, nighttime noise at the property line can't exceed 55 db. As an example, Bryant's newest top-of-the-line outside unit is said to emit 72 db of noise. So that state-of-the-art quiet unit wouldn't be legal on the property line here. If you can show them, by specs or by measurement, that their unit violates noise or other laws, they'd be stupid not to heed your warning and move it.

By the way, 2 acres doesn't buy freedom from noise issues. Our neighbor has a pool about 150 feet from our house, and boy do those people know how to have fun, enough so I can hear them in our house at night 'til all hours, even with the windows closed. And these noises are more "peaky" than an A/C compressor. But I wouldn't think of asking them to tone it down, unless it kept me from sleeping, which it doesn't.

What does someone's length of ownership have to do with their right to utilize and enjoy their property legally?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 4:37PM
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WOW! It's amazing how rude some of you people can be.

Anyway, we live in an old neighborhood, and many of us are adding a/c to our homes. When we had ours installed, I wanted the compressor placed to the side of the house as I did not want to hear it when I sat on my patio. This would place it near the bedroom window of the neighbor who slept with the window open most times in the summer. We bought the quietest unit we could find because of that. It really is very quiet. When it was installed I asked the neighbor if he or his wife were being bothered by it, and if they ever were to let me know. We could put up a noise wall or shrubbery. Anyway, they said they never heard the unit running, so there was no problem.

As to the original post, I would think that a noise wall or plants to muffle the sound could be installed to meet everyone's desires.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 7:29AM
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Dalepar--I think I'd feel so much better about the WHOLE thing if our neighbor had told us that he was getting a new unit--the one he has now is about 15 years old (with the bent fan blade remember..) I mean, he's spending about $15K on this new patio--why no set aside another $2K for a new unit--especially since his best friend is in the business!! In all honesty, I think my feelings are hurt because we've been such good friends/neighbors and have gone out of our way to help them/accommodate them/welcome them and their families. It would be foolish to think that everything will stay the same when you get new neighbors. And I guess I'm naieve to think that the rest of the world thinks like me. I'm going to have to trust that our heretofore good relationship wiill prevail and that we'll adapt as best we can. We can put this to rest, now. I think it's been helpful to hear all sides. Thanks All!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 10:19AM
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2k sounds pretty reasonable write the man (your neighbor) a check for a new condenser and problem solved. Its never about the money is it? But it always boils back down to the money lol

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 12:20PM
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twilitezone, did you ever check with the city about noise codes etc? If not, why not? That should/could solve the issue. A pellet gun at the right spot on the coils would do the same. Even his friend would not try to repair a leak in the coil. He would replace the unit. Leaks happen in 15 yr old units, (in summer and winter). A fifteen year old unit is definitely not quiet and would be well over a noise ordinance figure.

What do you have to lose?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 4:42AM
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An abnormally noisy or unbalanced unit outside your window is a different story IMO. But I think you should drop the "we've been here longer than you" and "we welcomed you to the neighborhood" strategy and thinking. Apparently it doesn't sway them, and they may take you less seriously because of it.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 8:20AM
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Twilite, what city,county, state do you live in? I'm familier with noise codes in many communities. I may be able to give you some helpful info. I agree w/ suburban that the "I've been here longer than you" argument will never fly - it isn't even a fair to bring that up. The best solution is diplomatic - even if you have to offer to foot the bill to relocate their unit to another location. The important thing is, you don't want to come across as "controlling" - people hate control freaks. You don't care what he does with his house, you just want to be able to enjoy your peace at night.

If the guy is a decent guy at all, and you offer to buy him a quieter, more efficient unit if he agrees to locate it away from your windows - he should jump at the chance. You can explain to him "look, if you don't want the noise near your patio during the daytime hours, how do you think we will feel with it near our bedroom during the nighttime hours?" His knowing that it is important enough for you to shell out that much money will make him reconsider if he is at all reasonable. Unfortunately, there are always self-absorbed jerks around who simply don't care about anyone but themselves. Let's hope your neighbor isn't one of them.

The bottom line is, anyone's "right" to use their property as they please, ends when their actions intefere with their neighbor's right to peaceful enjoyment of their property. The latter is a legal right, the former is not. That is why we have zoning laws.

By all means you want to try the friendly/diplomatic approach, and don't give up. Nighttime residential propery line noise limits world wide range from 40 dBA to 60 dBA, with 45 dBA being recommended by the US EPA. The high-end, 60 dBA is really too loud for night, but has managed to work its way into some weaker codes anyway. New AC units generally range between 68 and 78 dBA at the unit (noise levels drop rapidly with distance). Hopefully you have a good noise code in your locality - post your location and I'll see if I have anything.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 10:03AM
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Cinoswelve, I think I'm being misunderstood regarding the length of our time here. We're not really "playing" that card. I merely thought it relevant to the facts in this ongoing discussion. My husband and I are not old and crochety; we paid our dues with crying babies and sleepless nights and simply look forward to those beautiful summer breezes. We've asked nicely and our neighbors (who are both CPD--if that matters to anyone) insist that he's only moved the unit 5 feet and we shouldn't notice any difference. I believe that when you put a noisy machine between two walls--you contain the noise within, i.e., sound barriers on the freeway? We live in Chicago and the ordinance says no more than 55dB(A) when measured from a distance from 100 feet or more--it's about 15 feet to our window!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 11:59AM
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if i read this right, he just simply moved it around the corner and it is now on the same side as your window. yes, having it between the 2 walls would concentrate the sound.

while i feel sorry for you, if the ordinance says the noise level is not a nuisance, then you don't have a leg to stand on. it IS his property and he can place it where he wishes as long as it is allowed in the ordinances/zoning laws. unless there is a setback or other ordinance not allowing it on that side of the house, you are just SOL unless you can sweet talk him into moving it.

can you put up some shrubs to block it? if not, do you have another bedroom in the house? sleep in there if you do. i know you don't like that suggestion, but that is EXACTLY what you are asking him to do, use another section of his property so that you can have yours as you like.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 12:57PM
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David, while legally what you are saying may be true, what her neighbor is doing is using her property to dispose of the noise that he doesn't want to hear himself; that's not a very nice thing to do. She is only asking that he bare the burden of his own creature comforts and not make others pay for him so that he doesn't have to.

55 dBA at 100 ft is not very good. That is too bad. David makes some accurate points otherwise Twilite. Your best bet to resolve this is diplomatically, and hope that your neighbor is a considerate individual. Try your very best not to let things become confrontational because under those circumstances people tend to dig in their heels and you end up only hating one another. That just makes things worse for both you and your neighbor.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 1:26PM
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It doesn't matter, but I'm curious: In your neighborhood, what percentage of the houses have an outside A/C unit under someone else's bedroom?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 2:05PM
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Compulsive Prostate Disorder?
Cooperative Plan Development?
Co-joined Penile Dysfunction?
Cynical People Diatribe?
Cash Poor Dudes?
Can't Pull Dat?
Cayenne Pepper Dish?
Catholic Protestant Dyslexia?
City Property Detail?
Chicago Police Department?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 3:04PM
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Gary G--Chicago Police!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 4:43PM
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he probably has cheap, noisy goodman unit.

I play in a rock band and would be glad to come and practice at your house. We have a 6000 watt pa system which should bring your neighbor in line.

or you could email him this link

Here is a link that might be useful: sound blanket

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 7:17PM
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Using a sound blanket is not the answer. The fan is what makes the most noise. Since the fan is directed upwards, a wall does not help, unless it is higher than the window.

I have seen units where the fan was reversed, but this reduces the efficiency of the system.

If the unit clanks, then you may have a violation. Otherwise it will probably be compliant.

In Texas, where AC is not a luxury, few people complain about noise and get someone to move a system. People expect the neighbors to use AC also.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 11:13AM
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Maybe ckmb5150 has the answer: You sell tickets to the "show" that'll ensue when he blasts your Chicago Police neighbors with 6000 watts of sound, and then use the proceeds to upgrade the neighbor's A/C :-)

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 11:26AM
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HaHA--Now there's the proof that this thread is unravelling--we've all worked out our agressions and we can laugh and move on--life is short, ya know?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 12:18PM
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It sounds to me like your houses are very close together . . . . probably as close as the setback codes allowed when they were built and if that is the case, you have a couple of very good legs to stand on - ANYTHING he places between your houses would then be in violation of the setback codes and one phone call to your planning commission would be all it takes to get it moved from between the properties

You asked him nicely - He ignored you. Visit the planning office and tell them your problem - THEY will visit him and demand he move the condenser


    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 11:09AM
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World War would have broke out by now around our house. Not between me and the next door neighbor either---between my wife and I, for me not taking care of the situation--
You can bet your last dollar that your neighbor is not your friend---he could care less about your problem and would probably take your money for moving the unit as long as it doesn't cost him one cent.
My neighbor had 2 dogs in his back yard that barked and barked and barked and never shut up. Of course they never barked while he was at home (he works shift work) as he makes sure he takes them in the house so he can get sleep while he's at home. He lets them out while he's at work and that was the problem. No talking to this jerk would work. He wouldn't come out in the street to fight, he wouldn't fight when I called him a SOB, nothing would work until I decided to audio tape his dogs barking during the day and play them back to him while he was trying sleep."AS LOUD AS HIS DOGS" That worked and he made some kind of lame excuse about not knowing his dogs were doing that and blah blah blah. Now we still hate each other but I don't care as long as I don't have to hear his dogs.
So my solution is to tape his condensor or some dogs or what ever and every time he heads out on his new back patio, turn it on and be ready for sparks. You'll get his attention

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 12:45PM
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don21, I don't think you can draw that conclusion about setbacks, without specific knowledge of Chicago laws. As a counter-example, in New York City the required setback, at least in some cases, is zero (i.e. building right up to the lot line). But builders don't always exercise that option, because windows on a lot-line wall can get blocked by a building next door.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 1:10PM
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PIEINSKY--I had to laugh when I read your post. I told my DH that his life would be living hell if he allowed this to happen...he'll believe me the first warm night in June...

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 3:07PM
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""who are both CPD--if that matters to anyone)""

This matters and could have been more useful earlier. You mess with cops and you could be in trouble? You carry?

I'll ask again then avoid following this thread:

twilitezone, did you ever check with the city about noise codes etc? If not, why not?

If you don't want to do it leagally, get the pellet gun.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 3:56AM
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DEWEYMN--Sorry you missed it--I consulted the ordinance early on--post 22...I've included the link to the enforcement rules which SUBURBANMD should also find interesting because the length of time the complainant has been in the area is considered under Sec 4 Equitable Considerations. Because the unit is directly outside my dining room window @ about 6 ft., we might be able to persuade our friend to move his unit after all...

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 10:20AM
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"You mess with cops and you could be in trouble? You carry?"
- Are you inferring that they should now carry a gun because they have asked their police neighbors to move their condenser unit?

"If you don't want to do it leagally, get the pellet gun".
- Sure, that's real smart. Shoot out the coil of the police neighbors unit with a pellet gun. Brilliant advice.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 11:09AM
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twilitezone, the section you're referring to says "the relative length of time the source of the alleged violation has existed in its current location as compared to the length of time the complainant has been in the area" may be considered as an equitable factor. I think this is aimed at the case where someone moves into the area and complains about a pre-existing noise. Your neighbor can't claim this as a defense. But it doesn't mean you'll get special consideration because you've lived there longer than the neighbor.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 11:33AM
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twilite, thanks, I missed that.

gary....I was attempting humor. Of course you shouldn't use a pellet gun....against ordinances, laws, etc. An awl and a hammer to pierce the coil would be better.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 12:57AM
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Twilitezone, I know this is a very late response but it saddens me to see how disrespectful and inconsiderate people are. Regardless of whether there is a code violation with the neighbor's unit or not it is a such thing as respecting one's right to peace in and around their homes. What puzzles me is this neighbor moved his unit from his patio because of the noise but he has located it closer to your home, now you have to deal with the noise from the AC unit that he didn't want to hear. Stop being nice to these inconsiderate people and take action. You have asked nicely for them to relocate the unit. And if you step foot in an environmental court or general sessions, it will not work to the neighbors advantage since he moved the unit to the offending spot. It wasn't already there so he has moved the nuisance to you, which may be illegal according to some of the things I read in your ordinance. I hope that you are not taking the ignorance that is spewed all over this page thinking you donÂt stand a chance against these people. I read the ordinance you provided the link to and I tell you what, you have a very detailed set of ordinances to use against your neighbor. You should speak with an attorney. He should be ordered to relocate the unit if he hadnÂt already. Some nerve, he moves the nuisance to you and tells you it won't be that big of a difference. And for those of you people who think that you can do whatever you want to on your property, including making noises and disturbing your neighbors with your yard equipment, AC units etc., you need to think again you cannot do whatever you want to do on your property when it involves disturbing others or breaking laws.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 3:25PM
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