Q. My upstairs neighbor is planning to combine apartments and put their new living room over my bedroom. I'm concerned about the potential for noise (they have two young children).  

Do I have a right to ask the board to require them to soundproof their floor? If so, what exactly are the measures they should take?

A.  You can certainly ask, but you might not receive, according to our BrickTank experts.

“Change of use”—i.e., putting a living room where none existed before—“is a big issue and an appropriate concern,” says Paul Herman, president of Brown Harris Stevens Residential Management.

Ideally, the board would require your neighbor to install the right sort of subflooring to minimize sound and also to promise (in writing) to lay down wall-to-wall carpeting as well.

That sort of requirement is perfectly within your board’s power, says real estate lawyer Dean Roberts.

In addition, says attorney Jeffrey Reich, “more and more buildings are prohibiting living spaces (including living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens etc) over bedroom spaces to avoid this type of problem.”

You might also be wise to put your concerns in writing to the both the managing agent and board in case things spiral out of hand down the road and you (or your board) resort to legal action against your neighbor, suggests Herman.

But one of our experts thinks proceeding along official channels could be counterproductive right now.

Melissa Appleton, the community outreach coordinator of Safe Horizon’s Manhattan Mediation Center, suggests approaching your neighbor directly.

“This will likely avert the defensive response you would likely get if the ‘authorities’ are involved,” says Appleton.

Sit down together and explain your concerns without attacking your neighbors.  

“It may also be useful to share that you value a respectful relationship with your neighbors and your intention in meeting is to prevent problems in advance,” says Appleton.  

“Work together in reaching a solution,” she says. “Offer soundproofing as one idea you’ve considered, but see if they have any other ideas.  And if the discussion comes down to money, you’ll need to decide whether you’re willing to contribute to the project—if anything, they may be more willing to agree if you demonstrate your appreciation.”

As far as expense, the only way to soundproof a floor is to remove it, explains Manhattan contractor Jeff Streich of Prime Renovations.  Merely refinishing the floors costs around $3.00-$4.00 per square foot, but replacing the floor and installing soundproofing can run from $15.00 to $30.00 per square foot.

Trouble at home? Get your NYC homeowning questions answered by an expert!  Send us your questions via our feedback form.    

Note: BrickUnderground articles occasionally include Featured Partners and Resource Directory members when their expertise is relevant to the story.

About:

Ask an Expert puts your toughest NYC real estate questions to the experts