Sex & the neighbors

By Teri Karush Rogers | December 16, 2009 - 9:55AM

The Daily News reports today that a 48-year-old British woman has pleaded guilty to anti-social behavior stemming from sex so loud it disturbed her neighbors (plus the postman).

“The noise sounds like they are both in considerable pain.  I cannot describe the noise. I have never heard anything like it,” a neighbor testified.

We surveyed some NYC real estate lawyers and managing agents to find out how common these sort of complaints are on this side of the pond…and how, exactly, one encourages neighbors to muffle their passionate soundtrack.

Reports were scanty.

“I have had a few loud sex cases,” says real estate lawyer Dean M. Roberts, “but the most interesting one was an elderly woman who kept saying that her neighbor was having loud sex.  It turned out that there wasn’t any—the old woman just liked to talk about it with other people.”

Typically, he says, he is asked to draft a letter (sometimes two) to the amorous party.

“The first one simply refers to ‘noise’ or ‘noise from your bedroom,’” he explains. “The second one, if needed, is more specific.  Normally, the first letter works and if not the second does.  I have never gone to court on this type of issue.”

That is not to say no one has ever been evicted for noisy relations.  

“Our firm was successful in evicting a rent stabilized couple, based upon the testimony of a number of neighbors, as well as audio tapes confirming both the language and decibel level emanating from their apartment while engaged in sexual activity,” says real estate lawyer Eric Goidel.

(The British couple apparently produced 47 decibels worth of sound effects, well over the 30 decibels that the World Health Organization says causes sleep disturbances.)

One managing agent says that although sex complaints may seem kind of funny, they can be anything but.

“We’ve deal with this several times before, mostly out of concern for the resident who [sounds as if] they may be hurt and screaming out of physical pain, or for fear they are being abused,” notes this agent, who asked to remain anonymous.

We also heard from one real estate lawyer who says he’s never fielded any gripes over loud sex noise.

“Either Americans are more demure than our British cousins or our walls are thicker, or no one is having sex, except, of course, for Tiger Woods, David Letterman and the U.S. Senate,” says attorney Stuart Saft.  

So what are the most common auditory complaints? Here are the top seven according to Saft, starting with the most kvetched about:

1.  Children playing

2.  Dogs barking

3.  Couples fighting (apparently New Yorkers argue louder than they make up)

4.  Television/stereo noise

5.  Practicing a musical instrument (usually piano)

6.  Exercise equipment

7.  High-heeled shoes on uncarpeted floors

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Teri Karush Rogers

Founder & Publisher

Founder and publisher Teri Karush Rogers launched Brick Underground in 2009. As a freelance journalist, she covered New York City real estate for the The New York Times. Teri has been featured as an expert on New York City residential real estate by The New York Times, New York Daily News, amNew York, NBC Nightly News, The Real Deal, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and NY1 News, among others. Teri holds a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University. 

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