Q. My landlord is renovating the lobby and the hallways of my building as well as a few apartments. The work is done six or seven days a week starting as early as 6 am, and as I live on the ground floor it's especially loud. Is this legal? What can I do to get the work confined to normal business hours?
A. New York City’s noise code was recently overhauled by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to balance the reputation of New York as a vibrant, world class ‘city that never sleeps,’ with the needs of those who live in, work in, or visit here, explains real estate lawyer and BrickTank legal expert Robert Braverman.
“Among the recent enactments are limitations on noise that may emanate from construction sites,” he says.
Specifically, the DEP allows construction to take place between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on weekdays. Weekend and after-hours work is allowed only with the express permission of the Department of Buildings (DOB). To get permission, says Braverman, your landlord would have had to submit a noise mitigation plan.
(Note: Emergency work is allowed after hours and on weekends without without a noise mitigation plan, but the lobby renovation you describe doesn’t seem to qualify as an emergency.)
An easy way to force your landlord to comply with the DEP and DOB regulations is to file a formal complaint with both agencies by calling 311, according to Braverman.
He says it’s also possible that the noise condition, dust and dirt from construction work could constitute a breach of the warranty of habitability.
You would need to demonstrate—perhaps with the help of an acoustical engineer to measure the noise--that the noise is excessive enough to deprive you of the essential functions that a residence is supposed to provide.
“Cases have found that the warranty of habitability has been breached where excessive loud noise was permitted to enter into a residential apartment, the noise was continuous and prolonged and the landlord made no efforts to try to abate it,” says Braverman.
All this said, you might try to work out an informal solution first.
“Six a.m. is early for noisy work,” says property manager Michael Wolfe. “Perhaps you should suggest that mobilization and painting—quiet work—be done from 6 am to 8 am, and any scraping, spackling, patching etc be done after 8 on weekdays and after 10 on weekends.”
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