The screeching violin next door: Your neighbor’s music lessons

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By Teri Karush Rogers  |
December 13, 2010 - 4:35PM

Over on, a renter is not too happy with the not-too-talented violinist next door who practices at all hours and has lately begun teaching violin to even less talented students in her apartment.    The renter’s dilemma has drawn some interesting advice (detailed below, much of it in the walls-work-two-ways vein), and raised one unsettled question: Are tenants even allowed to teach music lessons in their apartments?

We checked in with some of our experts.  

From a zoning perspective, “music lessons are considered a permissible home use occupation,” says real estate attorney Robert Braverman.  Under Section 12-10 of the NYC Zoning Resolution, he says, one music student a time is okay.

And while many leases prohibit "businesses" from operating in an apartment, says Braverman, "home office occupations such as single student music lessons would probably not be prohibited by a lease." 

Indeed, says real estate lawyer Dean M. Roberts, the advent of Internet-related home-based businesses has ushered in a much more nuisance-related definition of what constitutes a "business."

 “Do noise, foot traffic, etc., ad up to being a nuisance?" says Roberts. "If the lessons are given during normal daytime hours of 10 am to 8 pm and not late at night or in the morning, a court is going to be more forgiving.”

Property manager Thomas Usztoke argues for a more neighborly resolution than legal action: Soundproofing.

Here’s what they’re suggesting over on StreetEasy:

  • “1) Take your stereo speakers and put them directly up against the common walls. 2) Turn on Pearl Jam…. 3) Loud. 4) No I mean LOUD. 5) Knock on her door and ask if she likes Pearl Jam…6) Ask her again politely if she would consider a reasonable compromise…”
  • “I suggest you hire her an instructor. Clearly she’s not getting any better. Be part of the solution!”
  • “…talk to the super or LL [landlord] rather than resorting to ridiculous self help….Remember, any of your ridiculous ‘retaliation’ will be ‘enjoyed’ by the other neighbors, too. Ain’t city living a bitch?”
  • “Either man-up and soundproof your wall or move out.”


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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 had previously covered New York City real estate for 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 earned a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University.

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