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Ask an Expert: Quieting a noisy LANDLORD

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By Teri Karush Rogers  |
December 6, 2011 - 10:02AM

Q.  I am a tenant in a garden apartment of a brownstone in Brooklyn. My landlords live above me, and while I like the family very much, they have two children that are becoming an increasing disruption.

The children run back and forth through the apartment, scream, jump, stomp the floor, and bounce balls, sometimes for well over an hour. In doing so, they produce loud noise several times throughout the day, often awakening me in the mornings. 

I have called and sent text messages to the landlords asking them to keep the noise down. I have also asked them to have their kids play on their second or third floors, since they have a 3-story home and I would not be disrupted if the kids play on those top two floors. However, I keep getting the runaround or told that I will simply have to accept it because their children are young, energetic, and need to release their energy. 

What options can I take to address this? And is there a rule that all New York City apartments must carpet 80% of their hardwood floors to shield the residents below from noise? If so, that would probably solve the problem. 

A.  Apartment-to-apartment noise transmission in brownstone buildings is a huge problem, so if it's any comfort, you probably have enough company to start several support groups.

The 80% carpet "rule" that you're referring to is actually a lease provision (common though not ubiquitous), rather than a law.  Your own lease might contain a provision requiring you to carpet your apartment, but it almost certainly doesn't contain a provision obligating your landlords to do so, unless you negotiated that term yourself.

In theory, say our experts, you have a right to the 'quiet enjoyment' of your apartment conferred by the warranty of habitability, a law which applies to all rental apartments in New York.

However, explains real estate attorney Dean Roberts, "Noise complaints are extremely hard to prove. Furthermore, kids running around apartment would not really qualify as a nuisance."

Even if you successfully proved that the noise was a nuisance, says Roberts, you would only be entitled to a rent abatement. "It's extremely unlikely that the court would or could order installation of carpet," he says.

Your best bet is to negotiate a solution, says Roberts, "perhaps by offering to pay for the rugs, or leaving the apartment for one that in a quieter building with carpeting in its lease provisions."

For some helpful tips on communicating with your landlord, Brad Heckman of the New York Peace Institute, a free mediation service, recommends reading this.

If your landlord is willing, you can also seek free mediation from the Peace Institute.  Heckman says they typical mediation sessions last about two hours and are typically quite successful.

Trouble at home? Get your NYC apartment-dweller questions answered by an expert! Send us your questions. 


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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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