One building's pee-bag-in-the-garbage-chute nightmare, and how to handle your own bad neighbors
Time to give your neighbor a hug, bake them cookies, or at least toss them a wave in the hallway—something to thank them for not being the anonymous Fort Greene renter who's been sending trash bags full of urine down the building's garbage chute for months.
A tipster from 301 Cumberland Street in Fort Greene wrote in to Brownstoner last week about the building's pee problem, which has apparently been going on since November 2013. "Bag after pee-filled bag [bursts] at the bottom of the stairs or [leaks when it lands]" in the shared basement, which also houses the laundry room, they note. As such, the common areas are starting to smell like a Meatpacking District alley on a Sunday morning in August. Delightful.
In response, the building's owners at Dermot Company sent out a strongly worded letter imploring the culprit to "please use your toilet as waste disposal and not the trash chute," and threatening to go from apartment to apartment until they weed out whoever's been bagging up and tossing out such high volumes of pee.
Oof. Well, no time like the present to brush up on how to handle a terrible neighbor, right? A little pertinent advice from our archives:
- It's hard to take action when it's unclear which neighbor is behind the problem, but regardless, it'll always help your case to document the situation as extensively as possible. For this one, we'd get dated photos of the errant trash bags whenever they show up in the basement, should your building need help putting together a case against the tenant in question.
- Enlist the neighbors. The more people from the building you have complaining about a shared problem, the harder it is for the property manager (and presumably the offending neighbor) to ignore.
- Take your concerns to the landlord or property manager. If they don't respond and the problem constitutes a health hazard, complain to 311. If the city determines the issue to be enough of a hazard to violate the "warrant of habitability," your landlord will be forced to deal with the problem, and you might even be entitled to a (well-deserved) abatement on your rent.
- If you do know which neighbor is behind the behavior that's driving you nuts, here's an easily customized form letter you can send them as a first warning shot.
- For owners (rather than renters) in co-op buildings, check the terms of your proprietary lease, give the offending neighbor a chance to clean up their act, and if that doesn't work, convene a meeting of your building's board to discuss the possibility of ousting them. Co-ops can rely on an expansive legal precedent to get rid of nasty shareholders.
- Maybe cold comfort if you're already living with a terrible neighbor, but whenever possible, grill as many building residents as you can about the living environment before you make a move.
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