Q: I live in a condo, and my downstairs neighbor's dryer vents directly into my kitchen window when the wind outside is blowing a certain way. I've complained, but he doesn't seem to care. Is there any legal action I can take to address the problem?
If your neighbor's been unresponsive, it's time to consider threatening both him and the board with litigation, say our experts.
"You have two possible courses of action," says attorney Jeff Reich. The first is to try to get the board to intervene based on its fiduciary obligations to you, the unit owner, and the second is to pursue a nuisance action against your neighbor (more details on that here). "In either case, the justification is that the apartment must have operable windows to allow fresh air intake into an apartment and the actions of the downstairs neighbor are interfering with these rights," Reich explains.
"You could threaten to commence litigation against the board of managers and the unit owners based on nuisance and trespass, as the condition affects your property," concurs attorney Dean Roberts. This may be a case where a strongly worded letter from a lawyer jolts your neighbor into action, and takes care of the problem. Roberts also suggests calling 311 to see if this issue is any type of violation—a distinct possibility, since dryer malfunctions are a frequent cause of apartment fires in NYC.
One thing to keep in mind, however: because of the legal structure of a condo building versus a co-op (or a rental), Roberts notes, you're not within your legal rights to withhold common charges based on a claim that this hot air is a warranty of habitability violation. Keep paying your monthlies, but let your neighbor and the management know that you mean business.
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