Ask an Expert

How do I stop my neighbor's cooking smells from wafting into my apartment?

  • If another shareholder's cooking creates a nuisance, the co-op is legally required to deal with it
  • Boards can be reluctant to get involved, so the managing agent or building's attorney can step in
  • Confirm the neighbor is using their exhaust fan when cooking and have the ventilation system checked
By Alanna Schubach  | September 12, 2023 - 10:00AM
cooking odors brick underground

Boards and landlords are required to investigate those intense aromas you are experiencing.


I'm suffering because of very strong cooking smells coming from the apartment below mine. The odors last well into the evening and give me headaches. Is there anything that can be done? Are the rules different for co-ops, condos, and rentals?

New York City has robust legislation regulating smoking, as well as policies against residents who are creating a "nuisance," a term that refers to behavior like excessive noise, damaging property, or creating a safety hazard. But building management may be hesitant to address other types of intrusive odors, our experts say. 

What's more, New Yorkers can report bad odors by calling or clicking on the city's 311 website; however, the city does not accept complaints "caused by a neighbor's body odor or cooking."

Still, you can push for some assistance here.

"Both smoking and cooking odors are nuisances and are usually governed, especially in a co-op, by the terms of the lease," says Dean Roberts, an attorney at the law firm Norris McLaughlin. "If another shareholder is cooking in a manner that creates a nuisance, the co-op is legally required to deal with it." 

[Editor's note: A previous version of this post was published in August 2022. We are presenting it again with updated information for September 2023.]

That said, co-op boards are generally reluctant to intervene in a dispute between shareholders, especially over a matter as subjective as smells.

"Most co-op and condo by-laws do not allow for unreasonable infringement on others’ rights to quiet enjoyment of their apartments," says Deanna Kory, a broker at Corcoran. "However, what smells good to one person smells terrible to another. I doubt there is a way to make what will feel like a fair solution unless unit owners can work it out themselves—which of course is tricky." 

If you feel it would be impossible to work with your neighbor to find a fair solution, there may be other ways to mitigate the problem on your own, like purchasing an air purifier, or having your super make sure your door is sealed tight (using a draft-stopper can also help).

And if that doesn't work, consider speaking with a third party to mediate.

"In my experience, a mediation by the managing agent, or often me as the attorney, is a good way to resolve these situations," Roberts says.

For renters, reaching out to your landlord may be the best bet, because the intense aromas you're experiencing may be the result of malfunctioning ventilation (and check that the neighbor is in fact using their exhaust fan when cooking—some people forget to turn them on.)

Renters are entitled to the "quiet enjoyment of your apartment," and have the protections of the warranty of habitability, says Mark Levine, principal at EBMG, a NYC property management firm.

"If either of these are compromised by someone else’s actions, that could leave the landlord with some degree of liability," he says. "This may also be an issue with the physical components of the building, such as a broken vent in the kitchen or the bathroom, and by inspecting, the landlord can make any necessary repairs."

He recommends notifying your landlord whenever the issue arises so that there is a record, citing the language in your lease that refers to your warranty of habitability, which should help prompt them into action. 

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Alanna Schubach

Contributing writer

Contributing editor Alanna Schubach has over a decade of experience as a New York City-based freelance journalist.

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