Ask an Expert

My neighbor plays his music really loud and with lots of bass. What can I do?

By Alanna Schubach | April 11, 2022 - 12:30PM

Hiring an engineer to measure the sound is pricey, but ultimately may be worthwhile.

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Question:

My upstairs neighbor plays loud music all day, with lots of bass, and the noise and vibrations are disruptive to me (I work from home). What can I do?

Answer:

If you have already tried a friendly chat with your neighbor with no success, your next step should be reaching out to the landlord, our experts say.

As a renter, installing soundproofing in the ceiling is probably not an option for you, since your lease likely forbids you from making significant changes to your apartment. And while noise and vibration can come with the territory when you live in a New York City apartment, there are levels at which the racket crosses a line. Under the city's warranty of habitability, both apartment owners and renters are guaranteed safe and livable apartments, which includes sufficient peace and quiet to function in your home. 

"If reasoning with your neighbor to turn down his loud music doesn’t get you anywhere, your next best option, outside of going to court, might be to ask building management or your landlord to intervene," says Lauren Tobin, an attorney with Woods Lonergan PLLC (a Brick sponsor).

"Every tenant has the right to quiet enjoyment of their rental space, which can be violated by unreasonable noises at certain times of the day. Documenting and recording the disturbing noises and presenting this information to your landlord might induce them to contact the neighbor on their own, in an effort to avoid breaching your lease agreement and possibly giving you a claim or right to withhold rent," she says.

Note that co-op shareholders who find themselves in this situation should reach out directly to the co-op board or management. Renters, meanwhile, should send a letter to management, rather than call or email, as it puts the landlord on notice and also creates a paper trail, should this issue end up in court. 

"I recommend people start by sending a certified letter return receipt to the landlord explaining that they have a noise problem, and asking the landlord to bring in a consultant or take action," says Alan Fierstein, founder and president of NYC acoustical consulting services firm Acoustilog.

Ultimately, if your neighbor is uncooperative, it may be necessary to hire an acoustical engineer to take measurements. Doing so can be pricey, but the measurements taken by phone apps (and non-experts) are often not accurate. And if the noise and vibrations are found by an engineer to be at levels that violate city code, it is a breach of the warranty of habitability, and you'll have grounds to sue in housing court. 

Fierstein sets up a recording system with microphones to pick up sounds and sensors that register vibrations and where they are originating from. 

"We make calibrated recordings that can be played back in court, so the judge hears exactly the same level of noise they would hear in the apartment," he explains. "We've had cases where the judge decides right on the spot that there's too much noise." 

If the judge rules in your favor, you may be able to recoup the expenses of hiring the acoustical engineer—and finally get some relief from the constant racket. 


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