My partner and I just bought a co-op, and from the day we moved in, our downstairs neighbor has been complaining about noise. But we're extremely quiet—our apartment is carpeted, we don't wear shoes inside, and we have a pretty sedentary lifestyle. He's already written to management claiming we're noisy, and we're worried about starting off on the wrong foot here. What can we do?
The good news is that co-op management does not usually like to get involved in these kinds of disputes between neighbors, and you're unlikely to face any legal issues because of this, our experts say.
"You can only be deemed a nuisance in a co-op setting if you create an excessive amount of noise, or make noise at unreasonable hours," says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations (and FYI, a Brick sponsor). "It sounds like this neighbor is noise sensitive, so I don't think the person making the noise is in any legal danger."
In co-ops, eviction is a last resort, reserved for the most disruptive of shareholders. It requires something called a Pullman hearing, which typically involves a percentage of neighbors and board members voting in favor of kicking out the shareholder causing the nuisance. That shareholder is also usually given a chance to reform their ways before they are evicted.
It sounds like you're a long way from that scenario, and there are steps you can take to prove that it's your downstairs neighbor who is causing problems, not you.
"If it's only one person complaining, you could ask your other neighbors—those next door to you and to the neighbor complaining—whether they've noticed any problems with noise," says Kevin McConnell, a partner with HMGDJ Law. "You could also ask to see copies of the board minutes for the past couple years, and correspondence that the board and managing agent received from the downstairs neighbor, to see if this person has complained about others in the past."
If you find that your other neighbors haven't noticed a problem—or that your downstairs neighbor has a history of intolerance for noise—you can share that information with management.
"You might find that you have a chronic complainer," Himmelstein says. "And most co-ops deal with that kind of situation by telling you to work it out among yourselves."
For your part, document each time the neighbor complains. If the situation does not improve, consider hiring an attorney to send your neighbor a letter detailing their history of complaints, and threatening legal action if their harassment does not stop—and you may find the complaining ends.
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