Even before the landmark “Pullman” case in 2003 in which a co-op board and shareholders voted unanimously to evict an especially troublesome and disruptive shareholder from their building—New York co-op residents have grumbled about “objectionable tenants” and how to deal with them. The term “objectionable” is subjective, and the behavior that can fall under that label ranges from constant noise and offensive cooking smells to ranting at and even assaulting neighbors or board members in the lobby.
Punching or threatening someone is clearly an actionable offense, same as dealing drugs or running an unlicensed business out of one’s apartment. But residents who are a perpetual pain-in-the-neck for their boards, or who constantly bicker with their neighbors over every little thing may not be “objectionable” in the strictest legal sense, but their behavior still negatively impacts the quality of life in their building. What’s to be done?
Anytime more than one person occupies the same living space—as anyone who has ever had a roommate, spouse, child, or needy pet well knows—conflicts inevitably arise. In co-op and condo buildings, these conflicts tend not to be violent, felonious, or an obvious case of good pitted against evil. Rather, the problems stem from different interpretations of things like noise level.
“Noise is a very, very common problem,” says Andrew Brucker, a partner at Schechter & Brucker, PC, a law firm in Manhattan. “So common, it’s to be expected when these problems crop up.”
Just how much noise is permissible is covered in a building’s house rules, of course—but that’s small consolation to the person living underneath the guitarist of a heavy metal cover band who likes to practice into the wee hours of the morning.