Building house rules are the "Thou shalt not’s" of the co-op and condo world. Unlike the proprietary lease or bylaws, which cover operational and administrative matters, the house rules cover behavior of the residents–you know, the types of situations that arise when more than one person lives in the same building…
Standard rules typically include policies about subletting, pets, noise, obstruction of hallways, amount of carpeting required in each unit, window cleaning, handling complaints about building services, cleaning of windows, plantings on terraces, garbage disposal, storage, things projected from windows or attached to building, or sills or terraces, where children may not play, hours construction work may be performed, building’s right to exterminate. In other words, quality of life issues.
How the house rules are enforced–and how well–can have a big impact on life in a particular building. If they are not enforced, residents pay the price, which could be anything from small annoyances to decreased safety or building damage. And if regulations are administered too harshly, residents can feel harassed. Techniques of enforcement have three levels of severity: talking and letter-writing; consequences such as fines or withheld services; and finally, legal action.
When asked which rules are most frequently violated, building managers are pretty much in agreement: noise and pets. "What’s so difficult about noise is that it’s subjective," says Gerard Picaso, president of Gerard J. Picaso, Inc., a property management company in Manhattan, "Someone who wants to sit and read is obviously going to be more disturbed than someone who’s moving around, with the radio or TV on, whether by floor-related or general noise. Most of the problem isn’t late at night–it’s after work when everyone’s home. One person might want to take a nap, while the people upstairs are having company, and walking around and moving chairs. Maybe Billy next door is practicing his violin for a half hour every day after school–that’s a normal part of life. If you’re extremely bothered by foot noise, or the sound of the elevator next to your apartment, you probably shouldn’t be living in that kind of situation."