Handling Touchy Complaints in Co-Ops and Condos It's About Sense and Sensitivity

In NYC, owners need to realize that they've bought into a certain amount of neighborly racket (iStock).

Conflict comes hand-in-hand with living in close quarters. Such is the nature of condominium and cooperative living. Some dust-ups between neighbors are settled with a polite conversation, or a mild nudge from the condo or co-op board. Others can get out of hand, and in extreme cases be dragged out for years via the courts. 

But what about ostensibly mild discrepancies that involve sensitive topics -- things such as sex, smells, parenting -- where the line between personal preference and public nuisance may be blurry? And how can an owner or shareholder address sensitive subjects with another without ruffling any feathers?

A Matter of Sex

In a nation in part built by Puritans, it's still not always easy to address sex, especially between passing acquaintances. Sometimes it helps to have an intermediary. Fortunately, a property manager or attorney can often play such a role.

“If someone calls me up and says that their upstairs neighbor is having wild and crazy sex, I'm basically going to write a letter to the offending owner that says that they're in violation of the house rules and the proprietary lease,” says Jay Cohen, the vice president and director of operations of A. Michael Tyler Realty Corp., which has locations in Manhattan and Long Island. “They're letting noise emerge from their apartment that is disturbing the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of other shareholders in the building.”

Indeed with noise issues, many associations have quiet hours from, for example, 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., during which the slightest disturbance is forbidden. This type of rule can make it easier to address something like sex without specifically describing the inciting incident.

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