Living in a multifamily dwelling requires tolerance for other people, particularly when those people are noisy, smelly, or have questionable taste in door decorations. In New York, where the majority of people share a wall with at least one other household, tolerance gets tested on multiple fronts. When one person’s floor is another person’s ceiling, residents are constantly reminded of how close they actually are to their neighbors.
And proximity does not always mean congeniality. While many shareholders and unit owners can easily address their concerns with an offending neighbor, and that neighbor will readily make adjustments to accommodate those concerns, sometimes a situation simply requires the involvement of a third party.
In the case of co-ops, condos, and homeowners’ associations, the property’s managing agent is the party typically tasked with listening to both sides of the conflict, assessing the veracity and severity of the claims, and offering suggestions for resolution. “It is an agent’s responsibility to make every attempt to amicably resolve disputes,” says Georgia Lombardo-Barton, President of Barton Management in Manhattan. “Whether it’s a co-op or condo, each apartment resident is entitled to proper and peaceful enjoyment of their apartment. All situations that violate that right must be abated immediately.”
The approach to conflict resolution that Lombardo-Barton uses starts with an investigation of the complaint. Sometimes a resident complains about an odor or noise from an unknown source, or attributes the nuisance to the wrong unit. Neighbors are consulted and details sorted out. Depending on the nature, frequency, and time of day of the disturbance, determining its source and whether it violates the building’s proprietary lease can be a weeks-long affair.