Q&A: Keeping the Kids Quiet

I’m a president of a new condo and have no experience running one prior to this. There is an apartment in the condo that consistently has children dropped off. After some inquiry it turns out to be the children of relatives, around 4 or 5 children in total, ranging from 3 to 11 year olds, supervised by two grandparents. However, the combination of so many children causes a lot of noise in the adjoining units. Those units now complain that during the day (weekdays from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends all day) there are children running, jumping, screaming, and banging walls.

As outlined in our bylaws, each unit must cover 80 percent of the apartment with sufficient noise insulation materials. They complied and installed 80 percent of those playground type plastic tiles. However, the noise has not subsided and the complaints continue. The noise is no longer from children running around, but still from screaming and wall banging.

What other course of action can I take? There are no laws in our book to address this situation and there doesn’t seem to be any prohibition against noise. By the way, one unit started blasting their stereo as a means to drown out the children; now that noise has become the source of a new complaint. The owners are all within their rights, but this has turned into quite a quality of life issue.

—New Board President in Brooklyn

“Such problems illustrate the classic conundrum experienced by new condominiums, where unit owners are typically not familiar with board regulation and generally tend to feel that a ‘man’s home is his castle.’ As with any communal living situation, rules must be established, and boards must, from the very beginning, be firm in their enforcement,” says Bruce Cholst, an attorney with Rosen & Livingston in Manhattan.

“Quality of life issues such as excessive noise emanating from apartments are typically addressed in a document called ‘House Rules,’ which usually appears in the offering plan right after the recitation of the condominium’s bylaws. Almost every set of house rules contains a provision which states: ‘no unit owner shall make or permit any disturbing noises, odors, or activity in the building which will interfere with the rights of other unit owners or their tenants or guests.’ In the unlikely event your association’s house rules do not contain this kind of provision, they should be amended to include this language at your next board meeting. Either way, such a provision provides the basis for any enforcement action by the board against the offending unit owner.’

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