Q&A: Sporadic Noise Problem

Q From downstairs at times I can hear the kids who live in the apartment above me jumping around. The owner has a rug down sometimes, but not at others. The board president has hardwood floors, even though it says in the bylaws that they’re supposed to have 80 percent carpeting. Is there something you can do about sporadic noise? Impact noise? Any remedy? I talked to an acoustical engineer and when the floors are put down there is supposed to be some sort of soundproofing and it’s possible when this building was constructed it wasn’t there.

—Tired of Earplugs

A “While most proprietary leases and/or their accompanying house rules typically address the issue of noise generation, they will usually prohibit noise that is ‘unreasonable’ or ‘excessive,’” says Phyllis H. Weisberg, Esq., an attorney with Kurzman Karelsen & Frank, LLP in Manhattan. “A similar standard is employed by the courts when addressing issues relating to the warranty of habitability, which is implied, by statute, in every residential lease, including a cooperative’s proprietary lease.

“Unless the children you describe are jumping up and down in the middle of the night or repeatedly engaging in an inappropriate activity (such as utilizing the area above your apartment as a skate park), the ‘sporadic’ noise which you describe is probably within normal expectations for children and will not be deemed ‘unreasonable’ or ‘excessive’ by a court. On the other hand, some courts will enforce the 80 percent carpeting rule even in the absence of ‘unreasonable’ or ‘excessive’ noise.

“If you have not yet done so, you should speak with your neighbors directly about your concerns; if you are correct that they are removing the rugs at times, a discussion with them may encourage them to keep the rugs down at all times. You might also remind these neighbors of the 80 percent carpeting rule. If that does not work, you should request that the board inspect the apartment and, if it is not in compliance with the 80 percent carpeting rule, that the board send these neighbors a letter reminding them of that rule. You may also wish to explore some acoustical modifications to your own apartment to help lessen noise transmission.

“One additional resource for addressing this problem is the mediation service offered through the New York City Bar Association for residential cooperative and condominium disputes. Mediation can be an inexpensive and informal way of resolving disputes by facilitating discussions between you and your neighbors in order to find a mutually acceptable resolution. Please bear in mind, however, that mediation (unlike a court proceeding) is a voluntary process and will require your neighbors’ written consent and participation.”

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