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What are landlords' obligations regarding noisy tenants?

One of the biggest annoyances of living in apartments and other multifamily dwellings in New York City (and anywhere) is the noise from neighbors and their visitors. Whether it's the people living above or below or those in the hallways and outdoor common areas, excessive noise can drive residents crazy.

The most common noise complaints are:

  • Loud TVs and music
  • Heavy footsteps, furniture moving and other sounds on the floor in the unit above
  • Parties and other gatherings
  • Children crying or screaming
  • People shouting at one another

When these noises occur late at night, they can interfere with people's ability to sleep, seriously impact their quality of life and possibly be detrimental to their health.

When talking to the neighbors (or others creating the noise) doesn't work, residents often turn to landlords to resolve the problem. Landlords have an obligation to do what they can about noisy, disruptive tenants.

If a tenant brings a noise issue to your attention, you should get the details. Find out when and how often it's occurring. Determine what, if anything, the tenant has done. Did they try to talk to their neighbor? Do they have recordings of the noise?

Next, you need to notify the allegedly disruptive tenant of the problem. Maybe they had no idea they were disturbing anyone. Remind them of any noise or nuisance clauses in their lease or rental agreement, such as after-hours rules about noise.

If it was a one-time event, such as a party, a visit from family with young children or a delivery of new furniture, the problem should be solved. If, as is often the case, it's an ongoing problem, you may need to take action as allowed by your agreement and local ordinances. This may include fines or a "cure or quit notice." In an extreme case where a tenant is persistently disturbing multiple tenants and refusing to stop their behavior, eviction may be a consideration.

It's wise to have clear, concise rules about noise in your agreements along with details about disciplinary action that will be taken if tenants violate those rules. An experienced attorney can help you with that. They can also help you if you need to take serious disciplinary action against a tenant to help ensure that you remain compliant with the law.

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