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Peace and Quiet (in NY?)

Posted by DK on October 08, 1999 at 20:43:01:

In Reply to: tenants from hell and management co. posted by Tammy on October 07, 1999 at 23:22:37:

Peace and quiet is a very difficult concept in a place like New York. The courts give
neighbors lots of slack when it comes to noise. After all, one person's beloved opera music can be
by very annoying to others who can only fall asleep to heavy metal.

I represented both sides in noise cases. Most of them should be resolved outside of court because the
expense is just too great once you start to litigate. The person complaining has a heavy
burden to show that the noise is truly unreasonable. Often judges will base their decision on which side
they believe has acted most reasonably under the circumstances. Banging back when the noise is excessive usually
leads a judge to believe that you both deserve each other.

In one case many years ago, I represented a pair of NYU undergraduate women who were complaining to the landlord about
about their upstairs neighbors who were using their apartment night after night as a
bondage torture chamber. All night long they had to endure screams, chains rattling across the floor, etc.
When they tried to discuss the matter with their neighbors, they suffered rude sexually oriented replies, including one
in writing. The judge was not very tolerant and ruled that the upstairs tenants were at fault and held the landlord responsible as well.

I had a case not to long ago where I represented the tenant who was charged with excessive noise, including
loud love-making at all hours of the night. She won that case, probably because her prudish neighbors did not try to solve
the problem in a reasonable matter by discussing it with her.

Most judges won't tolerate amplified music after 10 p.m. or excessively loud music (what's that?!) at any time.
Playing a television so it can be heard next door at 7 p.m. might be passable, but not at 3 a.m. (but what if you sleep days and work nights?)

Your lawyer is probably right. Retaliation is wrong. Try to deal with them as human beings and try to make them aware of your concerns. Make sure
that you are not being overly sensitive. After all, you live in New York where a little noise is a fact of life. (I have trouble sleeping in the countryside
with all those crickets--and those birds at 5:00 a.m-- but buses and sirens have no effect at all on me.)

If the neighbors really are unreasonable, then your other neighbors are also probably concerned.
Enlist them to your cause. Judges are impressed when everyone is upset, but less inclined to act when
it's only one neighbor who may be overly sensitive.

By the way, the law is that if the noise creates a nuisance or a breach of the warranty of habitability,
then the landlord is responsible for correcting the problem. If the court should agree, then you are entitled
to a rent abatement. But what noise constitutes a nuisance or breach of warranty of habitability is a big very gray area!

: Thanks for all your replies.
: Well,the idiots upstairs have lodged a complaint against us for banging on our
: ceiling. When they first moved in THEY asked us to let them know if/when they got too noisy
: -by knocking on the ceiling.
: This is just another act of retaliation.
: The management company seems to be on their side, they are fed up with us complaining.And also our criticism
: of their inept handling of this situation. And the tone of their letter(telling us of the complaint),seemed hostile & intimidating.
: .We have hired an attorney(he called the a couple days ago,this undoubtedly pissed the
: The letter was written the same day as the attorneys call....hhmmmm!

: Does anyone know for sure if there is a law(or something like that) that guarantees a tenant the right to peace & quiet?
: The keeps telling us that that is what you get when you rent and that nothing can be done.
: I have thought of retaliating myself, but the lawyer advises against it. Although he doesn't seem too positive that we'd win the case(if it goes to court).
: I have even thought about having a background search done on them (my theory is that they probably have a history of this sort of behavior & it would look bad for them if we could present it in court)
: Any more ideas?
: Tam

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