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Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guests

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Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guests

Postby dks224 » Wed Oct 15, 2014 12:47 am

Hi,
I live in a non-regulated, 3-unit building. My unit is directly above my landlord's living room. I am a single working professional in my early 30s and moved in less than six months ago. I signed a rider to my one-year lease stating that I would not wear shoes in my apartment and that I would obey specific quiet hours.

Since moving in, I have received numerous complaints from my landlord about noise that I believe is reasonable - for example, complaints that I host too many loud parties, referring to occasional (semi-monthly) evenings when a few friends (no more than 6 or 7 at a time, usually no more than 3) sit in my living room (shoes off), talking in normal voices. Asks me to turn down music playing at a normal (30%) volume during non-quiet hours (e.g. 7:30 pm on a Saturday). Even complained that I was moving furniture too much during my first two weeks after moving in (no furniture was moved during quiet hours, but I had to unpack).

The most recent complaint is about overnight guests - I have hosted one pair of friends over a 4-day weekend and one of my parents over the subsequent weekend. This was deemed too frequent and "disrespectful" of the house's shared space and quiet.

All of these complaints are couched by a statement that this is "not a normal apartment building" and therefore I cannot expect to "have an active social life" here. (These are direct quotes.) The building is a brownstone that is privately owned, but as a tenant who signed a standard NYC lease and paid a significant broker's fee, I believe I am within my rights and the terms of my lease to have guests in reasonable numbers as often as I please and to go about my "normal" social life including playing music at a reasonable volume.

I have searched high and low for any statement of my rights and recourse options in this case, but most material out there seems to be about excessive noise, which I do not believe this is. I do want to keep relations civil between myself and my landlord, but I am beginning to feel harassed by the constant complaints about what I believe are the sounds of a normal person living a relatively quiet life. Is there any advice you can give me or any materials you can point me toward that might back me up as I stand up for myself in this case?

Many thanks.
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby TenantNet » Wed Oct 15, 2014 12:52 am

You say you have a lease. Is this a rooming house (you mentioned shared space) or do you have your own apartment with your own bathroom and kitchen?
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby dks224 » Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:23 am

Separate apartment. Full kitchen, bathroom, separate bedroom, living room, and dining room.
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby dks224 » Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:25 am

The shared space referred to is the entryway, foyer, and stairway.
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby dks224 » Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:37 am

To further clarify, the statement that this is "not a normal apartment building" is due to the fact that the landlord's family (3 people total with multiple floors in their unit) lives below mine. Landlord seems to believe that the family living on the ground floors justifies the demand for absolute silence, yet the building I believe is zoned for standard rental units and was rented to me through a major corporate brokerage.
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby TenantNet » Wed Oct 15, 2014 5:05 am

First, you must realize that when LLs live in the same building, they can make your life hell. That is true anywhere. It is also - in our view - harassment.

As you have your own discreet apartment, you should be able to do normal things without fear of retribution. A real shared situation, like a roommate situation, sometimes calls for a bit more accommodation.

We're not suggesting you stomp around - which from your description, you are not doing. But for the LL to demand that you go without shoes is unreasonable in most cases. (If there's no carpet, that can be a problem.) But since it's in your lease, that's a problem as well, but largely unenforceable unless you start stomping.

You have a right to an occasional overnight guest, or to have few friends over. You have a right to play music at reasonable levels at reasonable hours. You do not have the right to play Led Zeppelin at full volume at 3 AM.

Here's the rub, since you are unregulated, if you complain the LL does not have to give you a renewal lease. So while I would say you can resume normal life, two things you can expect:

1) more complaining by the LL. If they are overly litigious, they might even take you to court, although I don't think he would succeed there.

2) they will demand you leave at the end of the lease.

You might also ask the brokerage if they knew what kind of place this is.
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby dks224 » Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:12 am

Thanks so much for this. Very much in line with what I expected and have been doing, and appreciate your thorough response.

My fear, of course is non-renewal or a rent increase exponentially above standard upticks. The current rent is very much at market rate, which is part of why I feel the LL's expectations are unreasonable.

An additional stipulation of the rider was that all "high traffic areas" be carpeted - I complied with this within a few weeks of moving in, at no small expense (rugs are costly!). In addition to the rugs, I paid a pretty steep broker's fee (15%) which I had hoped to offset by staying for more than a couple of years. The lease rider was a red flag for me when I moved in, and I specifically asked the broker if he thought the LL would be excessively stringent about noise. He (the broker) said he had not worked with this LL before but that this kind of rider was not uncommon and usually was just a measure taken so the LL had recourse IF excessive noise became a problem. I do not have this reassurance in writing (it was an in-person conversation).

Assuming the worst happens (non-renewal or extreme rent hike), do you believe I have any recourse to pursue a reimbursement or "pro-bono" brokerage services from the broker? And do I have any recourse to pursue some kind of recompense from the landlord for any portion of the cost of the rugs I was required to purchase?

Huge thanks again for your insight.
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby TenantNet » Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:59 am

It is common for LLs to require 80% of the unit to be carpeted. You could have purchased a rug at a discount store for much less, but then it would probably not look or wear to well. You can always take the carpet with you. if/when you move.

I don't know the rules on brokering too well, but it would probably depend on if there was any material misrepresentation by the broker.
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby dks224 » Wed Oct 15, 2014 11:09 am

Makes sense. Thanks again.

One last question - I know the law dictates that guests staying longer than 30 days must pay rent, but is there any concrete definition of "occasional" guests that I can refer my LL to? Does the LL have any legal right to dictate how many or how often guests may visit and/or stay? The complaints have been in equal part about perceived frequency of visitors (again, always outside of quiet hours and never more than a couple of times a month, though I have certainly scaled back the number of visitors altogether for fear of complaints) and overnight guests.

My neighbors occupying the second of the two rental units have received more complaints than I have about overnight guests, and their guests have been subject to interrogation by the LL, who seems to suspect they are using Airbnb (they're not), rather than just hosting their own friends over weekends (not every weekend even). Just wondering if there is any clearly stated language we could point to outside of the 30-days law to back us up.

Thank you so much again. This has been incredibly helpful.
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby TenantNet » Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:53 pm

As far as I know, the law does not require anyone staying past 30 days to pay rent, but if they do, they become a subtenant or undertenant and you are the LL to the subtenant.

One who does not pay rent can be a licensee, staying with your permission, which can be revoked. Both might collectively be referred to as roommates, and there is a roommate law.

The LL cannot dictate who you have stay with you except as permitted by housing and zoning regs, and the roommate law. For example, it would be unlawful to have 20 people live with you in a small apartment. Those are occupancy limits. The number of roommates you can have is often up for interpretation, can be as little as one roomate per tenant on the lease (and the roommates' family). Read the roommate law - here on this site. But remember, an occasional guest is not a roommate.

You really don't have to let the LL know who the person is and what the person's relationship is to you. At a certain point, if the person has moved in, then the LL can ask for the person's name, but no other information is required.

If the LL harasses them, tell him to back off - or call the police. It's not his business. When you have a lease, you have control over the area you rent (within the legal limits).

Without getting too technical, if you have a friend stay with you overnight, say one or even twice a week, that is your business.
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby dks224 » Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:59 pm

Thank you x1 million. This is exactly what I needed confirmed. Incredibly helpful, and will refer others to your resources. Much appreciated, particularly your quick and thorough responses.
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby TenantNet » Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:19 pm

BTW, do not confuse this with the bill intended to regulate AirBNB. That says you can only have paying guests under 30 days IF you still live there. If they rent the unit and you stay elsewhere, that's illegal (in NYC). And it's still controlled by zoning regs and the lease.
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby dks224 » Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:43 pm

Understood. LL was claiming they were not permitted to rent out their second bedroom, even while continuing to occupy the apartment themselves. Either way, an unfounded complaint as the guests were personal friends, and non-paying. LL threatened eviction if they rented out the room at all. Our belief is this entire series of complaints re: noise and guests now constitutes harassment as it is on a weekly basis and sometimes more often.
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby dks224 » Sat Oct 18, 2014 1:29 am

Another question as events develop...

LL is now claiming that only individuals whose names are on the lease (me) may "have" keys to the house. I believe this is another effort to restrict visitors. I have not given copies of my keys to anyone who lives locally, nor do I have plans to, but when I have out-of-town visitors, it is sometimes necessary for them to come and go from the apartment when I am not present, since I have a job and obligations that keep me from babysitting my visitors at all times. Thus far, I have not had any visitor staying longer than a few days, and all are either immediate family or friends I would vouch for and, frankly, trust with my life. Is there any explicit statement in tenant law that prohibits me lending a key to my visitors?

Thanks again!
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Re: Landlord complaints about normal noise, occasional guest

Postby TenantNet » Sat Oct 18, 2014 6:44 am

Actually the restriction on keys is somewhat common, but hard to enforce. It's one thing to give keys to anyone and everyone, which I don't think you are doing. But - in my opinion - it should be all right to give one key to a trusted relative or person with whom the tenant is in a close relationship. If you have a friend in for a day or two, I don't see a problem giving them a key temporarily.

However, such a restriction might be in the lease. Also consider the LL's point of view. Restricting keys to just tenants is a security measure for ALL tenants in a building. Might also be a requirement of an insurance company, or mortgage holder.

Since you live in a small building, the rational thing to do would be to let your neighbors and LL know the few (and make it few) times you've temporarily given a key out so they will not be alarmed. You could even introduce the visitors to the LL.

The problem is that some LL's will not be reasonable or rational about something like this.
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