Loud neighbors come in many forms, ranging from college students to music lovers to loud talkers. While those renting an apartment in the City of New York are expected to tolerate a certain amount of noise that flows from city living, no one is required to suffer an objectively unreasonable level of noise. Residents who are suffering from this elevated level of noise can file a complaint with management or New York City, who can hopefully deal with the issue.
Sometimes the noisy neighbor is building next door with loud HVAC system. The New York City noise code has sections on permissible levels of noise from neighboring HVAC equipment.
What is too loud?
The din of the city is substantial, with a general hum punctuated by occasional sirens, trains and other loud sounds known as “city noise.” Still, residents endure noise that is so loud that it wakes them up from sleep or disturbs other residents in the building may qualify as excessive and unreasonable noise.
Talk to other residents and the manager
The first step is to notify the other building’s owner or management by letter or phone and tell them that their HVAC is causing a noise problem that is interfering with your use and enjoyment of the property, including your ability to sleep.
If others are bothered by the noise, it helps to organize a group to raise awareness and show the other building owner that the problem is more widespread than from a single neighbor. Consider hiring an acoustical engineer who can take readings of the noise level generated by the mechanical system and see if it complies with building code. Sharing your engineer’s findings with the neighboring owner might get a faster result.
Filing a complaint
If management for the building is unresponsive, the affected residents can register a noise complaint with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection by calling 311. Depending on zoning (commercial, residential or manufacturing), their unit may exceed the permitted noise levels. The city could then send an inspector who could issue a violation. Bear in mind that it is not always possible to have the City inspector present at the time the noise is at its worst. Notifying your local city council person may also bring pressure to bear on the offending building.
Get some help
One surefire way to get their attention and to seek to obtain a remedy is to file a lawsuit. This should not be the first step, but should be the last and will certainly be more effective if you have the acoustical engineer’s findings that the noise they measured violated applicable codes.
Rather than independently filing one, discussing the issue with an attorney who understands New York real estate laws and regulations is often better. They can help clients determine the most effective course of action.