Neighbor Noise When Enough is Too Much

Noise is an acknowledged part of community life, especially in multifamily apartment buildings.  Some noise is external; traffic, garbage collection, people shouting on the street or in the parking lot. That’s one of the main reasons for zoning laws. Nobody wants to live right next to a noisy factory.  Some noise though is internal, and may be coming from next door, upstairs, or downstairs.

But how much noise is too much noise? And what can you as a shareholder or a unit owner do about it?  As so often is the case, the answer depends.

One Man’s Noise...

“Essentially what amount of noise is unreasonable is really the test itself,” says Layne Feldman, an attorney with the Hackensack-based law firm Phillips Nizer.  “It’s difficult to give a decibel level and measure it. It’s easier to determine when it’s quiet time and what type of conduct is unreasonable, and therefore prohibited during that time frame. For example, playing a loud stereo or allowing kids to have running races after 10:00pm is not reasonable.”

Deborah Koplovitz, a partner at law firm Herrick Feinstein with offices New York and Newark concurs, noting that “We get into the world of subjectivity with noise issues. One person may tolerate a concert pianist practicing the same phrase over and over all day, but that may drive someone else bonkers.  Footfall,” the sound of people walking on the floor above you “is normal,” Koplovitz stresses, “but someone may perceive it as something other than that and say it’s intentional. Minds can get lost.”


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