Your board may be within its powers to fine or take action against tenants for excessive noise, depending on the house rules in your building—and the proprietary lease if it’s a co-op.
Residents frequently complain about loud late-night parties or unnecessarily loud music.
Noise in an apartment building—and smells for that matter—can be very subjective and it may be difficult to determine the source. However, if there are persistent violations, the board should look into the matter and take action as failure to do so could result in legal repercussions.
Most individuals don’t want to go to court, therefore once renters are aware of the repercussions of upsetting other tenants. People are frequently driven to go by the rules.
What is Excessive Noise, and What are its Effects?
The house rules for the building should ideally include specific instructions on what conduct or loud behavior is prohibited and whether a fine may be assessed.
In a co-op, you should review the clauses in the bylaws and the proprietary lease.
Usually, the bylaws specify whether the board has the power to impose fines. Since a co-op is also subject to the warranty of habitability, which stipulates that the flats must be secure and livable for all tenants, excessive noise may give rise to legal action if it renders the units uninhabitable.
However, the house rules could be silent on this, in which case the board may want to supplement them.
There will be no ambiguity for unit owners because the issue will be made clear.
It is very likely that the bylaws authorize the board to fine residents for violations of the house rules.
House regulations sometimes stipulate that remodeling work can only happen during specific times of the weekdays. This is in an effort to prevent excessive noise. They could also specify when it is OK to play loud music in the evening. There can also be regulations governing soundproofing.
For instance, to reduce noise transfer, home rules often allow for 80% carpeting on the floors.
If such is the case, a board may check apartments to make sure they are following this guideline.
There are still plenty of possibilities for disputes about loudness and other annoyances, such as the smell of smoke or marijuana, despite the fact that many New Yorkers work from home or have hybrid schedules.
A board or the administration will wish to write a warning letter to the resident generating noise or smells, assuming there are provisions in the house rules addressing fines for infractions. This records the violation and creates a paper trail, which may be important if the complaints lead to legal action.
It might be challenging to prove that noise is inappropriate. Residents may occasionally merely use their phones to record a video of the noise and its source. They may occasionally employ specialized tests.
Determining and Enforcing a Fine
Keep in mind that the fines your board should issue for noise breaches shouldn’t be too onerous when determining their magnitude.
Courts are hesitant to impose sanctions in cases where the board is merely extorting money from owners or shareholders, warns Woods.
However, your board is entitled to some administrative expenses.
Depending on how serious the case is, the initial fine for a noise violation may often vary from $150 to $200. This would pay for the costs of dealing with the problems and notifying the affected residents in writing on behalf of the building management. Additionally, it would discourage this type of conduct.
If the resident shows a willingness to change their behavior, your board may decide to waive the initial sentence. However, it will be clear that the cost will double if the noise violation occurs again.
If you select this course of action and the issue is not dealt with, you might have to appear in court to obtain a court order. This is to protect the interests of the other shareholders or apartment owners.
Repeated offenses in some circumstances can potentially result in a proprietary lease default.