In past posts we have talked about how to deal with co-op and condo renovations, so that you or neighbor can enjoy those new bathroom fixtures, but with all construction comes the chaos, the noise and debris. When does the noise from construction become unreasonable?
Construction should not take place outside of weekday working hours (along the lines of 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.). Permissible hours for construction and any restrictions on contractors’ actions should be explicitly stated in the house rules so that neighbors are not unduly burdened. Naturally, noise from construction is to be expected, but this does not mean that your neighbor’s contractor can be as loud as possible. If the noise is unbearable, communicate your concerns to your neighbor. They can instruct the workers to be more mindful of the noise. If your neighbor refuses to acknowledge your complaint, go to your co-op or condo board and show them any written correspondence between you and your neighbor addressing the issue. Prior to initiating litigation, your board should take the necessary steps formally notify and warn the shareholder or unit owner that the noise from their renovation has become a nuisance to neighbors.
This formal notification should be in the form of a written warning explaining that the shareholder’s or unit owner’s conduct is disturbing their neighbors. If something is occurring in violation of the house rules, such as construction work outside of the appropriate times, the board should include that the residents are breaching the building’s governing documents. It is very likely that an alteration agreement between the building and the shareholder/unit owner also addresses this issue, and if so, any breach of the alteration agreement should be noted in writing as well. If the shareholder or unit owner does not respond to these warnings, the board should compile a record of the house rules and provisions of the alteration agreement that have been breached and all written warnings to the resident.
What do you do if your neighbor contests your complaint that the noise is unbearable? You or your board (depending on who is bringing the complaint) could hire a consultant to measure the noise from the construction. If your board was reluctant to intervene in the first place, this evidence would strengthen your argument and most likely persuade the board to take action against the shareholder or unit owner whose unit is undergoing renovation.
To avoid conflicts between neighbors and the board, it is important that the board reviews all construction projects (big or small). The board should remind shareholders and unit owners of the limits of their construction projects, ensure that they do not make unreasonable noise or mess, and only work during the allotted times in the house rules. Secondly, the board should notify all residents in the building of the construction project and its estimated time frame, and work to enforce the restrictions in place. This will help to prevent animosity between neighbors. Litigation is costly and time consuming, and almost certainly not in you or your building’s best interest for a noise complaint.