February 23, 2019

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Are Those Noisy Houseguests Upstairs, or an Airbnb?

Are Those Noisy Houseguests Upstairs, or an Airbnb?
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Q: I am a rent-stabilized tenant living in an Upper West Side co-op building. The owners of the unit above mine are rarely home, but they loan it out to relatives, who can be so noisy that I have to sleep in my living room when they use the apartment. Over the past two months, there’s been a rotating cast of visitors, and the current set stomps around until after midnight. To what agency can I make a complaint, and what documentation do I need? I do keep a noise diary.

A: Many co-ops permit owners to have guests for up to 30 days. Some buildings require the owner of the apartment to be present, while others do not. Your neighbor may be following the co-op’s rules about houseguests, but buildings also have policies about noise, too.

No one, not a tenant nor a guest, is supposed to make excessive noise that interferes with another resident’s ability to enjoy their home. However, noise complaints are notoriously hard to win since the courts generally maintain that the city is noisy and tolerating the occasional stomping feet is part of the price of living here. The success of these claims comes down to the severity of the disturbance.

You could knock on the neighbor’s door when the guests get too loud. Explain that you live downstairs and that they are keeping you up. As visitors, they might feel shamed into behaving better. But this will only provide temporary relief since the guests presumably will soon be replaced with a new bunch.


Continue to keep a noise log noting the dates, times, duration and volume of the disturbances. Complain in writing to your landlord and to the managing agent, providing them with these details.

Given the volume of visitors, it is possible that the apartment upstairs is operating as an illegal hotel, not just a crash pad for extended family. If the neighbor is listing the apartment on short-term rental sites like Airbnb, or collecting money from these guests, he or she may be violating the law.

If so, you “may have additional leverage,” said Lisa A. Smith, a real estate lawyer and partner in the Manhattan office of the law firm Smith, Gambrell and Russell.

You could report concerns about an illegal hotel to 311 or the city’s Office of Special Enforcement, and raise the issue with your landlord and building management.

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