Q. A shareholder in our co-op is combining two apartments. For the past six months, the construction has made our lives miserable, tying up the elevator and disrupting any quiet enjoyment on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The board and the managing agent have shrugged off the concerns of shareholders, and we are at our wits’ end. Is there anything to be done?
A. The co-op may have signed off on renovation plans, but that does not give your neighbor license to make everyone else miserable. “They can’t just do anything,” said Ingrid C. Manevitz, a partner at the law firm Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas.
Your neighbors cannot create unreasonable noise. If they do, and the board fails to intervene, then you might have a claim against your neighbor and the building, Ms. Manevitz said. To prove that it is unreasonable, you could hire a consultant to measure the noise. Armed with that evidence, you may be able sue the building for violating the proprietary lease, the warranty of habitability and your right to the quiet enjoyment of your apartment. As for your neighbor, you may be able sue him for creating a private nuisance.
But litigation is expensive and grueling. Do any of us really want to get embroiled in a lawsuit with our building and neighbors? Gathering evidence of excessive noise could help you, even if you don’t sue: You could bring it to management, urging them to address the problem properly.
Consider the long view. Your neighbors will, eventually, finish the renovation. But this won’t be the last time someone takes a sledgehammer to a kitchen. “Many of my clients have endured renovations by neighbors before they proceed with their own,” said Paul Barnla, the founder of Artistic License Interiors, a contractor based in Brooklyn. “It’s a bit of a rite of passage and a trade-off for living in the big city.”
To prepare for the next big project, get more involved with your building and perhaps run for a board seat. With a leadership voice, you could influence how projects are handled. The board could revisit its standard alteration agreement, enacting stricter rules about how a contractor works and limiting hours (or even months of the year) when work can be done.
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