Tag Archive: home

Residents have the right to quiet in their homes

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

For thirty years, I have served on the Board of Directors of GrowNYC, largely overseeing its noise activities. In this capacity I worked with our staff on preparing information for our website that informs readers on how to protect themselves from noise and also to respect their neighbors’ rights to a quieter environment in their homes.

Readers who are having noise problems can read my post on how to deal with noisy neighbors or they may contact me through GrowNYC. I hope our advice has influenced readers to be respectful of neighbors’ right to quiet. But, sadly, the people I hear from are those who have neighbors who do not realize or care about imposing their sounds on their neighbors.

In his report on noise in New York City neighborhoods, Thomas P. DiNapoli noted the large number of noise complaints handled by the city’s 311 Customer Service Center as well as the results of a survey his office launched to gain greater insight into the types of noise complaints received by 311. Residential complaints, which were high on the list, included “…banging or pounding of music, party or people noise coming from a home.”

Although the Police Department can respond to some of the neighbor to neighbor complaints, e.g. very loud, disruptive parties, many of these neighbor complaints have to be resolved by landlords and managing agents. In New York State, the lease that tenants sign entitle them to a “warranty of habitability,” and under this clause they have the right to requisite quiet. Unfortunately, it has been the experience of many tenants that noise complaints are not taken seriously by their landlords and managing agents. I know this because many people with neighbor noise complaints call me at GrowNYC and I, in turn, where permissible, contact their landlords or managing agents.

While I have had much success in resolving neighbor to neighbor complaints, in those cases where I have not succeeded residents had to go to tenant/landlord court. I remember one case where neighbors were complaining about children running across uncovered floors late at night. The judge took the noise complaint seriously and told the mother that the children should have been asleep late at night and admonished her for being a “bad” mother. He also sided with the complainant and ordered the managing agent to enforce the right of this tenant to “reasonable quiet.”

I have some experience with residents in private homes in New York City and elsewhere having no other option but to go to court. But I don’t recall anyone receiving the high award for damages noted in this British case, where the complainant was awarded over £100,000 (approx. $138,000) in compensatory damages. I find the award of $138,000 dollars striking. Particularly since the judge also ordered the company that owned the offending flat to carry out work on the floors that would reduce the noise.

In the apartment noise cases I have been involved with, judges have asked landlords to make sure that tenants have proper carpeting on the floors which is often stipulated in leases. In one case, the judge had asked the resident who created the noise to put back the padding to the radiator she had removed when she remodeled the apartment since the removal of the padding allowed noise to enter the apartment below.

I wish tenants, landlords, managing agents, and judges involved in neighbor noise cases would read the article on the large financial payout for inflicting noise on a neighbor. It might make them realize that: (1) noise is indeed hazardous to well-being, and (2) action must be taken to abate the noise or there may be a financial price to pay.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

Is your home too noisy? Here’s a useful guide to help make your space more peaceful:

How to solve common sound problems in your home. Kate Wagner, a graduate student in Acoustics writing for Curbed.com, has written an interesting piece on room acoustics that is very accessible for the layperson.  She describes basic acoustic principles and examines common sound problems and solutions.  Whether the issue is your entertainment system or an open plan space, Wagner offers straight forward suggestions you can use to make your home as aurally comfortable as possible.

If you want to learn more about about sound absorption, reflection, diffusion, and transmission to see how they affect the sound quality of a room, watch this short and informative video Wagner linked to in her piece:


A little self-help can’t hurt

In light of the recent study linking traffic noise to an increased risk of acquiring dementia, this article is a must read: How To Reduce Noise Pollution At Home.

Of course, one would hope that governments would think about how best to limit noise after reading that frightening study.  The medical costs alone should be enough to motivate even the most dispassionate bean counter.  But until they do, we really must take matters into our own hands and try to make our homes as peaceful and noise free as possible.

Link via @QuietMark.