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Noise Nuisances and Eviction

February 9, 2018 Posted in Landlord/Tenant Law

In New York, a tenant who creates a noise nuisance — same as any other nuisance — may give their landlord the right to evict them from the property (or at least to compel the tenant to stop the nuisance).

What Qualifies as a Nuisance?

If you are attempting to evict a tenant on the basis of their having created a nuisance in the building, then you’ll have to show that the tenant is currently: 1) engaged in a continuous course of conduct, and 2) that course of conduct is threatening to the health, safety, or comfort of neighboring tenants.

Let’s unpack these two elements a bit further.

Continuous Course of Conduct

“Continuity” is fundamental to the creation of an actionable nuisance.  Intermittent problems are not enough to qualify as a nuisance unless you can show that there is a pattern of such behavior, or that there is likely to be a repeat problem in the future.

This can be difficult to understand from a conceptual standpoint, so consider the following example for clarification.

Suppose that your tenant has hosted several late-night parties during the weekdays.  This has happened intermittently — perhaps three or four times over the course of two years.  Given the frequency, it’s unlikely that you would be able to prove that the nuisance is “continuous.”  By contrast, if the tenant hosted a weeknight party (that disturbed the neighboring tenants) on a monthly basis, that might be sufficient to qualify as a “continuous” nuisance.

Threatening to the Health, Safety, or Comfort of Neighboring Tenants

Even if you don’t like the tenant’s conduct, it will not qualify as a nuisance unless it is clearly threatening to the health, safety, or comfort of neighboring tenants.  Noise nuisances generally do not threaten the safety of other tenants but tend to be health/comfort violations.  If the noise causes enough of a disturbance such that neighboring tenants cannot sleep, for example, then it may cause health problems for those tenants.

Tenants Must Be Given an Opportunity to “Cure” the Nuisance

As the landlord, you must give your tenant an opportunity to cure (i.e., fix) the nuisance before evicting them.  Simply put, you’ll have to send the tenant a notice to cure the nuisance before you are entitled to evict them.

Giving the tenant an opportunity to cure the nuisance can lead to a rather muddled scenario in the noise nuisance context, as you may have to give the tenant significant time so that you can observe and note any further complaints.

For example, suppose that a tenant’s dog has been barking every few nights, disturbing the sleep of neighboring tenants.  You give them a notice to cure the nuisance.  You’ll thereafter have to observe the tenant and determine whether they have actually cured the nuisance, but you may have to wait several weeks, maybe even months to accurately assess whether the nuisance has been cured.  If you only wait a short time, that may not be sufficient (as the dog has “barking nights” once or twice a week and may have quiet weeks).

Speak to an Attorney Experienced in New York Landlord Tenant Law for Guidance

If you are a New York landlord and your tenant is causing a nuisance with their noise-related behaviors, then you may be entitled to evict them.  Nuisance evictions can be quite complicated — depending on the circumstances — so it’s important that you get in touch with an attorney who is experienced in handling difficult disputes arising out of New York landlord tenant law.

Here at Griffin Alexander, P.C., our attorneys have extensive experience helping New York landlords evict problematic tenants and protect their other tenants from nuisances, including noise-related nuisances.  We understand how to approach such disputes so as to maximize the probability of a favorable resolution.

Interested in learning more?  Call (212) 867-6069 or request an appointment online to get connected to one of our skilled attorneys for further assistance.  We will evaluate your dispute and help you determine effective next steps for moving forward.

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