Q&A: Getting the New Neighbors to Follow the Rules

Q. My husband and I own a co-op. The rule book specifically states that the second-floor apartment must have 80 percent of each room carpeted and padded. Now we just got new tenants moving in above us. When they walk around up there, they are always very noisy. And they are up until 3 a.m. making noise and dropping heavy things on the floor right over our heads. I tried talking to management, which did nothing. Is there anything I can do or anyone else besides management I can talk to, to get these new tenants to obey the rules? They also take people’s parking in the lots whenever they want.”

               —Complaining About the Noise

A. “You do not say whether you have reached out to your neighbors to discuss this,” says attorney  Mark R. Rosenbaum,  an attorney with Fischel & Kahn, Ltd., in Chicago. “Sometimes people are truly unaware of the effect they have on the people around them. Since you have to live together, and they are new to the building, approaching them to discuss the matter(s) may be the quickest way to resolve the problems you are having. But assuming you have reached out to your neighbors with no success (or are, for whatever reason, unwilling to so reach out) and assuming the board and managing agent are at least initially being unwilling to address the issue, you have few easy remedies.  

 “The board has a fiduciary duty to enforce the association’s documents.  You say you have ‘talked’ to management about these issues.  Simply ‘talking’ with management is often not enough to trigger a formal review of a problem. You should review your association documents and rules to determine the mechanism to trigger a formal review of the problems you are having. That may mean, for example, the filing with the association of a written complaint against the neighbors. Whatever the process, it should require the board and/or managing agent to at least investigate the issues and make a determination as to whether further action is needed. Starting up with the formal process may result in some formal, association-level action being taken against your new neighbors. Such formal action could range from fines to, in especially severe cases, forced sale of the neighbors’ unit. If no action is taken on your formal ‘complaint,’ the association rules may at least require the board/agent to respond to you with an explanation of why no action is being taken. 

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