Question: In January, I moved to a two-bedroom apartment at the market price of the Upper West Side. A few days later, a bowel reconstruction began in the apartment above me, flooding me with noise all day. As a high school teacher, I had to leave the apartment to teach my Zoom lessons elsewhere. My landlord will not tell me when the work will be completed, and today the contractor told me that the demonstration caused the ceiling to leak. I don’t know what to do at the moment. Please help.
AND: The landlord should at least repair the leak and tell you when the construction work will be completed.
“There’s no point in not giving you a timeline,” said Michael Mintz, the CEO MD Squared Property Group, Manhattan real estate manager.
During this process, your landlord could make your life easier. Mr. Mintz suggested giving tenants noise-canceling headphones to drown out the noise, set a quiet lunchtime hour during which employees take lunch breaks, and make concessions if necessary.
You may feel helpless, but you have leverage. You could potentially break the tenancy agreement and arrange a constructive eviction, as you cannot be in your apartment during the day. “The tenant usually proves that the conditions in the apartment are rising to the level of constructive eviction,” said lawyer Jennifer Rozen, who represents the tenant. “But during Covid, when tenants are expected to spend almost all of their time in an apartment, judges may take a lesser approach to this defense.”
If you move out, your landlord would be left trying to find a new tenant in a market where rents are down and vacancies are up. Most likely, your landlord needs you. Hold that card on your vest. You may need to use.
In the short term, request in writing that management repair the leak and repair any damage to the ceiling immediately – and get a timeline. Also ask for a reduction in rent, as constant noise can disrupt yours guarantee of habitability, state law. You may even be able to issue a court order against the landlord to stop the work or complete it within a set time limit if the conditions are found to be harassing. Your case would be stronger if the landlord rented you an apartment because you knew work was about to begin and did not disclose the information, said Robert J. Braverman, a Manhattan real estate lawyer who dealt with building defects.
Next way: Call 311 and ask the Ministry of Buildings to send an inspector to check for violations, unsafe conditions or illegal work. If it detects dangerous conditions, the department could issue an order to stop work. That would bring you peace and quiet.