Q&A: Stopping the Noise Stopping the Noise

Q I have a neighbor whose door is just across from mine and whenever she enters her apartment, she closes her door with a very loud bang. Sometimes, I am asleep and I wake up and can’t go back to sleep. This has been going on for years and years. I talked to her about it, begged her, cried to her, shouted at her, but still nothing. Sometimes she remembers and no sound, but 90 percent of the time I am bothered by the banging of her closet and door especially at night. What can I do short of writing to the board? This is a condo building and both of us are renters.

—Losing Sleep

A “‘Short of writing to the board,’ this renter’s options arise under landlord tenant law,” says attorney R. Bruce Freeman of the Westfield-based firm, Woehling & Freeman, LLP. “The writer could assert a claim against her landlord that her right to quiet enjoyment under her lease is being violated, seeking either cancellation of the lease or action by the landlord as a remedy. The writer might also have a claim against her neighbor for nuisance, although it is doubtful that merely slamming doors would rise to that level.

“If contacted, the board’s involvement would be limited. This is primarily a private dispute between owners (or renters) with little connection to traditional bases of board jurisdiction, such as impact upon common elements or upon interests of the community as a whole.

“Nevertheless, under New Jersey law, the board has an obligation to provide an alternative dispute resolution procedure (ADR) for ‘housing related disputes,’ even if these are merely ‘between owners,’ and do not involve the association directly. This would appear to be a housing related dispute so the requirement to provide ADR would be triggered at the request of the landlord/owner. If the writer contacts her landlord/owner and a complaint is made to the association, the association must provide the two owners or tenants with a forum to air their grievances, and possibly to mediate an agreement to be more considerate of each other. However, ADR is a non-binding procedure.

“The landlord/owner could also demand that the association enforce restrictions and covenants in the governing documents. Most governing documents include a prohibition against creating a nuisance or unreasonable annoyance, but slamming a door is probably not at that level. If an association were involved at this level of dispute between occupants, there would be virtually no end to the board’s responsibility.”

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