Handling Touchy Complaints in Co-Ops and Condos It's About Sense and Sensitivity

In NYC, owners need to realize that they've bought into a certain amount of neighborly racket (iStock).

Conflict comes hand-in-hand with living in close quarters. Such is the nature of condominium and cooperative living. Some dust-ups between neighbors are settled with a polite conversation, or a mild nudge from the condo or co-op board. Others can get out of hand, and in extreme cases be dragged out for years via the courts. 

But what about ostensibly mild discrepancies that involve sensitive topics -- things such as sex, smells, parenting -- where the line between personal preference and public nuisance may be blurry? And how can an owner or shareholder address sensitive subjects with another without ruffling any feathers?

A Matter of Sex

In a nation in part built by Puritans, it's still not always easy to address sex, especially between passing acquaintances. Sometimes it helps to have an intermediary. Fortunately, a property manager or attorney can often play such a role.

“If someone calls me up and says that their upstairs neighbor is having wild and crazy sex, I'm basically going to write a letter to the offending owner that says that they're in violation of the house rules and the proprietary lease,” says Jay Cohen, the vice president and director of operations of A. Michael Tyler Realty Corp., which has locations in Manhattan and Long Island. “They're letting noise emerge from their apartment that is disturbing the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of other shareholders in the building.”

Indeed with noise issues, many associations have quiet hours from, for example, 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., during which the slightest disturbance is forbidden. This type of rule can make it easier to address something like sex without specifically describing the inciting incident.


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  • Thank you to the staff of the Cooperator. We have lived in our co-op for over 53 years. We raised 4 great children here, who are now adults with families of their own. With about 240 families in 5 buildings right off the beach in Rockaway, our co-op is a great example of the dynamics of a TC community. Both my husband and I volunteered at various times to be on the board of directors. Every issue in the Cooperator either confirms or enlightens us on the needs and/or responsibilities of all the TCs, the board, management, hired professional's and vendors. Even the advertisements are sometimes helpful. As a board member, I attended many of your Expos in the City. They should be a must for as many board members and advisory TCs as possible. Some of us attended seminars together or separately and shared the info with other members. Most of us were not professionals in realestate management, risk management or maintenance and legal matters. But the information we received greatly helped us know how to deal with our neighbors, hired staff and vendors. Thank you, again. Keep up the great work. Sincerely, Providence