Time for Doggy Day Care
Q. A new owner recently moved into the condo unit above mine with a very yappy dog. The owner travels frequently, sometimes for weeks at a time, and has dog-sitters come in. The dog howls and yelps day and night; clearly it is not happy. I have contacted 311, the building management and the owner of the dog. But the situation has not changed. My wife and I plan to sell our unit next year and I worry about the salability should the dog act up during an open house or a showing. Are there any other actions or strategies I should be considering?
Midtown West/Garment District
A. Dogs are social animals. When a dog is left alone for long stretches of time, it can become anxious, as is likely the case with your neighbor’s pet. If the dog is howling day and night, I suspect the dog-sitter is not spending much time in the apartment or interacting with the dog enough.
“The dog is probably totally freaked out,” said Peter L. Borchelt, an animal behavior consultant.
Reach out to your neighbor again and gently express your concerns for the dog’s well-being. Suggest he consider a more social alternative to the dog-sitter arrangement. Websites like dogvacay.com connect dog owners with people willing to house a dog. Or he could supplement the sitter with other social engagements. The School for the Dogs provides a dog share service that connects owners with people who want to play with their pets.
If that doesn’t work, press building management to step in. Although your building permits dogs, that doesn’t mean it can’t enforce rules about noise.
“The board does have the ability to say to the neighbor”, “We allow dogs, but we have rules,”” said Darryl Vernon, a real estate lawyer who represents people with companion animals. “There can’t be excessive barking; he can’t be loose in the halls.”
As for the salability of your apartment, if you’ve already alerted building management to the problem, then any potential buyer will see a record of that complaint, even if the neighbor”s pup is quiet as a mouse during the open house. But you may not need to worry about the buyers anyway: One man’s yappy dog is another man’s adorable pooch.
Q. I have been told that my neighbors, who are a husband-and-wife shrink duo, are “grandfathered in” for an apartment across from their residence “next to me” to use as an office. Patients come and go from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. How can I make sure that this grandfathering claim is legitimate? And if they are allowed to have patients coming and going, aren’t there time restrictions? It gives me the creeps! And it frightens me.
A. I’m not sure what frightens you about this situation. Is it because clients arrive after dinnertime? Or does it have something to do with the nature of their visit? If the husband-and-wife team were podiatrists, would that lessen your anxiety? If you’re worried about the fact that psychologists’ patients are lingering near your door, rest assured that just about everybody in New York has a therapist.
That said, if you want to find out whether you can prevent your neighbors from earning a living in the building, review the co-op’s governing documents. If there were special provisions, they would be detailed there. If you believe there is a violation, contact the co-op board with your concerns. “But if the board has approved the use and hours,” said Theresa Racht, a real estate lawyer, “there isn’t much you can do.”
You might want to take advantage of the fact that your neighbors are in the business of communication and talk to them. I suspect that your chief concern is the endless stream of strangers wandering your halls. If your building has a doorman, see if the patients can be escorted to the office and back out of the building. Perhaps the psychologists could schedule patients so no one waits in the hall. As annoying as therapy patients might be, having enemies for neighbors might be far worse.
Q. I live in a rent-stabilized apartment that has been all but abandoned by the owners. The radiator broke a few weeks ago. The super had someone come fix it, but now it’s broken again and my apartment is freezing. The super told me a few days ago that he had asked the landlord to replace the radiator, but nothing has been fixed. Is there any action I can take against my landlord? Do I deduct the cost of space heaters from my rent? Do I not pay rent for the days that the heat hasn’t worked?
Union Square, New York
A. Landlords are required to provide tenants with heat and hot water. Given the deep freeze this month, you have good reason to want him to fix the problem promptly. You can sue your landlord in housing court to correct the violation. It’s a simple process: You go to court and are given a date for an inspection and a court date. An inspector from the department of Housing Preservation and Development will come out and check the temperature in your apartment. The city provides guidelines on what that temperature should be at any given time of year.
“Lack of heat and hot water is considered an immediately hazardous violation,” said Sheryl Karp, a supervising attorney for the Legal Aid Society in New York City. “If the landlord doesn’t correct it within 24 hours they can be fined by the city, which is why H.P.D. shows up.”
If you’re averse to court, call 311, and an inspector from the department will be sent to your apartment to check the temperature.
As for your rent, you can apply for a reduction with the New York State Division of Homes and Community Renewal. If you have the stomach for a fight, you can withhold rent for the days without heat and for out-of-pocket costs, because the state provides for a warranty of habitability. If you go that route, document everything. Get a thermometer and write down the temperature inside your apartment on a calendar. Put your requests for heat in writing and keep receipts for the space heaters. But make sure you keep any unpaid rent handy in the event that a judge rules against you when the landlord sues you for the money.