Real Estate

My Neighbor Has a Very Annoying Emotional Support Dog. What Can I Do?

Q: My husband and I have lived in a co-op in Westchester County for 37 years. It’s a three-story building that prohibits dogs as pets, and we’ve always had a great relationship with the other residents. But nine months ago, our upstairs neighbors acquired an emotional support dog for their teenager. The dog runs back and forth for 30 minutes at a time. At least three nights a week, it scratches a bedroom rug, waking us up throughout the night. We have shared our concerns with the neighbors, asking them to crate the dog at night and walk him when he’s rambunctious. They seemed receptive, but the problem persists. How can we balance the rights of people to have emotional support animals with our right to live peacefully?

A: As long as this dog isn’t biting people, it’s probably not going anywhere. Support animals are protected accommodations under county, state and federal fair-housing laws. Your co-op board could be liable for discrimination if it is found to be hostile to this dog owner, and so could you. So tread lightly.

“A neighbor can be sued in Westchester,” said Andrew Lieb, a New York housing discrimination lawyer, noting that the law allows your neighbor to sue you for emotional distress and attorneys fees.

As difficult as it might be to live below this dog, try to imagine the situation from the owner’s perspective and what they might be dealing with in their family. “If I was the neighbor and wanted to do something, I would go on a nice campaign,” Mr. Lieb said.

Legally, the building cannot charge extra fees to this resident or limit the dog’s size or breed. Focus any complaints you have on elements of the situation that violate your building’s rules, such as unreasonable noise. You could use a decibel reader to show how loud the noise is and how long it lasts, to establish that it is unreasonable, and then make a complaint to your co-op board so the sound can be mitigated.

You can also check the building’s bylaws to see if your neighbor has sufficient carpeting. Some buildings require residents on upper floors to have 80 percent of the floor carpeted.

“Emotional support animals are protected, but they still need to obey any house rules,” said Jonathan Roman, a real estate lawyer who practices in Westchester.

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