Upstairs neighbors fish tank - NYC
January 2, 2018 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Upstairs neighbors fish tank - NYC I'm a renter in a building in NYC. My upstairs neighbors fish tank is making my entire apartment hum. They won't put a mat under it or move it. What do I do?

Our upstairs neighbors have moved their fish tank to a new location on their floor/our ceiling. When the motor for the filter is on our entire apartment has a low frequency humming noise, that can be heard in the living room and felt everywhere else. We have approached them about the noise and they turn the pump off for a week and then turn it back on again. They believe that it cannot be causing the buzz because the motor is not loud in their apartment, but I can feel the motor through my ceiling in the spot the tank sits. I believe the pump is vibrating the walls of the cabinet its sitting in and turning it into a subwoofer cabinet pointed directly at my ceiling. Googling around shows that this can be a common problem with pumps if they are placed directly above a structural element that their vibration will carry as structure born noise. They have mentioned that they might be willing to but a mat under it but have made no moves to do so. Currently the tank is on and the buzzing is present. It is making my wife nauseous and we have had to spend the past two nights elsewhere as the low frequency hum makes her physically sick. We are going to give it one last shot at communicating directly with them this week about the issue, before we loop management in. What are my options if they won’t play ball? Does management have a responsibility to help us mediate with them? Can we break our lease over this?
posted by edbles to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you buy them a mat and give it to them and ask that they put it under the tank?
posted by griphus at 12:18 PM on January 2, 2018 [5 favorites]

Giving them another shot before contacting management is generous. Is there a reason you are doing this? If they have already failed to deal with it (sounds like it if they turned the pump off for a week and then back on again) I would bump it up to management now; they are preventing your quiet enjoyment of your space and have been dismissive of your concerns.

I honestly would not worry about the what-ifs for now- you’ll probably feel better after you make a step to deal with it. This is the kind of thing that it’s really easy to get wrapped up in spiraling anxiety about but might not actually be that big a deal if you have a reasonable landlord and are good tenants s/he doesn’t want to lose.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:22 PM on January 2, 2018 [14 favorites]

They believe that it cannot be causing the buzz because the motor is not loud in their apartment

I would invite one of them down for refreshments and then call the other one upstairs to start and stop the pump so that they can experience it firsthand.
posted by exogenous at 12:27 PM on January 2, 2018 [9 favorites]

Sorry clarification then I will jump out. We have a 3/4" rubber mat shipping in and we plan to knock on their door when it gets in and ask to put it under the tank (or between the filter and its cabinet walls). There are two tenants upstairs Tenant A has indicated a willingness to try to work with us but has been gone over the holidays and our interactions over the last week of knocking on the door have been with Tenant B. Tenant B has agreed to put a mat under it this coming week but stated that they need time to empty the tank in order to try it, because its a large tank possibly 35 gallons so 300 pounds, I provided my cell number and asked him to get in touch once the mat was down to confirm that it was working. But when we broached this subject with them at the top of the month they also promised to out a mat down or move the tank, neither of which has happened. I'm more interested in what obligations my landlord has to me if we can't resolve this between the two apartments, because I'm concerned that if the upstairs neighbors become frustrated, they will stonewall us.
posted by edbles at 12:35 PM on January 2, 2018

A lot of NYC apartment leases say at least 80% of the apartment should be carpeted, but this is routinely ignored. If your building does this, and your neighbor is technically in violation of that clause then building management should be able to pressure them for violating the lease agreement.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:39 PM on January 2, 2018

the landlord guarantees you quiet enjoyment of the property (which doesn't mean "it's always quiet" or that you must enjoy living there, it means more like "reasonable home use.") These folks are preventing you from having that. I don't understand why you haven't gone to the landlord already. Your landlord may not even be all that excited about a giant fishtank in the property; it represents a significant potential source of flooding. They should be 100% on your side.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:47 PM on January 2, 2018 [9 favorites]

Any chance you have a copy of your lease handy and can confirm whether or not fish tanks are allowed?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:25 PM on January 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

Have you seen how the offending pump is mounted? I doubt the tank itself is the culprit. If the pump is off to the side then isolating it from the cabinet (and thus the building structure) may be relatively easy. By asking them to put a mat under the tank you might be making this unnecessarily difficult.
posted by jon1270 at 1:48 PM on January 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

Absolutely sympathize (my top floor apartment has multiple HVACS bolted to the thin wooden roof, I've needed to move years ago).

Emptying/refilling large fishtanks are a serious PITA (and the fish get super stressed, and can die). A big enough PITA that I've known people not to take new much better jobs because it would involve having to move their fishtank. It can be a real emotion issue for some people.

That said, googling around, it looks like mats or even acoustic tiles/foam do very little. However, I did read a suggestion on a forum but there wasn't a follow up.

The suggestion was to suspend the pump using bungee cords or (stretchy) rubber tubing (can be found at fitness stores) so the physical pump doesn't contact a hard/solid surface.

It would be pretty inexpensive to try some experiments. Like, get your hands on a milk crate (or other box, milk crates have convenient places to hook the bungee cords to) and some bungee cords and web the pump inside the box so it isn't touching anything.

Or, even, criss-cross bungee cords over the top of the milk crate and just put the pump on top of the web.

I suspect it might be more noisy to your neighbours but the proposed setups should isolate the vibration from the building.
posted by porpoise at 2:45 PM on January 2, 2018 [5 favorites]

Tenant A had apparently been away on a trip came down to our apartment for 5 seconds to listen, went back upstairs, turned the bubble machine (which is apparently different from the pump that oxygenates the water?) off and now the infernal buzzing is gone. We have also exchanged phone numbers for future emergencies. Yay for neighborlyness!
posted by edbles at 1:52 PM on January 4, 2018 [7 favorites]

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