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80% Carpet Rule: What Should You Know as a Landlord

Carpet rule or 80/20 rule is a requirement to cover 80% of the walkable part of your floors with carpeting. The primary purpose of this practice is to reduce the level of noise and decrease the risk of disturbing the downstairs neighbors.

Is there a law requiring carpeting?

Despite the popular belief, this rule is not explicitly stated in any state housing regulations or municipal laws. However, it is a widespread practice in certain metropolitan areas, such as NYC, NJ, LA and San Francisco, where the requirement is sometimes raised to 85% percent. In those areas, carpeting rule is a part of the house rules and are included in the lease provisions. Those overcrowded urban areas struggle with the problem of ambient sound or background noise. That is why they pushed for corporate regulations to prevent noise levels from influencing public health, comfort, safety, and convenience.

Although these conditions are not required by municipal or state laws, they are enforceable by condo and co-op boards. Violation of those terms can result in the termination of your lease or even eviction. Some landlords choose to individually establish 80/20 rule for their tenants in order to avoid potential neighborhood conflicts etc. Frequently, covering the floors is a responsibility of a tenant.

Reasons for carpeting an apartment

Carpeting is an effective tool in noise abatement. Your tenants might have different walking habits, like shuffling and stomping. Presence of little kids who tend to run around or overly active pets can also aggravate the noise. Adopting 80% requirement helps to effectively mitigate the risks of any neighbors complaints. Despite the fact that requirements for carpeting are not legally binding, noise standards are. Noise pollution is strictly regulated by the legal frameworks of the  Environmental Protection Agency. Additionally, there is a federal regulation in place, known as the Noise Control Act of 1972. Even though the aforementioned laws were adopted mainly to curb noise from construction equipment,  trucks and motorcycles they set a legal precedent for registering noise complaints.

What does it mean for the landlord? If the level of noise created by the upstairs neighbors is sufficient to be considered a legal nuisance, it is enough to warrant a legal action. That would require the involvement of acoustic expert to determine the decibel level and validate the claim. After that, a distressed neighbor can bring the action to the State Supreme Court. The court can obligate you to reduce the level of noise. Alternatively, a neighbor can write a letter to the co-op board and cause an internal investigation. In both scenarios, the landlord is liable to pay all the fines and answer to all of the legal inquiries.

What parts of the floor should be carpeted?

Even though installing carpeting is usually the duty of the tenant, responsible landlords can secure the residence from the sources of noise in advance.

If you have questions about covering the bathroom floors or spaces under the furniture, you get this rule wrong. The main objective of this rule is to reduce noise from foot traffic. Therefore, covering the main hallways and passages will suffice. Nevertheless, some additional repercussions might be useful too. Pads for furniture or foot covers for chairs can effectively reduce not only creaks but also scratches on the floor. Kitchens can also be a substantial source of noise if tenants spend a lot of time there. The potential solution to this conundrum can be vinyl tiles. They look stylish, effectively absorb noise from footsteps and can be easily removed. A more permanent solution would be laminating floors with a sound-absorbing underlayment. Additionally, you can encourage your tenants to take their shoes off, when they are entering the apartment. This would not only decrease the sound of footsteps but also significantly reduce the amount of dust and dirt that can be brought from outside. You can hardly enforce this principle, but kind advice and careful suggestion can go a long way.     

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the 80% requirement is really hard to track and enforce. The noise complains are very rarely evolve into a legal action. Moreover, it is virtually impossible to control how meticulously the tenant is following the rule. You are not going to casually inspect if the floor is covered with rugs, right? Therefore, it would be wise to shield your property from noise before renting it out. Installation of carpeting, laminating floors with soundproof underlayment can minimize risks of lawsuit hassle. If you live in the areas with traditions of regulating and enforcing noise levels take an alternative approach. Sit down with your lawyer or trusted legal advisor and write a hard solid lease. This agreement should include the provisions about carpets, noises from furniture and footsteps. It should have sections about the noise standards and who would be liable in case of violations. Follow through on both of these approaches and your tenants and their downstairs neighbors will have a quiet and peaceful life.


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