Let There Be Not So Much Light

Q.  My partner and I live on the 12th floor of a condominium on West 57th Street. Many of our apartment windows face Seventh Avenue. Directly across the avenue from us is an apartment whose residents are raising some sort of plant that requires a great deal of artificial light. This apartment has no window coverings whatsoever, and the amount of light that shines out of the apartment is quite offensive. At various times, especially when the sun goes down, the light emanating from across the avenue is blinding. I know there are noise regulations in the city, but are there light regulations as well?
A.  “There currently do not exist any regulations that limit the maximum brightness of the light emanating from a light source, regardless of the time of day,” said David A. Kaminsky, a Manhattan real estate lawyer. “The regulations that do exist generally mandate minimum levels of light that must be present for safety purposes.”
Mr. Kaminsky said that while there have been several legislative proposals to impose violations for so-called “light trespassing,” none have become law. But, he said, the letter writer may not be entirely without recourse.
Under common law, Mr. Kaminsky said, there is a cause of action for what are called “private nuisance light cases,” in which the light from an adjoining property is so strong that it disturbs and offends “a person of reasonable sensibilities.”
So, he said, the writer should notify the offending tenant and the tenant’s landlord in writing of the problem and demand that the nuisance cease immediately. If the problem continues, the writer may have a claim for nuisance against the tenant and the landlord. “It should be noted that the court’s standard will be that of a ‘reasonable person,'” Mr. Kaminsky said. “The court will not make exceptions for those who are hypersensitive to light.”

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