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

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

Is There a Law Requiring Carpeting?

Despite popular belief, this rule is not explicitly stated in any state housing regulations or municipal laws. However, it is widespread in some metropolitan regions, such as New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, where the requirement is sometimes raised to 85% percent. In those areas, the carpeting rule is a part of the house rules and is 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 an 80/20 rule for their tenants in order to avoid potential neighborhood conflicts etc. Frequently, covering the floors is the responsibility of a tenant.

Reasons for Carpeting an Apartment

Carpeting is an effective tool for noise abatement. Your tenants might have different walking habits, like shuffling and stomping. The presence of little kids who tend to run around or overly active pets can also aggravate the noise. Adopting an 80% requirement helps to effectively mitigate the risks of any neighbor’s 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 noise level created by the upstairs neighbors is sufficient to be considered a legal nuisance, it is enough to warrant legal action. That would require the involvement of an acoustic expert to determine the decibel level and validate the claim. After that, a distressed neighbor can bring an 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 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.     


At the end of the day, the 80% requirement is really hard to track and enforce. The noise complaints very rarely evolve into 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 apartment from the noise before renting it out. Installation of carpeting and laminating floors with soundproof underlayment can minimize risks of lawsuit hassle. If you live in 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 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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  1. Can a landlord refuse rental because you have allergies and can not have carpet in the apartment?

  2. If you use large are rugs on the main areas and you are single and you don’t walk with your high heels on. Why would a landlord tell you that she will not rent you the apartment unless you covered it 80%.