Why Landlords Love the “80 Percent Carpet Rule”

published Jun 3, 2022
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There’s no shortage of sirens, car horns, and loud construction work in metropolitan areas. While noise pollution in big cities is strictly regulated, landlords are constantly looking for ways to reduce noise and keep tenants happy. One solution is the 80 percent carpet rule.

It may seem simple and straightforward — cover at least 80 percent of the flooring with carpet or area rugs — but not sticking to this rule has landed some tenants in hot water.

What is the 80 percent carpet rule?

The 80 percent carpet rule (or 80/20 carpet rule) is a requirement for tenants to cover at least 80 percent of their floors with carpets or rugs to help reduce noise. If your apartment has wood, tile, or laminate floors and you live in a densely populated area — like New York City, Los Angeles, or San Francisco — there’s a good chance that you’ll be asked to cover the majority of your floors with area rugs to keep your neighbors happy.

“It’s a requirement that everyone is supposed to adhere to, but not everybody does,” says Gea Elika, principal broker of ELIKA Real Estate in New York City. “I think it’s a rule that everyone should follow to make life easier for a lot of people.”

Credit: Margaret Wright

Is the 80 percent carpet rule enforced?

Dealing with noisy neighbors is a normal part of big city living, but a noise complaint in an apartment building with an 80 percent carpet rule could lead to bigger problems.

“I’ve seen conflicts and then enforcement,” explains Elika. “I think it’s only enforced if there’s a significant problem.”

The 80 percent carpet rule isn’t required by municipal or state laws, but it could be outlined in your lease or co-op agreement. In that case, failure to stick to this rule could result in lease termination or even eviction.

What parts of the floor should be covered?

According to the rule, Elika says that about a foot from each wall should be covered with a greater focus on the living room. “That’s the most important because that’s where you have the most foot traffic and usually the most sound,” states Elika. “I always tell people to put an area rug in the living room to avoid any problems, but not everyone does.”

Another area that should be covered is the bedroom — especially if you have kids. 

“[Noise complaints] typically happen with kids,” explains Elika. “I think if you have kids, you should do the bedrooms as well, not just the living room.”

Here are a few tips to reduce apartment noise.

To help reduce noise, Elika recommends area rugs with a layer of sound suppressant padding underneath. These soundproofing pads are made of dense material and are used to minimize sounds passing between the floors. These pads come in a wide range of sizes and can be used on a variety of surfaces.

Another option is to use textiles around the apartment to help absorb sound waves. “It also makes your apartment more comfortable and less impacted by the sounds outside,” Elika adds.