Handling the Noisy Neighbor Complaint
What to Do When a Tenant Complains About Noise
One of the main complaints a landlord gets from their tenants is about noisy neighbors. It can be a tricky issue to deal with because the source of the noise may be beyond your control and the decibel of the noise can be hard for you to monitor if it only occurs at certain times of the day, for example, in the middle of the night. Before purchasing a property, you should always check to see how well the property is insulated from exterior noise as well as from noise between the units because it is such a common complaint.
Here are the steps you should take if a tenant complains about their noisy neighbors.
Your tenant tells you they are having an issue with the noise caused by one or more of their neighbors. Common complaints include loud music; loud television, stomping or heavy walking overhead; yelling; excessive noise after 10 pm; children playing- running back and forth; children crying; noise from gathering in front or backyard; noise from parties; noise from neighbors in the area who are not your tenants.
If the Noise Is From One of Your Tenants
You have more options if one of your tenants is the culprit.
- Is There Merit to the Complaint?
Determine if there is merit in the tenant’s complaint. Is the tenant being hyper-sensitive or is there an actual issue? Speak directly to the supposed culprit and see what they have to say. You may also want to speak to any other tenants you have at the property and ask them if they have had heard any excessive or loud noises in the property.
- Determine the Severity of the Complaint
Is the noise a one-time offense or is it an ongoing issue? A tenant could have had a couple of people over one night which led to excessive noise, or they may be chronically playing their music loudly.
- Address Both Tenants
Make the tenant aware that there is a noise complaint against them. If this is their first offense, you can let them off with a warning. Make sure you also let the tenant who complained know that you have addressed the issue.
- If the Noise Continues
You should have a clause in your lease regarding noise violations and quiet hours. Let the tenant know that repeated offenses will make them subject to the penalties as spelled out in the lease. You can give them a copy of their signed lease as a reminder.
- Is the Noise Breaching a Quiet Hours Policy?
Do you have a quiet hours policy in effect? If you make your tenants sign a Quiet Hours Policy as part of their lease, the tenant will be breaching the lease if they violate this quiet hours agreement. Depending on the exact wording of your policy and your local and state laws, you may be able to fine the tenant a certain dollar amount for failing to comply with the agreement or to evict the tenant for breaching their lease.
- Cure or Quit Notice
For repeated offenses, you may want to provide the tenant with a Cure or Quit Notice, which gives them the option to quit the behavior that is breaching the lease by a certain date, or they will be subject to eviction.
- If the Noise Does Not Stop:
You may be forced to evict the tenant. If their behavior is affecting the quality of life of the other tenants, it is better to rid your property of this ‘bad-seed’ rather than lose all the other respectful tenants you have.
If the Noise Is Not From One of Your Tenants
If the noise is caused by a surrounding neighbor, you will be limited in the action you can take. There is only so much you can do if the noise is caused by someone who is not paying you rent.
Advise the Tenant to Address the Culprit
Suggest that the tenant politely address the culprit. People often fail to realize their actions are affecting someone else until it is brought to their attention.
If the neighbor is constantly talking on a cell phone right below the tenant’s window, you can suggest that the tenant tells the neighbor about their one-year-old daughter who sleeps in the room and is constantly woken by the sound. The tenant can say something like:
“I’m sure you are completely unaware, but my daughter actually sleeps in the room above us and she gets woken up by every small sound. As a mom I’m sure you know how stressful it can be getting a baby to sleep. I would greatly appreciate it if you were willing to make an effort to move farther away from her room when you need to speak on your cell phone. Thank you so much.”
The goal is to show the offending party how their actions are negatively affecting others by relating to them and without creating hostility.
- If the Problem Still Persists
If the noise offender still has not stopped their behavior after being confronted by the tenant, you can try and approach them also. If the offending party lives in a rental, you should try contacting the landlord or property owner. They will often be more responsive because they do not want to get a bad reputation in the neighborhood. If the culprit is the actual property owner, address them in the same polite and respectful manner as you have instructed your tenant to.
- If Nothing Changes
Determine if the neighbor is violating some sort of local law. For example, if they are making excessive noise after 10 pm. or before a certain time of the morning, they could be violating some sort of local noise ordinance.
You may also have to consider ways to reduce exterior noise inside your property. Shrubbery, additional insulation, and double-pane windows are all ways to do so.