As a landlord, you shoulder an ever-changing series of responsibilities, many of which come in the form of tenant complaints. It’s important to understand where your responsibilities lie in order to properly address complaints in a way that follows the law and respects the tenant. Some of the trickiest situations landlords encounter are noise complaints.
No one wants to deal with excess noise coming from a neighbor or outside activities when hanging out at home. However, tenants may be confused over the types of disturbances that require a call to a landlord or if they’re even allowed to call and complain. Landlords may find themselves fielding a wide variety of questions before they even decide on whether the complaint is addressable or not.
What are Noise Complaints?
A noise complaint is made by a tenant, neighbor, or landlord when they believe someone is disturbing the community by making too much noise. Noise complaints can be made to a landlord or local law enforcement and might be handled differently depending on local ordinances and state law. While some may presume that they have the right to make noise whenever and however they want, most communities have rules to uphold the “right to quiet enjoyment.” If someone is violating those laws, a person has the right to file a complaint.
Creating Community Guidelines
Having clear guidelines for your tenant is the first step in reducing noise complaints. In your lease agreement, consider detailing:
- Quiet hours.
- What constitutes an excessive noise disturbance. Some of the most common complaints are:
- Jumping, running, or stomping upstairs.
- Loud television.
- Loud music.
- Late night parties.
- Children crying or playing.
- Pet noises.
- Excessive noise after 10 or 11 at night.
- Outdoor gatherings at the property.
- Noise from neighbors’ guests.
While any of these can constitute an annoyance, they are not always grounds for a formal complaint. For example, a loud party until 2 am is grounds for complaint, while a dog barking a couple of times at 6 am is annoying but not a legitimate complaint.
- Process of filing a complaint. Complaints would include:
- Frequency: was this a one-time problem, or is it chronic?
- Specific cause.
- Specific procedure that the landlord will follow if there are continual complaints due to loud and disruptive noise. Be clear and detailed on expectations and consequences.
Both the tenant and the landlord should document all noise disturbance incidents and formal complaints.
- Save emails
- Write down what occurred during a phone call
- File letters or forms that are mailed to your office.
- Document all efforts at resolution, like conversations, actions taken (i.e., agreement to keep music volume down, adding a rug to a hallway, etc.), unit maintenance or repairs needed.
Determining if a complaint is justified is a challenge. The landlord needs to hear from both sides of the dispute to get a clear understanding of the issue. You may consider these questions for the involved parties:.
Person with the complaint:
- Is this a “daily life noise” or “excessive noise?”
- Describe the type, intensity, and duration of the noise?
- Do they have evidence?
- Have they already discussed the issue with the person?
Person creating the noise:
- Are they aware of the issue?
- If they’re not aware of the issues, are they willing to make changes?
- If they’re aware of the issue, do they agree that the noise complaint is valid?
- Have they tried to address the complaint already? If so, how?
After receiving a complaint, it’s essential to respond and investigate quickly and professionally. The proper response will help maintain a good working relationship between landlord and tenant. Responding quickly may also allow you to witness the noise complaint first-hand, thus making it easier to determine if it is a violation or not.
Once you have investigated, it is important to follow up with both parties in a constructive manner. If you determine that the noise has violated the rules and qualifies as a disturbance, work with the tenant to make behavior changes. Because noise disturbances are technically a lease violation, it is possible to begin eviction procedures if they do not work to curb the behavior.
If you have determined that the noise complaint results from daily life noises, you will need to discuss your findings with the person who submitted the report. Reassure them that the tenant in question will work to keep the noise at a minimum but that they should also consider the amount of noise to be expected from close living situations.
It’s the Law
If your tenant is making enough of a disturbance to break local noise ordinances, despite your thorough and timely intervention, they are still responsible for any fines or punishments levied to them. Having clear written expectations in your lease agreement will help you determine what your responsibility as a landlord and where tenant responsibility lies in each situation.
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