Noise complaints are one of the most common disputes landlords face. The nature of noise complaints tends to be perpetual; tenants often describe weeks or months of disturbance. Their biggest gripe: that their landlord does nothing to ease the suffering.
The fact is noise complaints cost landlords in tenant retention, time spent managing the property, and even loss of rental income or monetary judgements. So, it’s important to learn how to effectively resolve these complaints:
Eliminate the Common Culprits
The first step to managing noise complaints is to anticipate the most likely sources and take steps to mitigate them. Start with the physical property. For instance, good windows and soft-close cabinets may be easy fixes for your particular property.
Other sources of noise can be dealt with effectively in the tenancy agreement. There, you can control extraordinary noises like rowdy parties, and at the same time make tenants aware of how their day-to-day activities can spark noise complaints. It is so often the case that the person making noise is unaware that they are disturbing others.
Given that the most common annoyance is nighttime noises that interfere with sleep, focus the lease rules on eliminating that issue. Many landlords use a curfew, or prohibit TV or music streaming late at night. Be careful with limiting the number of people who can attend a gathering in the rental unit. It is better to focus on the noise level.
Another common annoyance is barking dogs. Use the lease to prohibit chronic barking, and to educate the tenant that a pet is a huge responsibility.
During tenant screening, determine if an applicant was the subject of a noise complaint. It is also good to know if the person is a chronic complainer. In that case, you may want to prepare the new tenant for what noises are likely to occur, or allow them the opportunity to back out if it seems like a bad fit.
Encourage new tenants to be noise-conscious. Explain that peace and quiet is a big priority for all tenants. Offer examples, like avoiding late night conversations or moving furniture while others are trying to sleep.
Explain to tenants the process for noise complaints. Tenants may hold off raising a fuss if they are confident that something will happen if they finally are driven to complain. Those who fear that the noise will continue indefinitely are quicker to snap.
Mediate, Don’t Battle
Noise is a fact of life, and most tenants realize this. However, it quickly becomes a source of discontent that leads to nasty relationships. In many cases, unresolved noise complaints are referred to the police. When things begin to spiral, both tenants want to move out. All that leaves a landlord in a vulnerable position.
There is a balance to strike when resolving noise complaints. The victim needs to know that his or her concerns will be addressed. The person may have a legitimate complaint, or they may be overly-sensitive. Get to the bottom of it and act accordingly.
The perpetrator, likewise, needs to be treated fairly. Don’t rush to judgement. The person could be the victim of a chronic complainer, or simply unaware that they are so noisy. Keep an open mind until you see the lay of the land. You don’t want to lose a good tenant if the situation can be resolved simply by having a conversation.
There is a certain subjectivity to noise complaints. Not everyone is bothered by the same things. It also can be difficult to narrow down the source of the noise.
As a general rule, when investigating a noise complaint, consider whether the event falls within the category of ordinary living, or whether it was something extraordinary.
For instance, running the shower at 6:00 a.m., while annoying to some, is a fairly normal activity. In that case, there’s probably nothing the landlord needs to do except calm the tenant who is complaining. However, if the disruptive noise actually is water hammer, it’s reasonable to check into possible fixes.
The frequency and duration of the noise helps to determine the level of intervention that may be necessary. Apply only the amount of force needed to resolve the problem so it does not escalate. Your success will be directly tied to how quickly you get involved.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore noise complaints. That will force tenants to take matters into their own hands — like calling the police, confronting the other person, or riling up the other tenants. That can lead to serious consequences — and income loss.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.