Why Landlords Need to Fix Noise Complaints

by Chris on May 8, 2017

Noise issues, like this one, are one of the most common tenant concerns:

“The neighbors upstairs have two small children and believe that running and playing in the apartment at all times of the day and night is “their right”. This is accompanied by music which is over 70 decibels. The landlord says there is nothing he can do about it. According to him, he can’t evict tenants over noise complaints.”

What is significant about this case is the landlord’s apparent inability to resolve it.

Landlords need to care about noise complaints, and learn how to fix them. That’s because a landlord is required to provide quiet enjoyment of the property to each tenant. By allowing complaints to go unanswered, the landlord risks income loss. An injured tenant can:

Break the lease;
Ruin the landlord’s reputation with negative online reviews;
Report the problem to the police, which can lead to fines;
Cause the rental license to be revoked; and
Sue for personal injury.

If the landlord doesn’t step in when there is a dispute, the tenant may try to resolve the problem directly. That can lead to dire consequences. For instance, a tenant who was assaulted by the noisy neighbor was able to sue the landlord for negligence. Noise affects adjacent property owners as well, and persistent police complaints can lead to further liability. It’s a risk that’s not worth taking.

Chronic noise often is a symptom of other problems. The tenant who is not considerate of neighbors is probably not taking care of the property or following other rules.

There are simple ways to set the stage for preventing noise complaints:

Speak with the previous landlords when running a tenant background check, and ask about noise complaints. It’s good to know whether this applicant was making too much noise, and also whether the applicant frequently complained about normal noise.

Be clear in the lease agreement that excessive noise will not be tolerated. Give specific examples if possible, like no music or TV that can be heard in the next unit after 10:00 p.m.

Also include a lease provision that links noise to disruptive conduct — another reason to evict.

Try to answer a noise complaint while it is happening. That eliminates any issues with contradictory statements between the tenants.

Consider including a one-warning policy to allow for innocent infractions.

Treat all tenants the same when it comes to noise restrictions. While it is true that families with children can’t be singled out, it is not the case that no rules can be applied to families with children.

To resolve a complaint, learn to distinguish between “normal” noises and “excessive” noise. For instance, a baby crying from time to time is normal, and everyone who can hear it will have to learn to deal with it. Opening cabinet doors and walking across the floor are normal noises. Excessive noises are those that don’t have to happen: jumping off furniture in the middle of the night, loud chatter on the balconies during sleeping hours, loud music.

Most importantly, a landlord should take complaints seriously, and do what is appropriate to resolve the problem so it doesn’t escalate and cause income loss.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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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.

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