Excessive noise is a common tenant complaint and resolving noise complaints eats up a lot of a landlord’s time and energy.
Fortunately, it is possible to prevent many of these complaints by addressing the problem in the tenancy agreement:
It’s important for tenants to understand that there is a policy in place for addressing noise complaints. That fact alone can deter complaints over minor or infrequent noise disturbances, like a short construction project. Tenants are more tolerant when they know the landlord is aware of the issue and will act on it when necessary.
The policy should prohibit tenants from attempting to resolve complaints on their own. That prevents face-to-face confrontations that can escalate and lead to disorderly conduct.
Because most complaints revolve around sleeping, the tenancy agreement can carve out “quiet” hours at night. Tenants can be instructed to listen to TV or music with headphones from 10 pm to 6 am, for instance. Tenants can be prohibited from moving during these hours, or other unnecessary activities like late-night parties.
The tenancy agreement can be used to educate tenants on noise complaints. This applies both to noisy tenants and tenants who are overly sensitive to noise. By defining the requisite level of noise as enough to bother the average renter, or enough to interfere with someone’s right to quiet enjoyment, the landlord sets the bar for what justifies a noise complaint.
While it’s helpful to include some examples, avoid providing tenants with a list of specific items that generate noise complaints. People tend to read that list as all-inclusive, and the landlord will forever be trying to update the tenancy agreement. Tenants should understand that there are many normal noises — like kids running or crying, tenants having guests, TVs during the day, people walking up and down stairs — that are unavoidable and do not justify a noise complaint.
Regulate the noise levels, not specific activities. Landlords who limit families with children, for instance, and not adults with guests may be accused of discrimination.
It’s a good idea to provide a first warning to tenants who make too much noise, so that tenants who violate the lease innocently have a chance to fix the problem before being threatened with eviction. This helps to maintain tenant retention — tenants don’t feel like they will be falsely accused or have the landlord breathing down their necks.
Address animal noise even if there is a no-pets policy. Tenants with companion animals still need to respect the quiet enjoyment of other tenants.
Include a warning that repairs and needed construction does occur from time to time, and that the landlord will take reasonable action to limit the noise.
Above all, make the policy language clear. Tenants need to understand what is expected. The goal is not enforcing the lease; it’s making the rules clear so you won’t have to.
Work with an attorney when revising or drafting a tenancy agreement to ensure maximum protection and effectiveness of the tenancy agreement.
During the tenant screening process, it is helpful to warn tenants about any persistent noise that cannot be mitigated, like traffic or live music from a bar nearby. Taking a “wait and see” approach may generate more complaints than allowing the rental applicant to investigate whether the noise will be too much for them. There will be other applicants who won’t care about the noise.
Also, avoid making promises about the noise levels, and don’t describe the property as “quiet” in the rental ad. That’s too subjective and may encourage future noise complaints.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is 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.