The Best (and Worst) Ways to Handle Noise Complaints

by Chris on April 15, 2013

Noise — it’s likely the number one complaint landlords hear from tenants. Perhaps that’s because it can come from so many sources, and because people have such different tolerance levels.

That can make it difficult for a landlord to come up with an effective strategy for handling noise complaints.

Landlords should anticipate noise problems and set the standards in the tenancy agreement or house rules.

The most common complaints are noises at night that interrupt normal sleeping hours. So restrictions on excessive noises during that time make sense.  These rules should also address parties, where voice levels and movements tend to increase.  Some landlords opt for a ‘noise curfew’ during specific hours.

Carefully screen tenants. Speak with previous landlords and ask about past noise complaints involving new tenant. Don’t take on someone else’s problem.

Some noises a landlord simply can’t regulate — like a crying infant. Know when to tell the complainer they’ll just have to get used to it. Sometimes life is noisy!

Make sure pets are addressed. Tenants must understand that allowing a dog to bark incessantly could result in them both looking for a new home.

It’s helpful to see if there are noise standards in local bylaws or ordinances and to incorporate those standards into the rules.

Treat every tenant the same.

Decide whether to offer a warning before taking more serious action against the offending tenant.

Keep a written record of noise complaints in the event that a tenant becomes a chronic problem.

Be aware that some strategies can make a bad situation even worse. For instance, don’t ignore a noise complaint. Address the problem immediately. If at all possible, visit the area while it’s noisy to determine if action is warranted, or if the complainer is someone with unique sensitivities.

Don’t encourage tenants to contact one another to resolve the noise dispute. The animosity between them can escalate quickly, and one of them may threaten to move out, or worse, both tenants point their anger and frustration at the landlord.

Don’t encourage tenants to call the police on the offenders (unless they feel it’s a bona fide emergency.) Developing a history of police calls can scare off new tenants, lower the property value, and in some areas, cost the landlord in fines.

It’s easy to inadvertently discriminate when dealing with noise complaints. Examples include restricting children but not adults, or limiting the number of guests allowed at a family or religious gathering.  Consider the impact a policy will have on all tenants.

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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