How to Handle Noise Complaints from Neighbors

Written on March 17, 2017 by

Noisy NeighborsIf you rent out a house in the middle of nowhere, you can rent to the noisiest tenants imaginable. Why? Because no one can hear them.

But if you rent to tenants who will live in close proximity to other people, you hope they’ll respect their neighbors’ right to quiet.

If you rent to noisy tenants, a few things might happen. You might receive a formal complaint from a building manager, a nasty email from the neighborhood HOA, or a nuisance complaint from the city if a neighbor complains to the police. If you don’t do anything about the complaints, you could receive fines until you do something.

So what should you do if you get complaints that your tenants are so loud they’re disruptive?

Related: What is the Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment?

Determine Whether the Complaint Is Valid

Before you confront your tenant, find out the nature of the noise complaint. Your tenant could very well be causing a disturbance, but it’s just as likely that the complainant isn’t warranted. Tenants are allowed to live their lives, and sometimes that includes making noise.

Your job is to determine whether your tenant is crossing the line by being excessively noisy.

If your jurisdiction places a limit on noise decibel levels, then your tenants should not exceed this level. If your rental property is subject to noise laws and you receive a complaint, ask the department that issued the complaint to come out and measure the noise levels to determine whether there is a valid reason for the complaint.

If you don’t have regulations, you can use some common sense measures to evaluate whether your tenants are the problem or whether the complaining neighbor is just being fussy.

Here are some examples:

  • Dinner Parties
    Having people over for a get together that ends by 11 p.m. is not complaint-worthy, but regular loud parties that go late into the night are a problem.
  • Noisy Feet
    Tenants walking around their own apartment, no matter what time of day or night, is not complaint-worthy from a downstairs neighbor, but if your tenant is jumping rope or acting out their own WrestleMania session at midnight, that’s valid.
  • Barking Dogs
    A dog that barks occasionally is not complaint-worthy, but a dog that barks incessantly all day or night is.
  • Loud Arguments
    Disagreements between partners are bound to happen, and an occasional argument is not complaint-worthy, but a nightly screaming match is.

If the Noise Complaint Isn’t Valid

Let the complaining party know that you have researched the noise complaint. Tell them what you did to determine whether your tenant is guilty of a noise violation or not. If you found out your tenant didn’t do anything wrong, let the complainant know that you didn’t find any evidence to suggest the complaint was warranted.

If the Noise Complaint Is Valid

If you’ve received multiple complaints from a variety of sources, your tenant is probably being too noisy. You might also wish to witness for yourself whether the complaints are valid by driving by your rental property and seeing for yourself.

You need to address this issue with your tenant immediately. If your tenant is being too noisy and interfering with the neighbors’ peace and quiet, you should tell your tenant to keep the noise at acceptable levels. Explain the problem and what you expect your tenant to do to resolve the problem.

Sometimes the resolution is easy. If a downstairs neighbor complains about noise coming from upstairs, for example, put down area rugs. If your tenant listens and stops the noisy behavior, problem solved. If not, and the complaints continue, you may need to evict.

Have a Clause in Your Lease

You can protect yourself from noise problems by including a noise, or quiet hours, clause in your lease. That way, if your tenant violates the noise clause, you can act based on the lease terms, such as fining them if you receive a valid noise complaint.

Here’s a sample of a noise clause from a lease, courtesy of the University of Rhode Island.

Note: This lease pertains to university students in the state of Rhode Island. You can, however, personalize your lease to meet your needs. Please consult a lawyer when preparing your lease.

Screen Tenants

The best way to ensure you’ll rent to tenants who won’t cause trouble is to screen them first. Run a background check and check references to determine whether potential tenants have a history of complaints against them. I use Cozy tenant screening, and I recommend it.

Bottom Line

If you get complaints about a noisy tenant, you need to do something about it. Don’t rush to judgment by automatically blaming your tenant. But don’t ignore the complaints, either. It’s best to come up with a compromise that everyone can live with.

Now, peace out everyone.

Please let us know in the comments your experience with noise and how you handled it!

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34 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Joanne Seavert

    I have had issues with the tenants playing music which isn’t necessarily that loud, volume wise, but the bass is set to a point that it is really bothering other tenants – the “thump” of the bass and the vibrations rattling neighbors walls. I would love some advice on how to deal with this particular issue.

    • obvious

      Tell them to put the bass level to zero, that’s what I do and no complaints from my next door neighbor.

  • Angie Scott

    I have a deaf woman and her 2 sons living above me. The eldest child has communication and anger issues along with being ADHD. He runs and literally stomps and pounds on the walls and floors when angry. He screams and made a game out of it to play with his younger brother.
    The mother is non-language, so she makes a horn or hoot sound when addressing the kids. She has no idea of sound levels so she doesn’t enforce them to be quiet.
    I have written her many notes about noise. I’ve complained to my apt mgr, I’ve called the police,and CPS. I’ve been dealing with this for 6 months and I can’t take much more!
    Last week when I complained, I gave my apt mgr a copy of the definition of “Quiet Enjoyment .” Help!!! What else can I do??

    • Layne Kulwin

      MOVE!

      I’m being serious. The situation is fraught with many questions, problems and legal issues. Tell the landlord, preferably by certified mail that YOUR rights to the quiet enjoyment of the unit have been violated and continue to be an ongoing issue making it impossible to live in the unit.

      The Americans with Disabilities Act probably prevents the offending party from eviction. But, that doesn’t mean you have to continue tolerating this behavior. I’d let the landlord know that you expect compensation for your time, moving expenses and effect this is burdening you with.

      Getting help from an attorney or your local legal aid organization might be warranted, too. Be kind but firm.

    • Kathleen

      U totally deserve peace and quiet. My experiences I’ve learned get a witness to back ur bad tenets. Then, try to get them caught btwn the noise, or bass . I found that some will help more than others. Two Is better than one, plus makes you feel sane.. gud luck to u.

  • Ashley

    The tenant living below me is CONSTANTLY pounding on our floor and calling security on us just from us walking around our apartment. It’s only my boyfriend and I living there and we are working professionals – hence, we go to bed early. We don’t wear loud shoes in the house. I believe we are conscientious neighbors. However, he’s complained to our leasing office so many times that we are worried about getting evicted. I might add, he has screamed profanities at us on several different occasions. We’ve told the leasing office our side of the story but we’ve still received warnings that we believe are unwarranted. Do we have any legal rights in this matter? It’s at a point where WE are now uncomfortable because we’re afraid to walk.

    • fred

      Dear Ashley
      Sorry to hear you are having a difficult time with your neighbours. Sounds like you are just living your life like a regular citizen. Have you spoken to the neighbour below, do you know exactly what their concerns are. Have you been inside their apartment and listening to someone walking in your apartment? Often what seems like little to no noise or acceptable noise in your apartment can be a completely different story in another apartment. Its rare that there is a good level of soundproofing between apartments. Do you have rugs or carpets on your floors, perhaps look into that. Although you dont see it as a problem it might be worth trying to find a solution to help make someones living situation better.

      • fred

        Write to your neighbour and try to open some dialogue. You might be pleasantly suprised….i did say might…
        The floor/ceiling acts like a drums, the sounds are amplified in the floor/celing cavity and often footfall is the issue. Alot of people land on their heels when their foot his the ground and if you are one of those people you probably dont mind it because it’s something you are used and probably doesnt even register on your radar but that is the most common source of noise from floor through ceiling. Perhaps you might make a habit of observing your partner walking and have the observe you over a period and see if that is an issue that might not have occured to you in the past….I have done this myself , its worth doing.

  • George

    Tennant below me has a roomate, rommate is not on the lease with this man. Rommate works odd shift 11pm-6am or something like that. My sons room is right above his and every single day at 7am my sons alarm goes off, volume is set to 4/10 and though I can hear it in my room right next to his, my son usually turns it off in 1-3 minutes.

    Now this roomate below my sons room starts pounding on the ceiling and screaming obscenities. Calling my son an asshole, or shut that f-ing thing off.

    We contacted our landloard and our landlord has talked with him. But that was a week ago and this man continues to do this.

    What can I do? I leave the apartment at 5:30am. I have tried confronting the man but he just ignores me and my wife.

    • BoggerTsnottington

      Follow up again with your landlord. It is considered harassment.

    • fred

      George.
      Sorry to hear you are having this unpleasant situation, hopefully my advice might be of some use to you. Shift work is pretty rough on the person that works the shift and the people that have to be around shiftworks…ie neighbours.
      I would suggest you write a letter to this man, keep a copy for yourself and give a copy to the landlord. Tell the man that you do not mean to disturb his sleep but your son needs to wake up at 7am and he needs the aid of alarm to do so. Ask the man what he would suggest you do in order to wake your son up. Perhaps he has a suggestion that might work, this sounds silly but it might even be as simple as changing the ring tone on the alarm if the alarm is on your phone.

      • fred

        Please keep in mind that the person below is probably just getting to sleep at 7am and of course you can say well that’s not problem, 7am is when my son needs to get up. Some people are simply rude and unreasonable and your neighbour might be one of those people. Swearing at your son is not acceptable under any circumstances and it is a situation that should not be ongoing.
        But continuing to have the alarm go off in the same manner as it currently is will not stop the neighbour doing what he is doing.
        Eat humble pie, extent an olive branch, try to be understanding of his situation and open dialogue to try to find a mutually workable solution.

  • Brandon

    Hey guys. I am a student living in my first apartment. I spend a lot of time studying (sometimes at odd hours.) I took a break Friday to talk to my gf for a few hours to the early morning. Then after hanging up with her, I start receiving loud knocks (banging) at my door. I never threw a party in my apartment ever. And usually hardly make any noise. I was excited after studying for a week to finally talk to my girlfriend. I was skeptial who could be banging on my door but I assumed it was my neighbor. I didn’t answer the door. Question, if there is a crazy neighbor that is banging on your door because talking to your girlfriend inside your apartment on the phone (with the windows shut) then comes to your door complaining should you just tell them what they are doing is harassment, and if they don’t go away you will call the police? Thank you.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Brandon,
      You did the right thing in not answering the door. Don’t engage with people who are banging on your front door, your car door, any door. If anyone does that and is persistent, call the police.

      • Brandon

        Thank you so much. Yes they did it persistently “banging” around 5am. The. Came back. I don’t know who they are or what their problem is. But, I believe that constitutes as harassment.

        Thanks again,
        Brandon

        • fred

          Brandon, Perhaps your talking on the phone at 5am seemed normal to you but at the wee hours when its quieter out your regular daily sounds are not as masked but *ahem* life noise. Perhaps you were louder then you think you were. If you are talking and listening on the phone its hard for you to determine your actual volume. Your neighbour was clearly disturbed by your noise. Or do you think it was a co-incidence that they happen to knock on your door the same morning you had been talking on the phone at 5am?
          A good way for you to avoid this in future is to take your phone conversations in the part of the apartment that is furthest away from your neighbours if you share a joining wall. Yes people are crazy but its helps to be self aware.

      • fred

        Laura.
        Some of your advice is great, thank you for that.
        Granted opening a door to a stranger that is banging on your door is probably not the best advice but ignoring it is either. Perhaps you could say to the person banging on the door, I dont know so i’m not going to open the door. If you have a concern can you please put it in writing and leave it at or under my door. Try to open the pathway for some dialogue. Its not common that random people bang on other peoples doors for not reason what so ever. I feel like we are in a current climate of people not being responsible for theirs actions. Having a noisy neighbour can make ones life a misery. Ignoring a situation is not a good solution.

        • Laura Agadoni

          Hi Fred,
          Thanks for your opinion and advice! I still stand by my advice to a college student not answering banging on the door. That is too aggressive. If the neighbors are bothered by noise, they should write a note as you suggest, talk to the neighbor nicely if they see them out and about, complain to the HOA or landlord, or complain to the city if the noise is excessive and regular. No one should be banging on doors.

  • Danielle

    Hello…I have the landlords living above me and they have been nothing but quiet since I have been living here. My bedroom is located below their kitchen , dining room and patio. They have done laundry late at night and my whole suite buzzes, started the dishwasher that is right above my bedroom and sounds like a Boeing 747, have had people over after 11 pm banging their drinks on counter tops that I can hear as a loud bang downstairs, are walking with their loud shoes at all times of day (4:30 a.m. after 11 pm, etc.). After sending several request to please be reasonable, I have been sent a warning letter telling me that my complaints are unreasonable and that if I continue to complain they have the right to evict me. Is this legal?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Danielle,
      If you are a month-to-month tenant, your landlord can give you notice at any time. Most states require 30 days, some more and some less. Check your state law on this site. If you have a lease, it’s doubtful they would evict you during your lease period. But it’s possible that you won’t be able to renew at lease renewal time if your landlord doesn’t want to rent to you anymore. You’ve talked with them about the noise. Maybe it will become better. If not, you and your landlord will have to make some decisions.

  • Christina Guseva

    Hi! I have two little kids 4 and 2 years old who occasionally run during the day. Our neighbor downstairs called the main office and complained that my kids were running and screaming at night and that he came and rand our door bell, but we didn’t respond, which is not true.
    The main office sent us the email saying that they will charge us a fine if they receive one more complain.
    Question #1 what are the quiet hours in NJ
    Question # 2 is that legal to charge a fine without a police report of being too noisy, and no evidence as well?

    Thank you

  • Mom/full time student/full time employee

    Lived on 1st floor for almost 2 decades, have seen neighbors come and go but never have I ever complained about noise! Other neighbors have had small children and have never made noise like this. These people havent lived upstairs a full year and it has been nonstop NOISE! They moved in at night multiple days and the youngest child stood by my door screaming. At first the mom seemed to try to comply with reasonable noise levels then one night she started going off about she pays rent and can do what she wants. I have a child of my own and i get up early before 6 am M-F and I need sleep! Landlord has spoken to her several times…my son and I are losing sleep and I cant deal. Cant afford to move…HELP!

  • Kathy

    We have a rabbit and he occasionally scratches and makes noises. For five months of living in my apartment there was never an issue and once there was the neighbor texted me at 1 am to make him quiet down. This has since continued multiple angry messages in the night with banging on the ceiling. We do our part to make it better and I have expressed remorse to a point because I truly do not want to annoy her but I feel she has gone excessive and become equally if not more disruptive to us. Recently I put layers of rug down and he just chewed on something and she banged on the ceiling multiple times. I’m nervous she’s going to reach out to the landlord and I’m starting to feel like she’s oversensitive to sound.

    • Plazzy

      Gosh, IMO rabbits were not created to be pets in the first place. I’m sure you realize once you tire you can’t just let it go. Rabbits don’t just go find other rabbits and be a new member of that group. They can’t even breed together. And considering and easily they scare and their rate of mortality from heart attacks it shocks me to no end that Anyone would want this. Go to a local shelter and get a homeless dog. They will add so much to your life. I sure wish i could get a dog that would be happy in a compartment. Lol. But good luck to your rabbit. I hope they don’t ever see a roach or mouse their thumper will go out. I’m not kidding either.

  • Desiree

    Hi, I’m a first time renter and what I thought would be the best transition in life at the tender age of 21 instead it has been a bit of a nightmare. My landlord has texted me twice in attempts to address the complaints that she has received from the tenant that lives below me. I try to be cognizant of the neighbors that I have and remain quiet throughout quiet hours but aparently my efforts were a miss. My landlord advised that she knows that I have siblings that like to hang out but my apartment is not a hang out pad. I am a full time professional and parent. I also enjoy quiet time just like the next tenant. I plan on knocking on my neighbors door to address the complaints but honestly I don’t feel as if we are being exceptionally loud.

  • California Gal

    PART 1

    I’ve lived in my condo for 12 years. Each time a new tenant who moves in and shares my staircase wall, I have to endure extreme noise. The last tenants were evicted because they brought a dog in the premises, without the landlord knowing. The very 1st day until 9 months of campaigning against this nuisance dog crying, howling, and barking non-stop; finally they were kicked out. It was unbearable since I have a dog (who is a quiet older dog) and with their dog barking all day & night, my dog would be barking at the wall. This was on top of the couple having domestic violence fighting and I had a total of 56 complaints within 9 months.

  • California Gal

    PART 2

    Now a new tenant moves in, however tenant “owns” the unit and it’s no longer rented. It’s a single guy who plays a piano and today he decides to play a trumpet, so loud…as I was on a conference call with my boss, my boss could hear the trumpet from my phone. He said what in the heck is that noise I’m hearing? Said it was a trumpet. Once again, I had to contact the HOA. However because HOA sides with owners, they don’t want to take this noise seriously. Told them it was disturbing my peace & enjoyment I’m entitled to. I am beside myself with rude tenants. I’m a quiet 60 year old, who is respectful of others. Turned my volume from 14 to 44 on my HDTV, so the CLOWN would get the hint. NOT!

  • Blair

    My husband and I have 2 young kids; a 1 year old and a 3 year old. As they approved us for the apartment, they said the upstairs neighbors ALREADY complained. 4 days into us living there, the neighbor above us snapped and yelled at us as we were on our way to the grocery store. I told her firmly but politely, “it’s been 4 days; it’s still very new to them. The 1 year old is sick and cranky. I am doing my best to work on inside voice and no running. However, they are kids. They are going to scream and cry and have meltdowns and get sick. I am doing my best.” I feel extremely stressed and like I have to walk on eggshells! They sleep from 8-7, and are mostly well behaved. Should I be worried about eviction?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Blair,
      I’m not an attorney, so please seek professional advice if you are threatened with eviction. From my understanding, children can make normal children’s noises during the daytime. Landlords cannot evict for that; otherwise, they may be violating Fair Housing law. Children are generally not allowed to make noises, like playing drums or running and jumping, at 1 or 2 in the morning.

      • Blair

        Thanks! When the property manager called me to offer us the apartment, she said “we don’t want to loose tenants that have been there 5 or 6 years.” We are in a year lease, but after that it’s month to month, so the people above us could move if they wanted. My kids are well behaved, and we are working on inside voice and no running at all inside. It just gives me so much anxiety! We try our best to be model tentants since we have a foreclosure and sub-par credit, and this just makes us totally panic.

  • Lisa

    The lady below me complains about every noise she hears. I have talked to our HOA and they have confirmed to me that all her complaints are unwarranted and are not legitimate complaints. The HOA does not get involved in these type of issues so they will not intervene on my behalf. Sitting down with her to discuss this matter is not an option so I am going to write her a letter. I don’t want to sound totally angry(I am) but I don’t want to sound like a push over( I am not) but I want to tell her, in no uncertain terms, that her complaints are not legitimate, I am NOT going to be bullied by her anymore and I am not going to stop simply living my life.
    I don’t have any idea how to start this letter. Will you please give me some suggestions?

  • Milton

    I have neibor upstaris from me , I live here for 4yrs she just move 11 month ago I was to be her and 3 kids now the mother moved in her sister and 3 more kids move in, lound music till 2am, every day from 7am till 11pm kids are jumping runing, Draging things around,, it is incredible, we have complained so many time with rental property and nothing has been done ,, I have knocked and rang door bell and they refuse to answer the door,, but yes I got serve with suposly harassing the neibor,,, I get up at 5am to work and now force my self with sleeping pill…please anyone with suggestions Please.

  • Melissa Ann Livezey

    Hi,
    My neighbors above me are really loud walking. It’s not normal walking. They pound and run and sounds like they are jumping off furniture . My whole apartment shakes. It is so loud it wakes me up at night. My apt manger says he writes them violations but so far it has done nothing. It is continuous and non stop. Now I’m concerned this person will retaliate . Do I have grounds to leave? I am going crazy!! I have provided apt manager with sounds bytes that really don’t do it justice. I can’t live like this anymore . They actually just moved in 3 weeks ago and I never had issue with past neighbor .
    Thanks !
    Melissa

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