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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5 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.

  • 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.

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