Every landlord will have to deal with noise complaints from time to time, particularly if you own a multi-unit property. However, like many things in property management, there are proper procedures for dealing with these issues. To that end, we’ve laid out more information on noise complaints, including how to handle them and what you can do to prevent them in the future. Read on below to learn more.
What qualifies as a noise complaint?
Truthfully, any kind of excessive noise that causes a nuisance in an apartment complex or at a rental property could cause a tenant to file a noise complaint. It doesn't really matter what the source of the noise ends up being. However, some common examples of the sources behind noise complaints are loud music, barking dogs, yelling or screaming, and home improvement work.
If you're looking for more specifics as to what counts as a noise disturbance, you may want to check in with your local city or municipality. Many localities have official noise ordinances. These ordinances typically describe what noise levels are allowed at what times of the day, as well as which noises are considered appropriate. If you are wondering whether your tenants are officially causing a disturbance, your local noise ordinance may have the answer.
What happens when the police arrive in response to a noise complaint?
If it turns out that the people in question are violating a noise ordinance, your tenants are well within their rights to call your local police department to file a complaint. Again, though, you should be aware that every city and municipality's law enforcement will have its own procedure for dealing with noise pollution. However, here's an example of how it might look when the police arrive in response to a noise complaint:
Most of the time, the police just simply issue a verbal warning. For the vast majority, having law enforcement talk to them about any loud noises should be enough to get them to tone it down. That said, if the noise continues and the police have to come back multiple times to talk with the resident about the sound level, they may issue a citation or summons.
What steps can a landlord take to resolve a noise complaint?
As a landlord or property manager, you'll likely have to deal with the occasional noise complaint, especially if you're managing a shared living community like an apartment complex. When that happens, you are responsible for taking steps to resolve the issue.
Investigate the issue
The first step toward resolving the problem is to find out more about it. Start by talking to the tenant who made the complaint. Ask them more about the following, so that you can get a sense of what occurred:
- When the incident occurred
- What type of sound was heard
- How long the loud noise lasted
- If it's happened before
- Whether or not they took it upon themselves to talk to their neighbor about it
Talk to the alleged offender
Once you have the above information, you’ll be better prepared to talk to the other tenant, the one who allegedly caused the noise problem. Often, that tenant may not even have realized that their behavior had caused an issue. In that case, you can simply ask them to be more cognizant in the future and leave it at that.
On the other hand, if that tenant disagrees with the complaint, take the time to hear their side of the story. At that point, it may be wise to ask other neighbors if they've heard anything out of the ordinary. This can help you determine if the noise disturbance was a one-time issue or an ongoing problem.
How should you deal with repeat noise-complaint offenders?
In the event that you have a tenant about whom you've received multiple noise complaints, you may need to take more extensive steps. Tenants have a right to "an implied warranty of quiet enjoyment of the premises," which many courts will uphold, even if there is no specific clause regarding that warranty in your lease agreement.
With that in mind, it is possible to send out a "cure or quit" eviction notice to tenants who have been the subject of multiple complaints. This notice should inform them that they have a specific amount of time to improve the issue. Otherwise, they can be asked to leave the property entirely.
While no landlord or property manager ever wishes to have to handle an eviction, in some cases, it can be the best course of action. Particularly if you have a tenant who is causing an extensive amount of grief for their neighbors, evicting them may be better than risking losing your respectful tenants en masse.
What can a landlord do to prevent noise from leading to complaints in the future?
As the property owner, it's in your best interest to take steps to prevent sound transmission from leading to complaints in the future. To that end, here are some things that you do to make sure noise doesn’t become a larger issue at your rental.
Be clear about any noise policies in the lease
In addition to having a clause about quiet enjoyment in your lease agreement, you should also be sure to outline any policies regarding noise control or quiet hours. Be clear that continuously disregarding these policies will be considered a violation of the lease and, if needed, further steps including eviction can be taken as a result. That way, if you ever do have ongoing trouble with a tenant, you can point to a specific clause to justify your actions.
Choose the right type of flooring
If you're in a position to be picking out flooring for your rental, choosing the right type can go a long way towards reducing sound transmission. In particular, cork flooring and carpet are excellent choices. They are both soft and dense, which helps absorb noise. However, be aware that they may not last as long as other types of flooring, such as hardwood.
Insulate the walls
In the event that you've received multiple complaints about noise traveling between the walls of your rental property, it may be worth it to think about adding insulation in the walls. Keep in mind that in order to make this happen you'll need to open up the walls, so it will require a certain investment of time and money. That said, it will significantly decrease the amount of loud noise that travels between units.
Plant more shrubbery
Certain plants, especially shrubbery, can also be helpful in reducing noise transmission. Consider planting some by windows or exterior doorways. As an added bonus, it will likely cut down on traffic noise as well.
The bottom line
Noise complaints are bound to happen, especially in multi-unit living situations. As the landlord, the best thing you can do is be prepared for this eventuality. Use the tips above to help you feel prepared to deal with noisy tenants the next time you receive a complaint. Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to diffuse the situation with ease.