Dealing With Noise Complaints

Sometimes tenants can get a bit rowdy. And sometimes neighbors will get upset. An HOA member or a building manager may send you some strongly-worded letters…or perhaps a policeman will show up at your door.

Assess the Complaint

It’s important to assess the validity and severity of a complaint before taking further action. Landlords should check with their cities’ jurisdictions to see if there is a limit on noise decibel levels, in which case tenants may not exceed the maximum level.

You shouldn’t confront the tenant until you have figured out the nature of the complaint; there is a chance a neighbor is just exceptionally grouchy or that someone else is the culprit. If the noise is not from one of your tenants, you should advise the tenant to address the culprit. You should also check with other tenants to see if the noise is bothering them as well.

Tenants are free to live their lives, so making noise to a certain extent is warranted. Here are some things that may trigger a noise complaint.

  • Parties: Having a few people over for dinner one night or throwing a house party with music on a holiday is definitely not complaint-worthy. However, if a tenant is hosting regular parties that generate excessive noise at unreasonable hours, disciplinary action should be taken.
  • Footsteps: In multi-level properties, hearing tenants walk around in the unit above you is completely normal — no matter what time it is. Although, if a tenant is jumping rope at midnight or going hard in a game of Dance Dance Revolution, it’s worthy of a complaint.
  • Dogs: In a pet-friendly property, dogs barking occasionally is understandable; dogs barking constantly at all hours of the day, however, isn’t. Dogs rarely bark for no reason, so you should talk to your tenant and make sure their pet is okay. If there is a noise complaint about a dog in a property with a “no pets” policy, then you will have to investigate the situation and take charge. For more help in this area, click here.
  • Arguments: Couples and families are bound to have disagreements, but loud screaming that goes on every night is unacceptable.

If the Complaint Isn’t Valid

If the noise complaint is not valid or your tenant is not the culprit, let the person who issued the complaint know. Explain to them that you have looked into the situation and researched the nature of the event, leading you to find no evidence that suggests the complaint is valid.

If the Complaint Is Valid

If the complaint is valid, the action you take should be in accords with the severity of the issue. A one-time offense for a tenant who has some people over one night and gets a little loud only calls for a warning. If the issue occurs frequently and the tenant fails to change their behavior, then you may need to evict them as a last resort.

Include a Clause In Your Lease

In order to prevent noise complaint issues and protect yourself in the future, you should have a clause in your lease that specifies information about noise. This way, you will have thoroughly documented terms that you can act on if the issue ever arises.

Here’s a sample of a noise clause:

DISTURBANCES. Tenant agrees to maintain a reasonable level of noise at all times of the day and night, so as not to disturb or disrupt neighboring apartments or houses. Tenant agrees not to make or permit any disturbing noises (e.g. hooting, yelling, shouting, singing, music). Lessee shall keep the volume of any guests, radio, stereo, television, CD, musical instrument, or any other piece of equipment which emits sound sufficiently reduced so as not to disturb nearby residents, in accordance with local noise ordinances. Tenant shall fully cooperate with all other Tenants in the building in an effort to maintain a peaceful atmosphere at all times. Tenant agrees not to create and/or maintain a nuisance or other disturbance that infringes upon the comfortable living conditions or privacy of other residents. Tenant further agrees not to engage in any retaliatory behavior against any neighbor who makes any complaint about the Tenant. Tenant further agrees that behavior on the part of the Tenant that violates any term of the House Rules or any Lease document is grounds for the fees as stated in the Non-Standard Rental Provisions (NSRP) and/or termination of the Lease by Landlord.

GUESTS. Tenant is responsible for the conduct and actions of Tenant’s guests and invitees while such guests and invitees are present at or in the building. Tenant is permitted to have guests under the following conditions: a. No more than two overnight guests per night. b. No guest may stay overnight for more than three consecutive nights without prior written Landlord approval. Social gatherings/guests shall be confined inside the leased premises. Social gatherings may not occur in any common areas. Unauthorized occupancy by any person(s) not named on the Lease shall be considered an unauthorized sublet and subject to such fees as set forth in the Lease documents and may be considered a breach of Lease.

The Bottom Line

If you receive a noise complaint about a tenant, it’s imperative that you do your research. Assess the complain and determine whether or not it is valid. Then, take disciplinary action based on the severity of the instance. If the issue continues to persist, you may have grounds to evict the tenant. Make sure you document the situation to keep records.