How to Deal with Noise Complaints as a Landlord

Landlords get a lot of calls and messages from residents throughout the span of a lease. Aside from the normal tasks of screening tenants, filling homes, and answering maintenance calls, residents usually have a few extra needs during their stay in a rental home. Among these needs, noise complaints are often inevitable.

A small survey conducted by Lemonade revealed that over half of Americans are annoyed by their neighbors multiple times per year. This frequency is more likely when people live in close quarters like apartments, duplexes, and townhouses.

A lot of noise happens when living life, and some are reasonable, while others… not so much ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Noisy neighbors may seem like just a nuisance at first, but they can end up costing you a lot. For instance, they can cause a good tenant or two to not renew their lease or even break their lease, costing landlords in vacancy loss. How can you resolve noise complaints to keep their residents happy and ensure the quiet enjoyment of their rental property?

Reasonable Vs. Unreasonable Noise

To determine whether you can intervene with a noise disturbance, you must first decide whether the noise is reasonable or unreasonable. Reasonable noise is protected by Federal fair housing laws. Unreasonable noises are inconsiderate of others and can be controlled.

Examples of Reasonable Noise:

  • An upstairs neighbor walking normally.
  • A baby or toddler crying (this is allowed any time of day, no matter how loud or ongoing, but parents are also encouraged to find solutions to reduce the crying out of consideration).
  • Normal conversation level speaking in your own apartment.
  • Normal TV volume.
  • Musical instruments played at normal volume for an hour or two.
  • Children’s normal playing during non-quiet hours.
  • Doors and cabinets opening and closing.
  • Occasional dog barking (that the owner deals with quickly).

Examples of Unreasonable Noise:

  • Loud music from the housing unit.
  • Dogs barking incessantly while the owner takes no measure to stop.
  • Stomping, jumping, or dancing around upstairs instead of normally walking after quiet hours.
  • Yelling, screaming, or fighting incessantly.
  • Using loud tools for DIY projects during quiet hours.
  • Loud bass from sub speakers.
  • Loud party noises, especially during quiet hours.
  • Slamming doors and cabinets.
  • Extremely loud television volume.
  • Fireworks.

Responding to Noise Complaints

If the lease contains a quiet enjoyment clause, then Landlords should professionally handle noise disputes when asked for help when the offending resident resides in the same community and under the same rules. In most cases, the tenant can attempt to address the noise problem privately with the neighbor first. However, if they don’t feel comfortable or have tried once or twice and their message isn’t getting through, then landlords may be asked to help.

Whether you will need to do this frequently or occasionally is a matter of rolling the dice. While you can be more in control when you pick reasonable tenants, you can’t control every element, such as the placement of families due to fair housing laws, or if an offending neighbor is not your resident. Here are the general steps to troubleshooting noise complaints regarding two residents under your management:

There is a complaint between two residents in a community under your management: Landlord collects information about the complaint and determines whether it’s about reasonable or unreasonable noise.

  • Reasonable noise: You may present some options to reduce friction between neighbors, but reasonable noise is allowed at all hours. Offer solutions like installing carpet on upper floors for loud walking, or suggesting that the neighbors set up a schedule when noise is expected (i.e. music practice, toddler play dates). Remind all residents of their rights, quiet hours, and how to exercise common courtesy to each other.
  • Unreasonable noise: Remind the noisy neighbor to adhere to local or community noise ordinances and quiet hours to cease unreasonable noise. If the noisy neighbor continues to offend, then they are in violation of lease terms. If the tenant doesn’t cease, then eviction or non-renewal of the lease is on the table.

How to Solve Noise Issues

When residents submit complaints about excessive noise within a community, the landlord’s course of action will differ based on several circumstances. It’s easier to handle noise issues within the same community and more challenging when the source of the noise is from a different homeowner or rental under the management of a different company. Either way, there are solutions. Some may involve simple communication, and others may involve law enforcement. Either way, there is a solution to most complaints.

  • Note: Every noise complaint needs plenty of documentation to be valid. Ask your resident to record the incidents and keep records of any attempts to contact the noisy neighbor to resolve the issue.

How to Handle Noise Complaints When The Noisy Resident Is Under The Same Landlord’s Management

Landlords have an easier time when the noisemaker is also a tenant of one of their rentals. The tenants should have identical or similar lease agreements so the landlord or property manager can be swift to address the issue with concrete rules.

For instance, if an upstairs neighbor is doing jump squats after 10 pm vs walking quietly, the landlord can resolve the issue by communicating with the resident. If normal walking is a nuisance, the landlord can install cork flooring/carpets on the upper floors to absorb sounds. In addition, landlords have the authority to enforce rules and decide not to renew a lease or evict a particularly disruptive resident.

Keep a paper trail to ensure you’ve done due diligence in responding to and resolving noise complaints. It’s always good to speak to both sides of the complaint to get the full story and to understand the proper course of action.

Solving Problems When a Noisy Resident Isn’t Under a Landlord’s Management

When the noise offender is a homeowner or in a property that’s owned by a different investor, then things get trickier. You have less control over what the other party does and have no power to evict them either. Thankfully, there are a few other ways to get things under control:

1) If both homes belong to the same HOA, then everyone can abide by the HOA’s noise ordinance and nuisance noise rules, which allows everyone to be on the same page. The HOA may also have fines and consequences for the offending non-resident neighbor. For the best results, get the HOA involved to be another buffer between you and the noisy neighbor.

2) Law enforcement: If the offending neighbor isn’t responsive to civil communication from your resident or you, then your resident is free to call the non-emergency number for police when there are noise violations. Animal control can also assist when there is a dog left barking outside at night for hours.

Don’t Want Interruptions to Handle Noise Problems? Get a Property Manager

Landlords won’t need to intervene in every complaint when they hire a property manager. Property managers are good at reminding tenants of lease agreement terms and professionally communicating with other parties.

To prevent issues from even happening, a solid lease should contain a “noise clause” that sets a curfew and designated quiet hours for everyone. During this time, residents should do their best to keep noise levels low when it is in their control. For example, residents can turn off loud music and use headphones during quiet hours without disrupting their life.

Having this clause in the lease agreement is an excellent preventative measure that a professional rental management company can do from the onset to make expectations clear for the rental property.

Having property managers address complaints is the easiest way for landlords to handle the issue. Doing proper tenant screening can ensure that a tenant has good former reviews from other places so that they will be a good fit for the community.