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Noise Complaints: What They Mean for Landlords and Tenants

April 6, 2020

Having to deal with noisy neighbors is a simple fact of life, especially if you occupy an apartment unit or live in a major city. Living in a community means that you’ll have to learn to deal with your music teacher neighbor practicing into the evening or the family next door bringing home an infant who hasn’t yet learned to sleep through the night. 

Unfortunately, some residents make it impossible for other tenants to comfortably inhabit their own units. A noise complaint will quickly follow. 

Regardless of whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, it’s imperative for you to understand noise complaints. So, we’ve got you covered! Here’s everything landlords and tenants need to know about noise complaints and how to handle them like a pro.

What is a Noise Complaint?

A noise complaint is a formal complaint lodged against an individual or operation for causing a disturbance or interruption of one’s quiet enjoyment of their living quarters. 

Residents typically take noise complaints to landlords before law enforcement. It depends on the situation and whether any previous complaints have been lodged. 

Noise complaints may be handled very differently depending on your local ordinances and state laws. However, almost all communities have written laws regarding excessive or unreasonable noise. So, if someone or something is violating those laws, you have a right to file a noise complaint.

It’s important to understand any guidelines such as: 

  • Quiet hours
  • Whether they appear in your lease agreement 
  • If they are mandatory by the law

You can find out more information regarding local and state-level laws regarding noise here.

When Should You File a Noise Complaint?

Before we dive in, let’s state the facts. Noisy neighbors are a common occurrence in a renter’s life. 

Whether the noise has to do with someone’s lifestyle or hobby, there’s a good chance you’ll run into people who don’t lead the same quiet life that you do. Sometimes, this can make it nearly impossible to coexist. 

That said, before you make a final decision on whether to file a noise complaint, there are a few steps you can take to remedy the problem, as a tenant. 

Here are a few ways to handle noisy neighbors:

  • Communicate with Your Neighbor. Directly inform your neighbor of the issue. Chances are, your neighbor will be willing to make changes or compromise.
  • Make a Compromise. Speaking of compromises — make them. For example, if you need to get to bed by 10 p.m., you can ask your neighbor to treat those hours as quiet hours.  
  • Understand Unreasonable and Excessive. Know your stuff. Loud parties that go on into the night with no prior warning = unreasonable and excessive. A dog barking a few times at 6 a.m. is annoying. However, it isn’t grounds for a noise complaint. 

If you’ve tried to remedy the situation without utilizing outside intervention and haven’t been able to find a solution to the problem, then it’s time for the last resort — a noise complaint. Unfortunately, a noisy tenant may be more motivated by the promise of consequences than they are by your attempts to remedy the situation.

How to File a Noise Complaint

If you’ve gotten to the point of filing a noise complaint, it’s imperative that you understand the procedures to ensure that your complaint is handled properly and followed up with. 

To start, you’ll need to look at your lease agreement. Check for any mention of noise complaints and how to handle them. Pay special attention to anything detailing community quiet hours or something similar.

If your landlord has outlined steps for filing a noise complaint, then carefully follow those steps when taking the matter to them. Be sure to record any communication, meaning make sure it’s in writing, to ensure that you have proof of your attempt.

If you wish to have your complaint handled anonymously, then let your landlord know, as they should respect your wishes. 

If the Issue Persists...

If your landlord can’t help in this situation, then you’ll have to bring your complaint to the police. Again, be sure to keep records of your complaint and ask for anonymity, if you wish. 

When filing a noise complaint with the police, you’ll need to provide as much detail about the noise disturbances as possible. If you have any evidence of the noise, such as a recording, then bring it with you as documentation. 

Typically, the police will confront the neighbor about their noise and give them a warning. If the noise complaints continue to come in because the neighbor hasn’t heeded the warning, then the police may write your noisy neighbor a ticket with a fine. 

The method for handling noise complaints will vary with state and local laws. So, check yours before filing a complaint!

How Should a Landlord Handle a Noise Complaint?

Your lease agreement should be airtight, meaning it has written rules and regulations regarding all common renting issues and concerns — including noise complaints. As a landlord, when a tenant comes to you with a noise complaint, you’re responsible for validating the complaint. 

As a noise complaint must be about disturbances that are frequent, excessive, and unreasonable, you have to determine whether the noise in question qualifies. For example, occasional dog barking or a one-off dinner party wouldn’t fit the bill. 

On the other hand, frequent late-night parties and excessive noise during quiet hours would act as a valid noise complaint. 

Next, you’ll have to communicate with your tenants based on your findings. If the complaint is invalid, then you need to let the accuser know that you have looked into the issue and follow up with the accused with a warning. 

You’ll need to address valid complaints quickly. That’s the case especially if you’ve received multiple complaints from different tenants regarding the issue. 

Sometimes the tenant is receptive and remedies their behaviors. Unfortunately, some tenants continue to cause disturbances. At that point, you may be forced to pursue eviction.

What If Someone Made a Noise Complaint Against You?

“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” — Harvey Dent

Spot-on Batman references aside, there’s a chance that someone will lodge a noise complaint against you. If you find yourself in this situation and want to handle it well, then follow these steps:

  1. Is the complaint valid? If so, apologize to your neighbor and landlord. Explain that causing a disturbance wasn’t your intention. Assure them that it won’t happen again.
  2. Make amends. Offer your phone number to your neighbor, so they can directly inform you of any more disturbances. 
  3. Don’t make the same mistakes again. For example, if your complaint lists raucous dinner parties, then be sure to inform your neighbors ahead of time if you’re throwing a party that may end late. Consider extending your neighbors an invite, so they can be a part of the fun!

Final Thoughts

Noise complaints can be hard to handle, regardless of which side of the complaint you’re on. 

As a landlord, it’s crucial to ensure that you include a clause regarding noise complaints and community quiet hours in your lease agreements. This can curtail any future problems. It’ll also help ensure that all of your tenants are on the same page. 

As a tenant, if frequent and excessive disturbances are an issue, then you have the right to file a noise complaint. If you find yourself with a noise complaint made against you, simply apologize and take steps to ensure that you don’t have the same problem again. 

As always, be sure to comply with local and federal laws and adhere to the terms of your lease agreement. Happy renting!

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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