If you’re a landlord who rents out a house in the middle of nowhere, you can rent to the noisiest people imaginable. Why? Because no one can hear them.
But if your renters live in close proximity to others, you hope they’ll respect their neighbor’s right to quiet. After all, there’s an implied covenant about it.
If you rent to noisy renters, 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 renters are so loud they’re disruptive? Here’s how to respond to a noise complaint letter.
Determine whether the complaint is valid
Before you confront your renter, find out the nature of the noise complaint. Your renter could very well be causing a disturbance, but it’s just as likely that the complaint isn’t warranted. Renters are allowed to live their lives, and sometimes that includes making noise. Your job is to determine whether your renter is crossing the line by being excessively noisy.
If your jurisdiction places a limit on noise decibel levels, then your renters 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 renters are the problem or whether the complaining neighbor is just being fussy.
Here are some examples:
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.
Renters who walk around their own apartment, no matter what time of day or night, is not complaint-worthy from a downstairs neighbor, but if your renter is jumping rope or acting out their own WrestleMania session at midnight, the downstairs neighbor has a valid complaint.
A dog that barks occasionally is not complaint-worthy, but a dog that barks incessantly all day or night is.
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
When dealing with unreasonable noise complaints, here’s what to do. Let the complaining party know that you have researched the noise complaint. Tell them what you did to determine whether your renter is guilty of a noise violation or not. If you find out your renter 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 renter 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 renter immediately. If your renter is being too noisy and interfering with the neighbors’ peace and quiet, you should tell your renter to keep the noise at acceptable levels. Explain the problem and what you expect your renter 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 renter 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 renter 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.
PARTIES/DISTURBING NOISES/NUISANCE: The Tenant agrees that he/she/they will not breach the covenant of quiet enjoyment for the other tenants and/or neighbors. Tenant agrees not to make or permit any disturbing noises (e.g. hooting, yelling, shouting, singing, music inside a car). 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. If the Tenant and/or Lessor receives a notice from the local police department that there has been a disturbance at the rental premises, which has caused a nuisance to the neighborhood, in violation of Rhode Island General Law §11-30-7, there will be a $50.00 penalty fee per Tenant for the first notification. At this point there will be a three month period which will be considered a probationary period. There will be no further penalty fee during the term of the lease if there are no further disturbances. If there is a second such notification, the rent will increase $100.00 per Tenant for the remaining term of the lease. If there is a third such notification, the rent will increase $150.00 per Tenant for the remaining term of the lease. Eviction can result from any nuisance/noise violation depending on severity. Tenants will receive written notice of eviction. Parents and/or cosignors may also be notified of any incidences. Any breach of Rhode Island General Laws relative to disturbing the enjoyment of the homes by the neighbors, or disturbing the peace of the neighborhood, will be considered a breach of this contract. No kegs are permitted on the property without the prior consent of the Lessor. Tenants are not allowed firearms on the premises at any time. Tenants agree to comply with the attached town rental ordinances which address ordinances for Public Nuisance, Noise Disturbance and Unlawful Possession and Consumption and any associated penalties. ABSOLUTELY NO FRATERNITY OR SORORITY ACTIVITIES MAY OCCUR IN HOUSE OR ON THE GROUNDS, UNLESS OTHERWISE AGREED TO BY THE PARTIES.
Note: This lease pertains to university students in the state of Rhode Island. Personalize your lease to meet your needs. Please consult a lawyer when preparing your lease.
The best way to ensure you’ll rent to people who won’t cause trouble is to screen them first. Run a background check and check references to determine whether potential renters have a history of complaints against them.
If you get complaints about a noisy tenant, you need to do something about it. Don’t rush to judgment by automatically blaming your renter. But don’t ignore the complaints, either. It’s best to come up with a compromise that everyone can live with.