Most of us have had difficulties with a noisy neighbor in the past, whether it involved noise from a dorm room across the hall in college or a dog down the street that wouldn’t stop barking. It’s annoying, and in extreme circumstances, can seriously interfere with your sleeping habits and relaxation time.
If you have a tenant who’s consistently being too noisy, it’s your responsibility as a landlord to take action. If the person shares a building with other people, a prompt response is necessary to ensure your tenants remain satisfied.
If the tenant is a sole resident, you need to preserve your positive reputation in the neighborhood. In extreme cases, you could be held liable for not taking action against disruptive behavior.
What exactly should you do if a tenant is being too noisy?
Step One: Evaluate the Situation
Your first job is simply to determine what’s going on. Some people are more sensitive to noise than others, and you mustn’t depend on one or two persons’ report for an accurate picture of the matter.
For example, if a neighbor hears loud music from across the street, it could be coming from one of several different homes. Your tenant may not be the one causing it, or he may be operating at a reasonable volume that happened to annoy someone at the wrong time.
Start by talking to people in the surrounding area. If a neighbor issued the complaint, talk with some of the other neighbors. If another tenant in the building issued the complaint, check with the other tenants.
How can you tell if there’s actually a problem? Generally, if one of the following is true, your tenant is making too much noise, and you should step in to address the issue:
- Multiple people are complaining. If one person calls in a complaint on a single occasion, it might not be enough to require your response. But if multiple neighbors in the same area have experienced the same problem — and have all been annoyed by it — it’s much more likely that something’s wrong and you need to investigate further and take action.
- There are multiple complaints. Is this the first time you’ve heard a noise complaint about your tenant? If so, you might not need to respond. Most people have a party now and then or build something, or play music on occasion … and now and then, any of these can get out of hand. If there’s a demonstrated pattern of noisy behavior, though, you need to put a stop to it before things get any worse.
- The tenant has a history of disruptive behavior. Think about how your tenant has behaved in the past. Does this person have a track record of offensive or disagreeable behavior, or is he or she generally polite and pleasant to be around? Bad tenant behaviors tend to escalate in tandem, so if you’ve had problems with your tenant in the past and you receive a noise complaint, the odds are higher that you’ll need to take the next step.
Different regions have different noise laws, so make sure you’re well-versed in what yours are and how they’re enforced. If your area is particularly strict, you may wish to escalate the matter sooner than you otherwise might, in order to avoid worse problems.
Step Two: Have a Conversation
Your next step is a simple one: have a conversation with your tenant. If you’ve established the noise problem, give your tenant the chance to defend himself and explain his side of the story.
Ideally, your tenant should have a chance to correct any wrong behavior and will do so. If it’s something that’s at least partially beyond the tenant’s control, such as a noisy pet that won’t calm down, try to work together to find a compromise or a mutually acceptable solution.
It’s possible your renter wasn’t aware of the noise he or she was making, or that the person has already issued an apology to neighbors with a pledge not to commit any further disturbances. If that’s the case, your job is done.
If the tenant denies any wrongdoing or otherwise challenges the claim, let the person know you aren’t taking any further action at this time, but you’ll be on the lookout for any further disturbances. Establish the tone that you aren’t going to tolerate disruptive behavior, but leave the conversation at that.
You’ll find that most of the time, such conversations go smoothly. If you’ve done your job in pre-screening your tenants, you’ll usually have someone who’s reasonable to deal with. As long as you’re respectful and straightforward in your requests, most tenants will comply with the standards you set.
Step Three: Issue a Formal Warning
Sometimes, the conversation doesn’t go so well, or your tenant later loses sight of what you discussed. A few days or weeks may pass, but eventually you learn of another noise disturbance.
Your conversational approach has failed, and you need to escalate your response. Confront the tenant directly about the matter, and document as much of the exchange as you can.
Don’t give out the names of neighbors who issued complaints, but let your tenant know you’ve received multiple complaints from various people. Issue a formal warning on the matter, to let the renter know that if the noise disturbances continue, you’ll have to take disciplinary and/or legal action to prevent it from continuing.
Step Four: Take Action
After the threat of serious action and consequences, most tenant behavior will settle down. In rare cases, however, you may find that the noisy, disturbing behavior continues.
In that case, you may need to seek eviction, or impose a punitive measure to correct the matter. This isn’t fun, but it’s necessary meet your duty as a responsible landlord.
Dealing with tenant problems can be both tedious and stressful, especially when you’re faced with a lot of them. If you find yourself struggling to keep up, or you just need a break, consider enlisting the services of a property management specialist, such as those offered by Green Residential.
Give us a shout and find out how we can help!