Noise complaints are never fun, and it seems that the open windows and longer days of summer only exacerbate what is already a pesky problem for landlords.
But doing nothing won’t help — that only drives away good tenants, and can lead to calls to the local police. And no one wants that!
Once you are facing a noise complaint, you have to deal with it promptly, preferably catching the offending tenant in the act. A one-warning approach seems to work the best.
If you’re called out again for the same infraction, look to your lease for remedies, and act on them. Follow up with the tenant or neighbor who reported the problem so they feel vindicated.
But the best way to quell noise complaints is to prevent them from happening in the first place. You can accomplish that with your leasing policies:
Find out if new applicants have a bad reputation for noise problems before you allow them into your property.
Anticipate the common elements of noise complaints — TV’s, stereos, barking dogs, guests — and set appropriate limits in your lease or house rules. One of the common difficulties in resolving noise complaints is deciding if the behavior is bad enough to justify any action. Having specific rules will be a significant time-saver.
One example is setting a noise curfew — a common strategy. There, you need only look at your watch to determine if there is a violation. You could also borrow from local laws — find out how the police regulate barking dogs.
Some landlords have tried limiting the number of allowed guests, but you may run into problems interfering with family gatherings, which can be discriminatory.
It’s better to explain the problem and focus on the behavior of the tenant and guests — no yelling or blasting music. No running up and down the stairs for exercise or fun. No under-age drinking or kegs on the patio.
Tenants must be told to take responsibility for reining in their guests, who are not aware of the rules.
Also, all rules must apply uniformly to all tenants — don’t single anyone out.
Make sure your lease has teeth, outlining the right to evict a tenant who generates noise complaints from other tenants or neighbors.
Sometimes resolving the complaint means you have to push back against the “victim”. For instance, the tenant complaining may simply hate kids, and any noise they make will be a problem. That’s when you have to sit them down, explain the law regarding discrimination, and tell them to get over it.
Document all complaints and the resulting action taken.
Encouraging the tenants to communicate with one another is also a useful strategy. Once tenants are familiar with the people who live around them, they tend to feel better about inevitable, occasional noises and don’t react as strongly. While you can’t give out phone numbers or force tenants to get along with one another, you can accommodate the process by hosting a mixer or finding others ways for tenants to become acquainted — like a newsletter.
That way, they just might work it out amongst themselves. Talk about a win-win!
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