No landlord or property manager enjoys vetting calls about loud neighbors, and it can be especially frustrating when those neighbors are also your tenants. Unfortunately, since “loud noise” is subjective and what is disruptive for some may seem relatively normal to others, noise problems are nuanced and can leave you feeling caught in the middle of disputes.
Establishing quiet hours can mitigate these disputes and while it may not eliminate renter complaints altogether, implementing quiet hours can ensure that you and your management team have clear expectations for tenant noise.
Why Noise Complaints Pose a Problem:
As a landlord or property manager, your tenants are your customers. The key to keeping overhead costs low is retaining great tenants long-term. Finding great tenants and focusing on tenant retention requires excellent attention to customer service, and this includes ensuring that your tenants have a noise-free environment during reasonable hours. Legally, your tenants are also entitled to this through the “implied warranty of quiet enjoyment” or “implied covenant of quiet enjoyment.”
Essentially, your tenants have an implied right to enjoy the property without interference, and while some excess noise may be out of your control, implementing quiet hours can help mitigate disruption. Having quiet hours at your multifamily rental property can also show that you, as the landlord or manager, are taking reasonable steps to ensure the quiet enjoyment of the property for all tenants.
Why Quiet Hours May Be a Good Idea for Your Rental Property:
Quiet hours are the most effective way to eliminate confusion regarding noise as well as mitigate disputes. Specifying a specific time frame for when noisy tasks like lawn mowing can be done and including this information within your rental agreement reduces the likelihood of disruptive activities being completed at unreasonable hours. While property owners or landlords are free to establish their own parameters for quiet hours, it can be effective to begin quiet hours a little later on weekends and sooner on weekdays when your residents are likely to need to rise early for work or school activities.
How and at What Time to Establish Quiet Hours for Your Rental Property:
Your property’s location will help you determine when to set your quiet hours. Most municipal laws prohibit excess noise above a specific decibel and will also have the city’s own quiet hour restrictions. Since quiet hour stipulations must be reasonable, using these preexisting parameters to establish your own quiet hour policy can be an easy way to eradicate questions or concerns about the timing. Including this quiet hour notice within your lease agreement will serve to further remind tenants about the local restrictions and, ideally, mitigate the need for local law enforcement to get involved due to a tenant breaking a late-night noise ordinance.
What Penalties Should Be In Place for Residents Who Cause Disruptions During Quiet Hours?
While a quiet hour policy can limit resident noise complaints, you will likely run into circumstances where different noise thresholds cause a dispute. Addressing a loud party held at 3 A.M. that breaches the local noise ordinance will be far more cut-and-dry than addressing a complaint resident who is practicing their instrument a few minutes past the quiet hour cutoff. Your management team should have specific parameters for reviewing noise complaints. While you can justifiably penalize a noise complaint where law enforcement has to get involved (such as the 3 AM party situation) your lease agreement’s quiet hours clause should also specify penalties for repeated disturbances.
Remember that multiple complaints should be reviewed carefully, and if multiple residents are complaining about the same noise, this can be a good indication that the sound is reasonably disturbing the peaceful enjoyment of property. Often, issuing a formal warning can serve to rectify the situation if the resident in question was unaware that there was an issue. A penalty fee can be issued (according to the lease agreement) and can also serve to ensure compliance with the quiet hour restrictions. In extreme cases, filing for eviction can also be a solution for a repeatedly disruptive tenant.
When reviewing a noise complaint to assess the need for a warning or penalty, landlords should assess the following:
- Has the complaint occurred close to the end or beginning of the quiet hours?
- Has the tenant taken steps to reduce the noise?
- Has the resident who voiced the initial complaint documented instances of disturbances?
Remember, in general, your tenants are simply trying to enjoy their space. Most offenders don’t intend to conduct their activities at the cost of other residents’ enjoyment.
This article was originally published in March 2021 and has since been updated.