Being a property owner or landlord can open up an exciting new world of opportunities. Sadly, not all of these opportunities are of the most pleasant kind (*hint hint* – noise complaints). Sometimes, you’ll have to deal with unruly tenants, late payments, and costly repairs for damages.
You’ll also likely have to tackle something that may not even be on your radar yet: noise complaints. If you’ve never dealt with them before, it can be tricky to understand how to go about it. That’s what we’re here for!
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- Rental Contract Language
- How To Deal With Tenant Noise Complaints
- Dealing With Unreasonable Noise Complaints
- Top Tips To Diffuse the Situation
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Rental Contract Language
When you and your legal representative are drawing up your rental contract, do not underestimate the importance of the language you use. You need to cover all of your bases, and if you want to avoid legal action being taken against you by tenants, you should leave no room for error or misinterpretation.
Amongst clauses that specify rules regarding cleanliness, parking regulations, and inspections, you’ll need to include a clear, thorough noise clause.
You’ll find many great examples of these online, but here are a few tips that sum up the most important aspects of the best noise clauses to help you avoid sticky situations involving noise complaints.
1. Include Specifics on Origins of Noises
This could include making mention of instruments, revving engines, microphones, televisions, radios, and more. Then, include a blanket statement that can cover any specifics not listed. Something like “any device, equipment, or other property that can produce music or other loud noises” should be added.
2. Add Emotionally-Oriented Language
When you use emotionally-oriented language in your rental contract, you give yourself a great legal basis to take action concerning any reasonable noise complaints. Things like “sounds that cause annoyance, disturbance, or irritation” can contribute to emotionally-oriented language.
3. Include a Section About Tenants’ Rights
Leading up to your specifics regarding what constitutes reasonable noise complaints, we’d suggest adding a section or clause about what your tenants are entitled to. Concerning noise levels, you should make mention that it is the right of all tenants to be able to enjoy something along the lines of the following.
- A comfortable environment
- A peaceable living space
- A relaxing atmosphere
- An environment free of unreasonable interruptions
- A space in which they can reasonably work
4. List Specific Exclusions
Want to go that extra mile for tenants? Make non-negotiable exclusions and spell them out clearly in the rental contract. Things you might want to exclude from the premises are power tools and heavy machinery.
5. Set Time Restrictions
Contracts for many shared living communities include clauses regarding time and noise. If you look at some examples, you’ll find it’s common to include clauses that say things like “no music after 12:00 a.m.” or even earlier, in some instances.
Other places also restrict tenants from making noise upon entering and leaving the property. Consider this if you have a localized front area where people spend a lot of time.
How To Deal With Tenant Noise Complaints
Regardless of how well you’ve set up the language in your rental contract, complaints are bound to happen. When they do, you need to know how to deal with tenant noise complaints calmly and effectively. When you can do so professionally, the goal is that all parties will leave the interaction if not fully satisfied than at least peacefully.
Chances are, many of the noise complaints you receive will come to you in a pretty cordial way (but we’ll cover a couple steps for dealing with unreasonable noise complaints in the next section). Even when they are cordial, it can be daunting to tackle your first noise complaint.
We know you don’t want to be rude, but you also have to uphold the rental agreement in an equitable way. So, where can you find the middle ground? These tips will help you figure out how to move forward when you first receive any noise complaints.
1. Ask Questions
Don’t assume the person who put in the complaint is immediately correct. Don’t assume the opposite party is immediately innocent, either. Once you see that a complaint has been lodged, do some research.
Ask the person accused what their music habits are or if they’ve had any instances of fighting or yelling recently. Ask other neighbors if they’ve heard anything weird or unreasonably loud coming from that neighbor’s direction.
2. Determine if the Noise Is Reasonable or Not
There’s a difference between blasting Metallica at max volume at 2:00 a.m. and having a neighbor move in. The music is unreasonable. However, the noise that comes with moving in and moving furniture around is expected and unavoidable.
In these situations, you have to ask yourself, “Is it the noise that is unreasonable or the complaint?”
If you come to the conclusion that the complaint is unreasonable, there are different steps that you can take to resolve the situation that we’ll outline further down.
3. Check Out the Noise for Yourself
Does the noise complaint mention that the sound is happening every afternoon around 1:00 p.m.? If so, it might be time to check it out for yourself. If you can experience the noise for yourself, it will be easier to come to a decision on how or if it is breaking your noise clause.
4. Check if There Are Multiple Noise Complaints
If the same complaint is being lodged by different tenants, it’s pretty fair to assume something is likely going on that breaks your noise clause. Never stop at an assumption, though.
Always give the accused tenant warning by asking them about the situation before demanding further action. This gives them a chance to explain or rectify their behavior before you need to elevate things.
5. Keep Tenants Informed and Don’t Procrastinate
A common error new property managers make when dealing with noise complaints for the first time is dragging their feet throughout the process. Even worse yet, they may fail or forget to keep people informed that action is being taken.
As soon as you begin an investigation into a noise complaint, send the person who lodged the complaint a formal email or letter letting them know you are looking into it. Tell them the steps you plan to take and how long the process may take before you reach a resolution/conclusion.
Once you do reach a conclusion, let them know what it is. If they still have complaints, you can set up a meeting to discuss your reasoning and go over the noise complaint clause with them.
Long story short, transparency can go a very long way when you’re dealing with noise complaints.
6. Take Appropriate Action
So, what happens when a noise complaint is pretty valid but the person making the noise isn’t explicitly breaking any rules of your noise clause? There are a few great steps to take that will resolve the situation peacefully.
- Replace or increase insulation
- Respectfully request caution of upstairs or neighboring tenants
- Install double- or triple-pane windows
Dealing With Unreasonable Noise Complaints
Every once in a while, a complaint simply won’t be reasonable. Someone may be upset at the noise from a car door shutting or from someone doing the dishes in the space beside them. These are unavoidable noises that are part of everyday life in shared living communities.
Here are some tips for dealing with these.
1. Don’t Throw Around Accusations
Even if you know the complaint is unreasonable, do your best to avoid throwing around phrases like, “You’re just wrong,” with no facts to back it up. This will only cause more problems between you and your tenants.
Instead, outline the noise that the tenant complained about and calmly and factually explain to them why this is a reasonable expectation of noise.
When someone really thinks they’re right, emotions can run high. Try our list of tips further below to diffuse the situation and keep everyone as calm as possible before moving to solution-oriented action.
3. Educate Them
Let’s be honest. No matter how much we stress that tenants should thoroughly read their rental agreements, sometimes they just don’t give it the care we’d like them to.
If you take our advice about rental contract language, then you’ll probably have some pretty specific clauses in your contract about what is and is not justifiable noise. In this case, you can present the tenant with a copy of the noise complaint clause(s) from the rental agreement and show them how their complaint does not fall under the category of unjustifiable noise.
4. Ask Them What They’d Do
This is an age-old trick used by professionals across all fields from psychology to business. If the tenant who lodged the complaint simply won’t budge, schedule a meeting with them. Ask them what they would do if they were in your shoes.
Either they’ll have misguided input, in which case you can return back to item #3, or they may come to their own realization that their complaint was unreasonable.
5. Remind Them That You’re Here to Help
Let them know that you take all complaints seriously and will do everything in your power to ensure that the rental agreement they signed is upheld.
Top Tips To Diffuse the Situation
Learning how to deal with tenant noise complaints is a balancing act. In fact, it’s almost better to learn how NOT to deal with them, first. Sometimes, noise complaints can evoke strong emotions in both the accuser and the accused, if they know someone is complaining about them.
When tensions get to an almost unmanageable point, try these tricks to diffuse the situation.
1. Don’t Escalate
So, what’s the first thing you DON’T want to do? Escalate.
If someone approaches you and is visibly upset, it can be difficult to calm them down without matching that energy. As you would with most similarly tense situations, don’t feed into the anger or whatever other emotions are being thrown around.
Stay calm in your vocal and body language, and encourage them to do the same (without explicitly stating it).
Whenever emotions are at a ten, resolution will always be at a zero.
2. Remain a Neutral Party
Call yourself Switzerland if you must, but don’t vehemently side with one tenant over another in a noise complaint dispute. Be a mediator and lay the facts out for both parties.
3. Play Therapist
Don’t ask them about their troubled home life, but do actively listen to their complaints. Take the time to hear your tenants out when it comes to noise complaints.
You can find out a lot more by sitting down and listening to the reasons behind their complaint than you can by reading the short form they may have submitted to you via mail or email.
Even if the complaint is unreasonable, you may find that sitting down with them, letting them talk, and responding in a calm and professional way will diffuse their frustration.
4. Give Them Time
If a tenant knows a noise complaint has been lodged against them, they may become upset as a result. Don’t visit them every hour and antagonize them. If you’ve found that the complaint is reasonable, simply give them notice (either by a letter, email, or both) and give them time to fix it.
If they don’t resolve the issue in the suggested timeframe, then you can step in and get more hands-on with the situation.
5. Only Involve Law Enforcement If Absolutely Necessary
Unless someone has escalated to violence or other actions that break the law, don’t make contacting law enforcement one of your first steps. This will cause undue drama and chaos in the living space, especially if the tenant could have calmed down otherwise.
However, if a tenant is repeatedly breaking the rental agreement, you can then notify them of eviction due to a lease violation. If they do not change their behavior or leave by the deadline noted on the eviction form, you can file a lawsuit against them.
More tips for landlords: What to Do When Your Tenant Has Military Orders to Break Lease?
Now you should be ready to take on any noise complaints, reasonable or otherwise, with confidence. We know it can be an awkward situation to tackle, but you have the tools and contract at your disposal to reach a successful resolution every time.