Nobody, and we mean nobody, likes a noisy neighbor, whether they live above, below, or next to you. The point of finding a good apartment doesn't just mean plenty of rooms, good parking, nice amenities, and reasonable rent, but it also means what's known as "quiet enjoyment". You pay thousands per year for your place, and you shouldn't have to deal with neighbors who don't keep things peaceful. We've all been there, and it's never a good situation to be stuck near a noisy neighbor. But what can you do about it, how you should go about it, and what is your landlord's responsibility? We cover the details of how to best deal with noise.
What Constitutes Noise?
You can't just complain about normal noises that occur during everyday living situations. Doors close, conversations and arguments happen, dishes get broken, music gets played. That's not what we're talking about when it comes to excessive noise that warrants an actual noise complaint to your landlord. A complaint is one that is received by your landlord (or fellow tenant/neighbor) when a tenant believes there is excessive noise going on adjacent to his or her rented unit. Some examples of excessive noise that can trigger a complaint include:
- Yelling or screaming
- Slamming of doors
- Children crying
- Exercise or weightlifting
- Jumping, stomping, running
- Loud music or television
- Loud guests/parties
- Noise from pets
- Excessive noise during quiet hours
- Car noise from the parking lot
- Outdoor parties
While this is, by no means, a comprehensive list, it gives you an idea of what may constitute a legitimate noise complaint, and you can actively file that complaint based on what is generally considered excessive noise. You can also look at your lease language, if it's specific enough, so you can provide ample justification for your complaint.
Who Should You Complain To, and How Should You Do It?
This is a tricky situation. It might seem best to address the situation directly, but that doesn't always go well. If you have a great relationship with your neighbor, it might be smart to gently talk to them in person. This way, it gets dealt with immediately, and you won't sully your relationship by going to the landlord. If you don't know the noise violator, then it's probably best to address it via your landlord. It keeps things anonymous, and you can leave it in the hands of the landlord who should be providing "quiet enjoyment" while you're renting.
Noise complaints can be sent out formally or informally, which means the law can be involved. You can send a certified letter to your landlord, which would clearly let them know it's official and that you're serious. Noise disturbances that actually affect more than one tenant can also be addressed via law enforcement. Your town or village likely has legally enforceable quiet hours, and you may contact 911 in order to have it addressed. Just make sure you know where the noise is coming from before you make the phone call.
What Is Quiet Enjoyment?
This term applies to home and apartment residents, and your landlord must provide an environment where you can leave in relative peace, minus the typical everyday noises that occur normally. When referring to apartment rentals, the term "quiet enjoyment" means that tenants have the right to enjoy the leased property/unit as they wish and without unnecessary and excessive interruptions. Filing a noise complaint means that someone is infringing on that right.
Your landlord is definitely ultimately responsible for addressing noise complaints when they are legitimate. Also consider that if you are a constant complainer, you are less likely to be taken seriously, so weigh your decisions carefully. It's still up to the landlord to manage the situation quickly and thoroughly. Again, the complaint has more teeth when it's made by more than one tenant, so it doesn't seem biased.
When you do complain, make sure you have as many details as possible.
- What was the actual noise, as best as you can describe it?
- When did the noise occur and for how long?
- How loud was it? (I could not hear my child talk to me, I could not conduct a phone call, the dishes rattled)
- Did you talk to the violating tenant/neighbor about it? What happened if you did address it with them?
- Has this happened before?
Timeframe for Resolution
If things aren't taken care of by your landlord within a reasonable period of time, you may want to speak with the landlord about potential eviction, or else you may vacate the premises without any penalty. It's important for you to understand your lease's language on the matter and know what options exist for you. In some situations, the landlord has done everything he/she can reasonably do before eviction, and the tenant doesn't care about quieting down. Remember that it's not always the landlord's fault, and it places them in a tough position. Follow the correct protocol according to your lease, and be civil about your complaint.
Typically, a landlord can issue two warnings to the violator before he/she can start the eviction process. It's likely that the landlord will prefer to keep you as a tenant instead of retaining the noisy tenant because he/she can lose other tenants as a result. Just keep a cool head, and make sure you document everything well. Be fair, be calm, and speak reasonably. Never take things into your own hands.