Tired of excessive noise

Steps to Handle an Apartment Noise Complaint From a Tenant

With barking dogs, loud music and late-night parties, noise complaints in apartments are the most common type of grievance that will come up. And it’s tough to control the noise level of your tenants, especially since you’re not there all the time.

Tenants have the right to file a noise complaint if a neighbor continuously causes a racket. No one wants to deal with unwanted noise, particularly if it affects their sleep or interferes with their quiet time and ability to live in a happy, healthy space.

So, when a tenant files a noise complaint, it’s up to you to investigate the incident and come to a resolution. Here are some steps you should take to handle noise complaints in apartments.

1. Understand what a noise complaint is

A noise complaint is a formal complaint that a tenant files regarding noise. It is usually against a fellow tenant or the apartment community as a whole, depending on the source of the noise.

The complaint may be about a noisy pet, loud music or TV, children playing or running or heavy walking from an upstairs neighbor. Property managers have the discretion to determine if a noise complaint has validity and which action is best to take.

Kids playing inside

2. Distinguish between excessive noise and everyday noise

No one lives a silent existence, so everyone is bound to make some noise some of the time. What constitutes excessive noise often depends on how frequently the tenant makes noise, how extreme the noise is and whether it violates local (city, state or community) noise ordinances.

Excessive noise often warrants a noise complaint. Some examples of excessive noise include:

  • Loud music played for hours every day. But, the occasional loud music session isn’t a valid complaint.
  • Parties on most nights that feature loud music and voices and go into the wee morning hours. Having people over from time to time likely isn’t a valid complaint.
  • Dogs that bark all day long when their owner is away. An occasional bark or howl probably isn’t enough to complain about.
  • Neighbors having angry screaming matches regularly. Hearing raised voices or an argument will likely happen sometimes.
  • Intentionally banging on shared walls or stomping on floors that are beyond how someone might normally move around their home.

If a tenant seems to cause excessive noise that falls into these categories or others, the situation might be worthy of a noise complaint.

What is everyday noise?

Tenants have the right to move around their homes freely and enjoy their living spaces. And, in doing normal daily activities, they’ll likely make some noise. Examples of everyday noise include walking, talking, closing doors and cabinets, cooking and more. Everyone is different and some people might be noisier than others in their day-to-day habits. So, everyday noise is often tough for property managers and owners to address.

Also, some noise is beyond your control. For example, nearby construction or roadwork could be bothersome for tenants, but there’s not much property owners can do to stop the noise.

What time should you be quiet in an apartment?

A variety of personality types call apartment communities home. Some are night owls, while others are early to bed, early to rise types. Finding a way to accommodate all these different individuals is a headache, but when it comes to noise, setting quiet hours can help avoid problems.

A good rule is to set quiet time to begin at 10 p.m. on weekdays, and maybe a little later on weekends. Be sure to check local noise ordinances, which may establish time limits on noise that you can enforce.

3. Determine if a noise complaint is valid

To streamline noise complaints, it’s a good idea to develop a process for accepting them. Create a digital or paper form for the complainant to complete and ask for as much detail as possible. Once you receive a complaint, you’ll need to investigate to determine if it’s valid and what you can do about it. Here are some steps to take:

  • Talk to the tenant. Find out all you can about the noise in question and how often it happens.
  • Find out what the tenant has done to remedy the situation. Ask the tenant if they’ve tried to talk to their neighbor about the noise, and if so, how did the tenant react.
  • Ask the tenant to document the noise. Having a photo or video of the noisy neighbor in action provides great intel into the validity of the claim.
  • Determine if there are multiple complaints. If the same tenant has made multiple noise complaints about the same person or if multiple tenants are complaining about the same person, it might influence your decision.
  • Stop by the noisy tenant’s unit. You might catch the problematic noise yourself.
  • Talk to the noisy tenant. Tell them about the complaint and ask for their side of the story and what they can do to mitigate the noise.
  • Document everything. Keep records of the complaint, your investigation and the resolution. This will give you leverage if the same complaint comes up again.

Landlord talking to tenant

4. How to handle valid and invalid noise complaints in apartments

After gathering all the details, you can make an informed decision on whether the noise complaint is valid or invalid — and what action to take.

Valid noise complaints

You can handle various valid noise complaints, like boisterous late-night parties every night of the week, in several different ways. Start by talking to the tenant causing the ruckus and issue a warning in writing. Give them a timeframe to remedy the situation or face eviction.

Sometimes, tenants will be receptive and reduce their noise levels. Others won’t and you’ll have to pursue eviction. Just make sure you have a clause in your lease agreement about excessive noise as grounds for eviction.

Invalid noise complaints

For noise complaints that lack validity, explain your findings to the tenant who filed the complaint. Explain why their neighbor hasn’t violated the noise policy and that you’ve closed the case. But, be kind — thank them for bringing the issue to your attention and encourage them to let you know if other noise issues come up.

Even if you determine the complaint is invalid and the noise is simply normal living habits, if the tenant is still under distress, try to work out a solution. For example, offer to let them move into a different unit in your apartment community. You want to ensure your tenants have a comfortable, peaceful living space.

5. Keep unwanted noise to a minimum

It’s inevitable that problems with noise will come up. Planning will help you keep excessive noise under control and ensure that you handle noise complaints fairly. Here are some ways to keep noise to a minimum:

  • Set quiet time hours. Establish when to keep noise to a minimum, such as after 10 p.m. Post the quiet time policy around the apartment community.
  • Put the noise policy in your lease. Make sure to include the quiet time hours in your lease. Also, detail what’s considered excessive noise and the consequences that tenants will face if they violate the policy, such as warnings and eviction.
  • Look up local ordinances. Be aware of local noise ordinances because you’ll need to enforce them in your apartment community.
  • Set up a process for noise complaints. Establishing a system for accepting, investigating and resolving noise complaints will help you apply policies equitably and streamline the process.
  • Screen tenants carefully. When screening prospective tenants, ask for previous landlord references to find out if they’ve ever had a noise complaint filed against them.

Handling noise complaints in apartments

Dealing with noisy tenants and noise complaints is part of being a property owner or manager. Understanding the difference between excessive and everyday noise, creating noise policies and including everything in the lease will help you streamline complaints. Listing your property on Rent. allows you to accept applications and screen tenants to find the best renters for your apartments.


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