Neighbors and Noise FAQ
Tips for tenants on keeping peace and quiet in their rental units.
7. How to Deal With Noisy Tenants in Your Apartment Building
Even the best rental properties can be noisy at times, with tenants coming and going, doing home repairs, moving furniture, playing music, or just having loud conversations or walking across an uncarpeted floor. A baby or dog in a nearby apartment can add to everyday noise. If a neighbor’s noise is continuously disruptive, however, you’ll want to find the best way to remedy the situation as soon as possible. Excessive noise, whether from loud parties, blaring radios, or dogs barking day and night, violate other tenants’ right to peace and quiet.
The following suggestions and tips may help you get a peaceful home (and a good night’s sleep). The focus here is noisy neighbors, but keep this advice in mind yourself (and share with any roommates who tend to create excessive noise). If you or a co-tenant are disturbing others, you may find yourself facing an eviction lawsuit for creating a nuisance that annoys or disturbs other tenants or neighbors.
Make a Friendly Request
The first step you should take is to simply make a friendly, in-person request to the noisy tenants. Explain that the noise levels (from loud music, a barking dog, or whatever) are disturbing you, and politely ask your fellow tenants to keep it down. In some cases, a congenial smile and request is all it takes. Other tenants may not even realize how loud they are being unless you tell them, but remember to always take a friendly approach. Acting in a threatening or belittling manner may exacerbate the situation.
Document Noise Problems
Keep a log, with as much detail as possible, of the times and dates of noise you are hearing. Consider recording the noise, and, if it’s really bad, buy a decibel level machine to measure the noise.
Make a Second Request in Writing
If the noise continues after your initial request, write the other tenants a letter that outlines the problem and what you feel would be an amicable solution. Your note doesn’t need to be demanding or too formal, but a simple plan that you feel will be effective. For example, if you go to sleep at 11 p.m., explain that a loud radio or television is keeping you awake, but lowering it a few notches will help tremendously. Writing a letter that you’re serious about the noise disturbances will give you proof if you need to complain to your landlord or end up in court.
Contact Your Landlord
Sometimes the noise will continue even after you’ve made several requests. The next option is to contact your landlord. Although this may cause a rift between you and your neighbors, keep in mind that other people in your building may have the same complaints; in fact, getting others to sign a joint letter to the landlord will be especially helpful in motivating your landlord to stop the noise.
Most standard leases have a clause that give tenants the right to “quiet enjoyment” of their homes; this generally includes freedom from excessive or continually disruptive noise which interferes with a tenant’s ability to use their rental—for example, by making it impossible for you to sleep. Look for a clause that’s called something like “violating laws or causing disturbances.” Your landlord may also spell out specific noise guidelines (such as no loud noise after midnight) in a separate set of rules and, so check these, too.
It’s your landlord’s responsibility to enforce lease clauses and house rules; if a noisy tenant doesn’t comply, landlords may evict them. And if your landlord fails to stop excessive and unreasonable noise, you may consider filing a small claims lawsuit against the landlord for tolerating a nuisance. Depending on the situation, you may be able to break your lease and move out early.
Check Your City’s Noise Ordinance
Almost every city has noise laws that prohibit excessive and unreasonable noise (including sustained noise over a certain decibel level) and designate certain “quiet” times (such as between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays). If other tenants continue their noisy ways, get a copy of your city’s noise ordinance from your local law library, your city manager or mayor, an attorney, or online at the Official State, County, & City Government Website Locator or the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse. (This Clearinghouse is a great resource for all things noise-related with links to products such as industrial strength earplugs, sound-proofing ideas, organizations that focus on specific types of noise, such as leaf blowers jet skis, or aviation noise, and more.)
Once you have a copy of your local noise rules, read them over thoroughly to determine if your noisy neighbors are violating the law, for example, by having a dog that barks 24-7. Keep in mind that most city laws mandate that the noise must be unreasonable and excessive before it becomes a violation. For instance, hammering nails into a wall during daytime hours may not violate a noise ordinance even if it’s loud and lasts for hours. Yet, behavior that continues at night when most people are sleeping may be violation of your city’s noise ordinance.
Provide your landlord with a copy of the local noise ordinance and ask them to make sure that noisy tenants comply with the law.
Contact the Police
If the landlord fails to stop noisy tenants, the next step is to contact the authorities. It’s a good idea to call the police while the noise is in progress, such as a during a late night party.
Additional Resources on Dealing with Noise Problems
For more information on how to deal with noisy neighbors, including what’s involved with filing a lawsuit in small claims court, see the Nolo article, Neighbors and Noise FAQ. For advice on dealing with noisy dogs, see the Barking Dogs section of this website, which includes articles on barking dog laws and how animal control authorities can help.