How to Deal with a Noisy Roommate
Noise complaints are one of the most common (and one of the trickiest) situations for landlords and their tenants. All tenants have the right to “quiet enjoyment” of their rental property, but what that actually means can vary. Neighbors are allowed to make (some) noise in their homes, and landlords can only address the noise disturbances they have control over.
Since there aren’t specific laws addressing each type of noise, it’s up to a lease to outline what is and isn’t acceptable — like building quiet hours or guest policies. If these details aren’t in the lease, then it’s on the landlord and tenant to come up with a solution.
Justifiable Noise Complaint?
The right to quiet enjoyment doesn’t mean every tenant gets to live in complete silence. There is, however, a difference between normal noise and excessive noise. Normal noise is noise caused from everyday activities, like walking, talking, or doors closing. Excessive noise is the noise that doesn’t fall under the “everyday” category, like constant loud music or noise from parties.
While there are no hard and fast rules here, complaints about normal noise — like loud footsteps from an upstairs neighbor — are going to be harder for a landlord to address and put a stop to.
What Can a Tenant Do?
If the noise becomes a problem and a tenant feels that their right to quiet enjoyment is being violated, it’s typically up to them to take the first steps in addressing the problem.
Document the noise: Make a note of when the noise is happening, what it is or what it sounds like, and how often it’s occurring. The more detail you can provide your landlord, the better. Plus, you’ll need to have a reasonable case for why your landlord should take action. Talk to your Roommate : Your landlord might request that you bring up the noise issue with your neighbor first. Best case scenario is this solves the issue completely — a neighbor might not realize the noise they’re causing. That said, if you don’t feel comfortable approaching a neighbor, then you can ask your landlord to be the one to take action.
Ask for help: If you’ve approached a neighbor and the noise still hasn’t stopped, then you can ask for help. Request that your landlord addresses the issue (in writing) and check your lease for specific noise clauses. Some buildings outline quiet hours or guest policies which could help your case. If you believe the noise falls under the “excessive” category and your landlord neglects to address the issue, you can get the police involved. It’s best to call the police when the noise is happening so you can demonstrate why you think a noise ordinance is being violated. Note that you need to call your local non-emergency number, not 911.
Move out: If you’re dealing with excessive noise and your landlord can’t or won’t help you fix it, you’ll probably be able to break your lease. Make sure you have a paper trail of your efforts to address the noise problem and consult a legal expert.
What Can a Landlord Do?
It’s a landlord’s responsibility to address noise complaints in their rental properties. A tenant has a right to quiet enjoyment, and there can be financial repercussions for a landlord who neglects to address excessive noise. That said, landlords can only deal with the noise they can control, and they’ll have to make decisions about whether the noise is actually “excessive” or not.
Identify the noise and inform Roommate: A landlord needs to identify where the noise is coming from and evaluate the complaint. In some cases, a tenant may be overly sensitive to noise in their unit, even if it’s normal, everyday noise from a neighbor.
Once a tenant brings a noise complaint to a landlords attention, the landlord needs to inform the tenant who’s causing the noise that a complaint has been filed against them. To take action on a noise complaint — especially if a loud tenant needs to be evicted — a landlord needs written documentation of recurring noise problems and to have notified the tenant in violation.
Have a clause in the lease: Since there are no concrete laws surrounding noise violations, the best way a landlord can enforce noise regulations is by having them clearly stated in the lease. Outlining specific quiet hours or limiting the number of overnight guests allowed in a unit can help set guidelines for tenants and give a landlord something to reference in the event of a noise issue.
Take action: A landlord should address a tenant’s noise concerns, even if the landlord doesn’t think the noise is necessarily excessive or a violation. The landlord needs to be able to demonstrate they’ve taken steps to resolve the issue, especially if further action needs to be taken. If a tenant is still being disturbed by noise and the landlord is unable to eliminate it, the landlord can decide to reduce rent for the affected tenant to keep them from moving out. The landlord can also take measures to evict the tenant who is causing noise issues.
Avail offers state-specific lease templates that are customizable, so landlords can add their own noise clauses or policies into each lease. Both the landlord and the tenant can easily access the digital lease through their Avail account to reference the noise clauses if they’re ever needed.
Finally, if all else has failed, maybe it's time to look for a new roommate?