What to do When My Tenants Complain About Noise

Posted by  wasserman 

What must we do when residents in our buildings lodge noise complaints against their neighbors?

This question has come up more often these days now that folks oftentimes work from home and, as such, are spending more time in the building.  Owners and managers are increasingly receiving complaints such as: “My neighbor’s dog keeps barking”; “The person next to me is playing their television late at night”; and “I hear the children down the hallway screaming in the morning.”

Please do not ignore these complaints!  Rather, as rental housing providers, you have an obligation to investigate and to address the problem with both the folks who are complaining and with the tenants that may or may not be creating an unreasonable disturbance.  You do not need to take sides unless you have sound evidence that someone is creating unreasonable levels of noise, but you should diligently investigate the matter by contacting the household that is alleged to be creating the problem and noticing them that others in the building are not happy with what may be occurring.

According to the Rent Board, the following procedures should occur: “A landlord must investigate and reasonably respond to a tenant’s complaint about excessive noise from other tenants in the building.  Such reasonable investigation could entail discussions with the complaining tenant and the other occupants of the subject unit to determine the scope and nature of the problem; informing the complaining tenant of any additional information that would be helpful to the landlord’s investigation, such as calling the landlord at the time of the disturbances to allow the landlord to witness them, recordings, or police reports; talking to the offending tenant; setting up a meeting of the affected parties to discuss the issue; inspection of the apartment where the noise is coming from to determine that tenants’ compliance with lease requirements concerning rugs and whether any other alterations could be done to reduce the noise problem; and implementation of a plan of progressive action to ensure that the problem is addressed.”

Suggesting mediation is also an option.  The Rent Board provides a forum for aggrieved tenants to work out a solution, although the process is voluntary and both sides must be willing to meet with a Rent Board Administrative Law Judge.  Sometimes, no amount of informal effort achieves a satisfactory result, and you may have to contact your attorney to commence more formal processes should all else fail.  But please take prompt and definitive action to address the complaints.  Staying out of it is not an option.  Indeed, by acting passively, the aggrieved residents may succeed in lowering their rent through a Rent Board petition or, worse yet, prevail in a civil action against you in superior court.  Therefore, always take these matters seriously and create, then implement, a meaningful plan of action.