If your tenants live close to one another, chances are at some point you will have to deal with noise complaints. It’s annoying and awkward, but it is one of your duties as a landlord.
Noisy tenants are a threat to the building’s quality of life, and all such threats must be dealt with in a timely fashion. Think of noise as you would any defect in the building. If the heat service were to go out, you have to fix it because it negatively impacts the lives of your tenants. Noise is no different.
So, should you kick in the door of the offending tenant’s apartment like a cop during a drug raid?
No, of course not.
There are precautions you can take and a process to follow when addressing a noisy tenant. For more information on what you can and can’t do when addressing a noise complaint, consult a real estate law firm like Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C.
Why Should You Care?
Why do you need to take noise complaints seriously?
Because noise is covered under a tenant’s rights in the New York Warranty of Habitability.
What does this mean for you?
All tenants have a right to certain services and amenities under New York law. If they are denied these rights, they can take legal action against you. That’s why all noise complaints must be treated as valid and investigated thoroughly, no matter how annoying and frequent they may be.
Include a Noise Provision in the Lease
Something that will make your life infinitely easier when that inevitable noise complaint call comes through is to address the subject of noise in your leasing agreement.
If you spell out precisely what is expected of a tenant in terms of noise levels, then they have no defense when called out on a violation. This is a common-sense lease item that will save you a future headache. Have rules in place regarding parties, music volume, TV volume, pet volume, and anything else that might come through as a complaint.
Once they’ve signed the lease, the tenant is bound by your rules and must comply when confronted.
You can’t always take the side of an accuser in these situations. Fairness dictates that you have to hear both sides of a story. Speak with the tenant who the complaint has been lobbied against and find out what happened from their perspective.
If you walk into the building and the floor is shaking from loud music, obviously the complaint is valid. But some require a more thorough investigation. If you discover that the complaint is valid, warn your tenant in writing that this is a violation of their leasing agreement. There’s no need to move to Defcon One for a first offense, but let them know that such behavior won’t be tolerated.
Some people never learn, and sometimes you have to go the legal route. If a tenant continues to violate the noise clause of your leasing agreement, then they are in breach of said agreement and eviction actions can be taken.
First, you must serve the tenant with a notice to cure. This document states in writing that the tenant has violated their lease and they have 10 days to correct the issue. This is usually enough to get someone to turn the music down. But if they don’t listen within those 10 days, you can terminate their lease and issue a notice of termination, giving them 30 days to vacate. If they do not leave in that time, you can proceed with eviction and have them forcibly removed.
Eviction is a drastic step for noise complaints, but it can be the answer to a repeated disturbance. To make sure you’re following the process correctly, always consult with a real estate attorney.
Addressing noise complaints in a timely manner will help you to keep the peace in your properties and maintain the Warranty of Habitability.