Tenant complaints: How to handle noisy neighbors

Jim Gallant
Jim Gallant | 5 min. read

Published on January 6, 2015

Noisy tenants and the people they annoy: Every property manager has to deal with them. But what do you do when the alleged noise-maker claims another resident’s angry response is over-the-top?

I proposed the following scenario to five property management professionals and asked them how they would handle the following scenario:

Marilyn and Randy are both great tenants who keep clean homes, pay their rent on time, and usually obey the apartment rules. Marilyn lives in the unit below Randy. Marilyn complains that Randy “always” plays his TV and stereo too loudly. On top of that, the lack of carpeting in Randy’s unit makes every step he takes sound like a “sledgehammer.” Randy doesn’t think he’s noisy and refuses to put down carpets because of his dust allergy. He believes that Marilyn’s frequent, angry communications and banging on the ceiling with a broom are harassment. How would you handle the situation?

Property Manager 1’s Take:

“First, I would try to relocate one of the tenants to another unit in the building and perhaps kick in a few hundred dollars off the moving tenant’s first month’s rent in the new apartment. This would keep both tenants but also separate them. A second choice is having the two tenants swap apartments and put down carpeting in the upstairs apartment to better insulate it from noise. Extra-thick padding would help and is often preservable even if a tenant ruins the carpet itself. If all else fails, another tack is to set fixed ‘quiet hours’ for the whole community, during which televisions and stereos must be played quietly. I would leave this as a last resort, however, as paternalistic policies like these tend to alienate tenants, and encourages them to come to you with problems rather than resolving the matter between themselves by calling police non-emergency lines and reporting complaints.”

Property Manager 2’s Take:

“I would suggest a meeting in my office with all parties involved to discuss the options available and work towards an amicable resolution. Usually, a group meeting diffuses the situation by having all involved present for an open discussion to talk about how the situation can be resolved. Often, things will come to light which may have otherwise been overlooked—and this also reduces issues with getting incorrect information.”

Property Manager 3’s Take:

“In this situation, I would personally visit each tenant, hear them out, and agree with them. (While not implicitly stating that either party is correct—the first rule of selling is, ‘Always Agree!’) I’ve found that oftentimes, tenants just want somebody to vent to. I would then ask that each party bring their complaints to me instead of each other, and make a log of dates and times that they felt the other party infringed on their quiet enjoyment of their apartment. If common ground cannot be reached, and it seems that they could not co-exist as neighbors, I would offer to move one of them to a different apartment.”

Property Manager 4’s Take:

“Having hard floors in a multi-level property is problematic. The issue here sounds like a management or ownership problem, but I have questions. How loud is the sound with respect to the music and television? What time of day is this loud sound disturbing the neighbor? Do other neighbors hear it? Without knowing all of those issues, my solution would be to relocate the upper-level resident, then soundproof or improve the floor with carpet or other materials and rent the unit to a new resident. My solution would be to save the valuable residents and relocate the upper-floor customer with the hope there is a lower-floor, hard-surface unit available, and soundproof and/or carpet the upper unit. Valuable residents are vital to the success of a property, and if the building itself is not equipped to withstand reasonable sound and use of the space, it is a management and ownership problem.”

Property Manager 5’s Take:

“It’s never easy handling conflicts between tenants in different units. But, if you have an effective dispute resolution policy in place, you can respond consistently and proactively to this situation if it arises. Your dispute resolution policy should go as follows: First, contact the tenant in dispute by phone and advise that a complaint has been received, and detail the complaint. Advise them that the other building occupants, or indeed neighboring properties, are also entitled to quiet enjoyment of their property. Never identify the person who has lodged the complaint. I also recommend that you advise the owner that a complaint has been lodged, along with the action you have taken. Immediately following your phone call to the tenant in dispute, forward a letter or email to them confirming the conversation and their responsibilities. If the dispute continues to escalate, advise the complainant to lodge a complaint with the police so there is a police record and incident report number. After receiving the incident report, issue a formal breach notice to the tenant in dispute advising them to cease and desist the behavior in question. Should the tenant fail to comply, issue a formal eviction notice. And remember, always keep the property owner informed throughout this process.”

How do you handle—or prevent—conflicts between warring tenants? Leave a comment below, and let us know!

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Jim Gallant

Jim Galant is a freelance writer from Boston, MA.

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