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How to Handle Noise Complaints as a Landlord

Struggling with noisy tenants? Here's what to do.

Wherever you are on the spectrum of landlords – from the rule-oriented authoritarians to the compassionate bleeding hearts – few actually take pleasure in navigating the tensions that arise from living in a shared home. Noise complaints are a universal shared experience. The landlord is the first line of defence in keeping the peace and ensuring that tenants have some… well… “peace”.

What the lawbook says.

As with most residential tenancy regulations, laws vary from place to place. That said, the provision you’re searching for is usually termed “quiet enjoyment”, and yes, generally everyone is entitled to it. Here in Toronto, the rules say occupants have the right to “be free from unreasonable disturbances”.

Further, landlords “have a positive obligation to provide quiet enjoyment and take reasonable action to address another tenant’s conduct that disturbs the complaining tenant”. That’s right. You’re obligated to intervene in such instances, and you will need to do so delicately.

That begs the question “what is an unreasonable disturbance?“. Well, we’d love to tell you, but it’s intentionally ambiguous. If you were studying for law school, then you would probably benefit from reading each of these law cases referenced by the LTB (Landlord Tenancy Board).

But who the heck has time for that? Let’s get down to brass tacks and figure out how to handle the situation properly!

Bear in mind, this little section used information from Toronto. If you’re outside of that bubble, your laws might look a little different... probably not too much though.

Doing your due diligence.

Now, doing your due diligence means applying an appropriate amount of pressure – let's not turn a noise complaint into an abuse case. It’s your duty as a landlord to address the claim. That does not mean knocking on doors and making demands. Show your tenants respect and they will reciprocate (hopefully).

Here’s how to handle the situation with a bit of tact.

Here are the steps.

First, attempt to assess whether the noise complaint can be substantiated.

  • Does the complainant have evidence of the disturbance?

  • Is there a time of day this is regularly occurring? If so, are you able to observe it yourself?

The reason you should substantiate the claim is to avoid making unfair accusations, possibly landing yourself in hot water. Noise is subjective – some tenants will be more easily bothered than others. The claim must be objectively unreasonable to be substantial.

Let’s assume you find the noise complaint to be substantial. Start by requesting that the offending tenant cease making the noise (usually through a cease and desist letter).

If the noise complaints continue, you may need to consider mediation to resolve the situation. That can be a bit of an ordeal, but a neutral third party may be necessary to handle the issue without resorting to eviction.

But if the offending tenant seems to be uncaring and unsympathetic, a mediator will probably get nowhere fast. Eviction can land you in court and possibly paying out of pocket. You need to be certain that the issue is objectively problematic if you move to evict.

Read our blog on how to evict a tenant in Toronto.

There are other options open to you before evicting a tenant:

  • Consider offering to move the tenant to a different, vacant rental property.

  • It may be possible to resolve the noise issue through soundproofing.

  • The offending tenant may be open to changing their habit bothering the complainant, such as playing guitar in the mornings instead of evenings.

Noisy tenant

Evicting a tenant… what could go wrong?

It might seem like an easy solution. The tenant is being a nuisance, so you evict them and get the added bonus of choosing a new price for rent! Hold on a second though.

Let’s say that the tenant you evict is less than happy with your decision and decides to take their case to the tenancy authority. Well, now the onus is on you to prove that the noise was substantial. Failing that, you’re going to be paying their living expenses for the next little bit, and the costs incurred from the eviction.

Worse yet, court cases are never fast. So you’ll be paying with your time to top it all off.

An easy fix is to drop a few bucks each month on NaborlyShield and forget about the hassle of evictions. That’s right, we’ll do it for you!

“I’m the landlord and my downstairs tenant is noisy.”

While it’s all well and good to be the judge and arbiter in these situations, the debate gets a bit spicier when the landlord is actually the one complaining.

It should be handled in the same way as if a tenant complained about another tenant. The big difference is that you can go the extra mile to make it a nonissue.

It’s your property, so consider putting a few bucks into soundproofing it. It will increase your resale value and you can forget about the fact that someone is dwelling underneath your feet. Sounds pretty good, right?

Noise complaints go both ways.

If you find your tenant’s late-night Netflix binging obnoxious, odds are they dislike your 6 am alarm waking them up every day. Do either of these constitute a noise violation? No, and that’s why mediation can be a great solution.

Part of being a landlord means planning meticulously. So if you’re planning on having contractors out to fix the pipes in your building, you’ll need to give your tenant plenty of notice. Plenty meaning months if possible – emergency maintenance is a bit more excusable.

Can’t we all just get along?

Everyone is different. That’s why it really pays off to screen your tenant in full. Take the time to get to know them a little before offering them a place to live. Otherwise, you could be on the hook for their mischievous habits.

Next time you’re looking for a tenant, stick to Naborly. We’ll do a good chunk of the investigative work to find you someone that fits right in.

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