What can be done about renters that make too much noise?
Landlords have three concerns when it comes to noisy renters. First, there is likely a legal obligation to provide a quiet living environment for other tenants or neighbors. Second, there may be a law or ordinance imposed by the local government. Finally, excessive noise or disruption in common areas can cause good tenants to complain or leave.
If you get valid noise complaints about a tenant or have heard the noise yourself, the first step is to talk to the noisy renter(s). They may not realize how much noise they make, what the neighbors can hear, or be under the impression that the neighbors do not mind the noise. If the problem is indeed severe and continues even after speaking with the tenant, some landlords may be able to contact local law enforcement or they may advise neighbors to contact the non-emergency police line to enforce local noise ordinances. Landlords may want to be mindful and ask a lawyer before going this route, as an HOA or the local government may fine the landlord for a renter's noise violations. In those instances, it is good practice to include a lease provision that holds tenants responsible for fines due to their actions. You may also want to list quiet hours or other noise rules in your lease.
Finally, if a tenant is creating a nuisance to others or repeatedly violating the lease rules, you may have to issue an Eviction Notice. There may need to be a documented pattern of noise complaints or other violations as well as attempts to resolve the issue before seeking eviction. To help evaluate whether this is the right course of action, you can use an Eviction Process Worksheet.
When other tenants complain about noise that really is not bad, or outside the listed quiet hours, you may need to get creative to solve the problem. Mediating conflicts between tenants can be tricky, but can also be worthwhile. If one tenant plays the drums, while another has an infant that needs to nap, simply exchanging schedules and being courteous could solve the problem. Other creative solutions to this sort of problem could involve installing more effective noise insulation or providing a drumming practice space further away.
What if college students have too many friends in their unit?
Too many friends coming over can actually be a problem. First off, when there are many people coming and going, it may be a sign that more people are living in the unit than listed on the lease. It could also be a sign that your renters are listing a room or their unit on a short-term rental platform. Next, those friends may create problems for other tenants, or pose security risks. The most common related issue for many urban settings involves security doors to common areas being left unlocked, or ajar, for the constant stream of guests, which can allow trespassers access to a building's common areas.
Further, more people usually means more noise and more potential for injuries or damage. While uncommon, balconies can and do collapse, people fall off and through roofs, and other features or amenities, like elevators, may have occupancy limits. If these are potential issues for the unit or building, creating signs to display occupancy or weight limits, or to restrict roof access to maintenance personnel only, can help mitigate disasters and liability, as can regular inspections of those features. Depending on state and local law, landlords may add rules to their Lease Agreements that limit the number of guests at parties, and may limit or prohibit parties entirely without prior approval.
How to deal with college students that party too often?
In most cases, landlords and neighbors will tolerate an occasional party, especially if it is on the weekend, ends at a reasonable time, and does not result in property damage, fights, police being called, or injuries. If your renters are partying almost every night, however, the most tolerant neighbors can reach a breaking point, even when it is just noise problems.
You may be able to resolve the situation by speaking with the tenant about partying in moderation, keeping noise down after a certain time, and giving their neighbors a courtesy notice. If this does not work, you can enforce your noise rules and any other lease rules the tenants violate by sending a warning letter demanding the problems stop.
If talking or sending a warning letter does not get the job done and you require your college student tenants to get co-signers for their Lease Agreements, you can notify their co-signer of the lease violations. Yes, in all likelihood this means a landlord is telling on their tenant to the tenant's parents, but that parent co-signer was likely one of the main reasons a landlord would agree to rent to a young adult with no credit or rental history in the first place. Parents can be very effective at getting their young adult children to behave. If there are fines or penalties listed in the lease, you can assess those against the co-signer. Landlords that rent to college students will often require co-signers both for the financial liability protection as well as to help make sure someone can be held accountable for rule violations.
If the above fails, you may need to call law enforcement, or evict, if the problems persist and violate local or state laws. Recurring issues that do not violate the law, but do violate the lease, may be grounds for evicting the tenants causing the problems.
How can landlords protect against liability?
It is not always the safest environment when young people gather in large groups, especially when alcohol is involved. Still, a landlord may only be liable for injuries to renters or guests when there is a failure to perform maintenance, provide safety features, or address known safety issues. For example, there may be liability if a broken step remains in disrepair or a fence around the pool is not installed despite local law. The most important action to avoid liability for injuries is to keep the property in good repair and up to code, and to promptly address Tenant Repair Requests and safety complaints. To stay ahead of any repairs or complaints, landlords can provide a Landlord's Notice to Enter and perform periodic maintenance inspections.
The landlord typically is not responsible for injuries such as a slip and fall in a tenant's unit. Still, some landlords may require in the Lease Agreement that a tenant get liability coverage with a renters insurance policy to cover such injuries to their guests.
How can landlords keep other tenants happy when one unit causes problems?
Keep other tenants happy by enforcing the terms of your lease, providing accessible channels for communication and complaints, and showing them you are taking action to stop disturbances. If you are working on correcting the problem, your other tenants are likely to be more understanding, and may even help by sending text message reports of lease violations, sometimes with photos or videos.
Depending on the situation, you may want to offer the problem tenant a chance to break the lease without penalty or even offer an incentive to move out quickly, such as a cash-for-keys deal. If there is a cosigner, get them involved and make them aware of their potential liability. If those options are rejected, you may need to send an Eviction Notice and pursue an eviction if the issues outlined in the notice are not fixed or fixable.
If the lease still has a month or two left, landlords may also consider sending the problem tenant a Notice of Non-Renewal to advise them that their lease will not be renewed, and they are expected to vacate the property on the last day. Landlords should review their Lease Agreements, and local law, to ensure that they provide this type of notice within the time called for by the lease or law, usually 30 or 60 days. Offering to return the full security deposit immediately after a successful Move Out Inspection and the return of the keys may provide a strong incentive for bad tenants to leave on time.
If you are worried about problematic tenants forcing long-term, responsible tenants to move out, you may want to offer a rent credit or some kind of unit upgrade to those good tenants until the problem tenants vacate. You can record this in a Lease Amendment and use RocketSign to conveniently collect electronic signatures to quickly give those tenants some peace of mind and show them you care.
To learn more about how to deal with problem tenants or possible liability, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney or download the Rocket Lawyer Mobile App.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.