How should property managers respond to resident noise complaints?
Complaints of noise in the community may be the most common complaint received by onsite management teams. Typically, these complaints involve noise or disturbances made by other residents or guests in or around their dwelling or common areas – but they can also involve environmental issues, such as traffic or nearby construction noise. It is important to remember that noise issues may impact the quiet enjoyment rights of existing residents and may violate the terms of the lease agreement; noise issues may even rise to the level of a nuisance or violate other applicable laws. Accordingly, management has an affirmative duty to respond to reported complaints of noise in a reasonably diligent manner and take action to rectify the issue and/or enforce the terms of the lease where necessary. Failing to respond to noise and other similar complaints may give rise to liability.
Determine whether the noise violates the law or lease agreement
Most lease agreements prohibit residents from creating noise that interferes with the quiet enjoyment rights of others. This language and any specific restrictions will vary from lease to lease (i.e., quiet hours, quiet locations, permissible noises vs. impermissible, etc.). Residents are required to abide by the lease and its prohibitions. If they are not in compliance with noise prohibitions, then violation enforcement efforts may be necessary. You should be familiar with the specific language of your lease so that you can determine – before initiating violation enforcement – whether any verified report of noise is in fact prohibited by the lease.
Local ordinances and applicable state law statutes prohibit noise, disturbances, and nuisance conduct. For example, NRS 118A.310(g) expressly prohibits residents from disrupting other neighbors’ quiet enjoyment of the property. You should be familiar with any applicable ordinances or laws so that you can determine – before initiating violation enforcement – whether any verified report of noise is in fact prohibited.
Investigate resident noise complaints to verify the issue
Investigation of noise complaints is the first step in the enforcement process. When you are investigating, you are verifying that the complaint of noise is valid (i.e., noise exists), and that the noise rises to the level that is prohibited by either the lease or applicable law. You should not take action without performing some form of investigation. Relying solely on the complaints submitted by residents without verification may open you up to certain liabilities.
When investigating and attempting to verify noise complaints, in person verification is preferred. Utilizing a staff member or courtesy patrol/security officer to visit the location and verify noise would be ideal. Again, simply relying on the complaints submitted by residents is not recommended. If you utilize a live person for verification, you now have a witness that can testify to their observations in a court proceeding; if that witness memorializes their observations in an incident report or other writing, you now have additional documentary evidence of what has transpired.
Enforce compliance through violation letters, cease-and-desist letters, or eviction
If you have verified that the noise issue rises to that of a lease violation or violation of applicable law, violation enforcement will likely be necessary. Violation enforcement can include many actions depending upon the seriousness of the violations and their frequency. Sending written courtesy notices of violation and requesting the resident to cure is typically the initial action taken for minor violations; it may be the only action needed for a majority of reported noise issues. If compliance is not obtained, it may be necessary to serve more formal cease-and-desist type correspondences and engage your legal counsel to assist. To the extent all efforts to obtain compliance are unsuccessful, it may be necessary to initiate eviction proceedings for nuisance or Breach of the Lease Agreement.
If you elect to utilize eviction, please remember that you will need to prove your case with sufficient evidence. Written complaints from residents (or at the very least memorialized in writing when received), in-person verifications of complaints, and use of informal courtesy and other violation notices will provide you with good evidence. If you are unsure as to what may be needed or what actions to be taken, please reach out to your legal counsel for proper advisement before proceeding.