As a renter, you’re entitled to peace and quiet in your unit. That said, every renter is different, so what you may consider “quiet’ is not what another occupant may interpret as “quiet”. This can lead to uncomfortable situations for landlords especially if they have to deal with noise complaints. One way that this issue can be addressed is to have quiet times in apartments – but what exactly are they, and how do they work.
What are quiet times in apartments? Quiet times are set hours, typically during the night and morning, when tenants are required to be respectful. Quiet times prohibit excessive or unnecessary noise. The quiet hours’ policy applies to all occupants of the property, as well as to any guests that tenants may have.
Many leases contain a quiet enjoyment clause, which can be customized to specifically include specific hours during which tenants may not disturb the quiet enjoyment of other tenants. Quiet hours exist to allow each tenant in the building to enjoy peace and quiet in their unit without having to worry about noise from other units. A landlord is expected to enact a quiet hours policy to keep building occupants comfortable.
Noise complaints are one of the biggest issues for both landlords and their tenants. All occupants in an apartment building have the right to “quiet enjoyment” of their unit, but what that means can vary. Read on to find out more.
What are quiet hours?
Quiet hours are set times in an apartment building, usually during the night and morning, when tenants are expected to be particularly mindful of the sound coming from their units. The quiet hours policy forbids unnecessary or excessive noise. The provision for quiet enjoyment in a lease typically doesn’t specify a noise, although it’s safe to assume it prohibits common sources of noise complaints such as:
- Continuous yelling
- Loud music or television
- Noise from pets (barking dogs, for example)
- Noise from parties
- Heavy walking, stomping or running
- Children crying, playing, or yelling
In addition to all the complex rules you are required to follow when you live in an apartment building, you may also be presented with the quiet house rule at the time you sign your lease. Your landlord/property manager will require you to initial or sign the document as proof that you understand the rules and agree to follow them.
Though rules on quiet hours will generally vary, you will likely come across a rule stating, for example, “Quiet hours run from 10 pm to 8 am daily.” Timeframes will vary depending on where you live, so make sure to check with your landlord in case you have any inquiries about when quiet hours start and end.
You may also come across a general rule that prohibits disturbing your neighbor with excessive noise in your apartment. If you can hear any noise (be it TV, stereo, or instrument) from outside your unit, it may be considered too loud. On top of that, many apartment buildings will ask occupants and their guests to refrain from gathering in common areas (hallways, corridors, lobbies, stairways, clubhouses, parking lots, etc.) during the allotted quiet hours so other building occupants are not otherwise disturbed.
Different cities and towns implement noise ordinances within the community that all residents are required to follow. In some cities, for example, you may find that a noise curfew starts at 10 pm and ends at 7 am on weekdays, but on weekends, they could be from 10 pm to 9 am.
In addition to the general curfews, some noise ordinances may also attempt to regulate noise based on volume. Some communities may go as far as setting rules based on decibel levels so that excessive noise will fall under the ordinance.
Should you be quiet only during the quiet hours?
Tenants do not have to maintain peace and quiet only during the quiet hours. Remember, all residents have an equal right to quiet enjoyment, so you should be respectful of your neighbors. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to enjoy your own space – as long as it doesn’t disturb the quiet enjoyment of others, it should be fine. Excessive noise regardless of the time of day, especially if it’s prolonged, is prohibited.
Who is required to follow the quiet hours policy?
The quiet hours policy must be followed by all tenants of the property, as well as any guests that they may have over. You will typically find the specifics of this requirement in the lease clause.
What is a justifiable noise complaint?
Everyday activities such as talking, walking, or doors opening and closing can be considered to be normal noise. Excessive noise is anything that is out of the ordinary, such as noise from parties or constant loud music. While there are no clear-cut rules, complaints about what is considered to be normal noise – like shuffling feet from an upstairs neighbor – are going to be more difficult for a landlord/property manager to address and put a stop to.
What can a tenant do?
As a tenant, if you feel that your right to quiet enjoyment is being compromised due to a noise issue, you may take the first steps in addressing the problem.
1. Keep track of the noise
Make a point of noting down when the noise is happening, what it sounds like, and how often it occurs. You want to provide as much detail as possible so that you have a credible case to present to your landlord.
2. Approach your neighbor
Your landlord might suggest that you talk to your noisy neighbor to try and resolve the issue before any action is taken. You may choose to have a face-to-face conversation or write a succinct note to make your neighbor aware of your concerns. The best-case scenario is that the neighbor is receptive to your complaints and is willing to minimize or eliminate the noise – they might not even be aware that they’re creating a disturbance.
That said, if you’re not comfortable approaching your neighbor about a noise issue (or you’ve tried approaching them and they’re uncooperative or hostile), then you can request your landlord/property manager to be the one to tackle the issue.
3. Ask for help
If you’ve repeatedly approached a neighbor and the noise is still a concern, then you can have your landlord address the issue in writing and refer to your lease agreement for specific noise clauses like quiet hours or guest policies.
If the noise coming from your neighbor can be classified as excessive and your landlord is hesitant to address the issue, you can escalate it by getting your local council involved. It’s best to call the local council officials when the noise is happening so you can effectively demonstrate why you think your neighbor is violating a noise ordinance.
4. Move out
If you find that you’re constantly dealing with excessive noise and your landlord isn’t doing anything to resolve the issue, you’ll probably be able to break your lease, especially if you have evidence of your efforts to resolve the issue.
What can a landlord do?
As a landlord, you are responsible for addressing noise complaints on your property and taking action if necessary.
1. Identify the source of noise and inform the culprit
The first step is to speak to the tenant that has made the complaint. You need to get details such as the time the noise occurs, how long it lasts, and whether or not the complainant confronted the noisemaker.
The next step is to then inform the supposed noisemaker of the complaint that has been brought against them. You might also want to consider speaking to other tenants on the property and inquire if they have heard loud or excessive noises on the property.
2. Include a clause in the lease agreement
The best way for you to enforce noise regulations and quiet hours in your property is by having them clearly stated in the lease. Make sure you outline specific quiet hours as well as limit the number of overnight guests allowed in an apartment so that you have something to refer to in the event of a noise issue.
3. Taking action
As a landlord, you should address any tenant’s noise concerns, even if you don’t think that the noise is necessarily excessive or in violation of a lease. For repeated offenses, you can provide the noisemaker with a cure or quit notice, which requires them to stop the behavior that is breaching the conditions of the lease by a certain date or be subject to eviction. If the noisy tenant is interfering with the right to quiet enjoyment of other tenants, you are better off getting rid of the issue rather than lose other valuable tenants.
It’s not uncommon for landlords or property managers to implement designated quiet hours within the complex. The timeframe during which quiet hours are implemented tends to vary from building to building, so make sure to check with your landlord if you have some concerns about when quiet hours start and end. It’s also worth mentioning different cities and towns have noise ordinances within the community that all residents are required to follow, not just your apartment building.