If a tenant falls in the woods but a landlord didn’t hear it… does it still make the neighbor’s complaints legitimate?
Okay, so that’s a little bit of a stretch but we have to admit that dealing with tenant noise complaints is a very difficult situation.
That’s why we asked Don Krupens of Lawvex to share his insights on this matter.
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Eric Worral: 00:05 Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of RentPrep for landlords. This is episode number 237 and today’s topic comes from one of our newsletter subscribers. So Rena, who’s been subscribed to newsletter for a while, replied to one of our newsletters that go out every week on Tuesdays at 11:00 AM, eastern standard time and she said, please discuss tenant disturbances after quiet hours and what can be done about them. So I thought this was a great topic. So what we did is we got a old friend of the podcast, Don Krupens of Lawvex, he’s an attorney out in for our landlords and small business owners in California. So he’s going to be a tuning in later, uh, with some of his insights on this. And as an aside, if you’re not subscribed to the newsletter already, you can go to rent-prep and in the header you’ll see a section called resources. Uh, you can subscribe there and we kind of recap what’s going on in the news in the last week, our latest blog post, podcast, facebook group posts, facebook lives. Anybody that we’re kind of connecting you with, uh, any kind of resources we can share with you, it’s just a weekly newsletter, not a lot of selling on there, just trying to give you good content and keep you informed. So without further do, let’s roll some of that intro music and get into this week’s episode.
Music: 01:12 1,2,3,4 ya ya ya…. Welcome to the RentPrep for landlords podcast. And now your host, Steve White and Eric Worral.
Eric Worral: 01:23 Well, I am sorry to inform you, but it is just me Eric Worral this week. Hopefully Steve will be on this podcast soon, but I am joined by Don Krupens. As I mentioned earlier, he’s an attorney who helps out landlords and small business owners in California through his law firm Lawvex, lawvex.com And he was nice enough to give us an audio file and kind of asked them this question I got from Reno about tenant disturbances and how to handle them. So he’s got a lot of tips that we’re going to share with us and we’ll kind of break them down and take a look at them and, uh, give our to sense on this as well. So without further do, why not we, uh, send it over to Don.
Don Krupens: 02:02 Hey guys, to deal with tenant disturbances after hours. Here are eight things that I suggest each situation will be unique and one or more of these may be applicable. The first thing that I always recommend to landlords and property managers is learn the law. Understand what a state and local laws may be applicable to a noise ordinances, uh, as well as the concept of nuisance, which is generally where tenant noise disturbances arise.
Eric Worral: 02:31 So just to back down up on this, uh, here in our area, our office is located in West Seneca New York. The quiet hours in west Seneca are 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM, but about 15 minutes away in downtown Buffalo, New York. The quiet hours are 12:00 AM to 7:00 AM. So you can see just an hour difference in quiet hours even though we’re only about 10, 15 minutes away. So just go into Google type your town and just type quiet hours. You should be able to find some official website that can explain what the quiet hours are in your area, and they get pretty specific to, at least in the examples that I’ve been reading. So check those out if you’re interested.
Don Krupens: 03:08 The second thing I’d recommend is have a process for handling complaints and adhere to it. Um, I know that text has become a common mechanism by which tenants communicate with landlords. It’s also the medium most commonly abused by tenants and is one that’s often used when tenants are in the midst of frustration. I recommend having a process that requires a written statement from the tenant, um, possibly taken during business hours, and that helps eliminate some of the, kind of, the acute frustration that goes along with noise disturbances, particularly those that occur after hours.
Eric Worral: 03:46 Not a whole lot to add to this one because I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times on this podcast, the abcde of property management. Always be consistent. Document everything. So make sure you’re documenting that noise complaint, if you deal with it directly with a tenant, who is the person who’s causing this issue, make sure you get it in writing, explain what the issue was, have them sign it, that they understand what the quiet hours are and that that is a city ordinance and, uh, something that they are breaking the law if they are not abiding by that. So let’s send it right back to don.
Don Krupens: 04:20 The third thing that’s really important is having appropriate lease provisions in place. Um, as many of you know, whether written lease or not, there is the concept of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, which basically says that a tenant agrees to just by being a tenant to not disturb the peace and enjoyment of others. And in California in particular, and I suppose that most jurisdictions are the same, A tentant’s failure to adhere to that quiet enjoyment principle that is as they are affecting the enjoyment of other tenants is grounds for eviction. And while that can be inexpensive remedy, it’s certainly something that’s available to landlords. Uh, the other thing too that some landlords don’t understand is that you as a landlord may be liable for the acts of others. Well, that’s generally in the law, not a common principle. Um, but if you fail to take action or you participate in creating a disturbance, you could be liable under a theory of negligence for disrupting the enjoyment of the other tenants. Again, uh, it’s a possibility and something that you should be aware of.
Eric Worral: 05:35 This is an interesting point that Don brings up. I think it’s worth mentioning because you want to consider it’s not just your tenants, so maybe you own a duplex or an apartment building. Sometimes it’s the neighbors next door and their tenants. So they have their own right for quiet enjoyment, right? So thinking about that, knowing that you already are aware of the issue, you might get dragged into something and because you were aware and you didn’t act and you are essentially playing a role in violating the rights of your tenants, neighbors. So consider that when you’re thinking about how to deal with a problem or maybe you’re kind of dragging your feet dealing with a problem, I think about the rights that your neighbors have as well. So, uh, in this next section we’re gonna be talking about animals and a let’s kick it back to don and get his perspective on that.
Don Krupens: 06:23 Just like tenants have. Pets can also create disturbances. Um, certainly, uh, there are markets in which being agreeable to pets, helps ensure that, uh, that the unit or units remained fully occupied or is fully occupied as possible. But in markets where not requiring pets, I’d rather not allowing pets is necessary. Um, I would consider that because pets often become the basis for a kind of disturbances related to noise in particular.
Eric Worral: 07:00 I’m going to take this one back again to the laws here in West Seneca because they do spell it out really specifically. So again, you can google this and figure it out what the rules are in your area. But for domestic animals, the howling, barking, whining, squawking annoying or other sound of domestic animal which occurs continuously or intermittently or so frequently, so as to create a noise disturbance. So for the purposes of this subsection, continuous shall be a period of 10 minutes and intermittent shall be a period of 30 minutes. So they really spell it out exactly what a noise disturbance in a prohibited act is. So that’s underneath the prohibited acts of West Seneca section J. So, uh, you know, it’s nice because it makes it very clear. So if you have a tenant that’s dealing with a noisy, uh, pet, there may be very specific rules and regulations for what is considered a noise disturbance.
Don Krupens: 07:57 The other thing too, and this may not be available for many landlords, is considered the construction techniques that you’re using. Um, it could be in a remodel or even a new construction, uh, in multiple stories situations. I recommend screwing down the floorboards instead of nailing them. If a units are going to share a common wall, it’s possible to either use a, uh, a wider wall, a diameter, or you could increase the amount of insulation that’s available. Again, just trying to make it a from a construction standpoint more comfortable for everybody.
Eric Worral: 08:33 I liked this one because I’m actually going to be dealing with this situation myself come at the summer of 2019 as I have some tenants moving out and I need to do some upgrades in the kitchen area and I know it’s gonna be loud for the tenants upstairs. Luckily there upstairs and not downstairs. Um, but when I’m planning on doing is taking some time off so I’ve got some paid time off that I’ll have accrued at that point and trying to work around the tenant schedule that way. Maybe that doesn’t work for you. Um, but just I’m going to be as open and just trying to communicate as clearly as possible with the tenants upstairs. They don’t want to be making a lot of noise and try to deal with it and work with them as best as I can. Sometimes it’s hard to do. Uh, but I think communication is really key in a situation where you’re going to be a making repairs or upgrading one of the units and really creating a lot of noise, as Don was mentioning just a minute ago.
Don Krupens: 09:24 The other thing too that’s possible is to mediate disagreements between tenants., it’s a terribly uncomfortable situation to be in for landlords or property managers, but sometimes there’s misperceptions about what actually the grievances. So, uh, you know, some landlords would be willing to stick their necks out and discuss issues amongst tenants who are having a problem. Again, that will depend on the tenants, your comfort level as, as the landlord or the property manager, um, and what the particular issue is. And then, you know, certainly the last recourse that’s available is to involve law enforcement. Again, this should be done with caution. You don’t want to be perceived as a landlord that, that always has the cops there. Uh, it, just creates a different culture, uh, in, in the, um, environment. Uh, however it may be necessary. And if you suspect that eviction is going to be necessary because a tenant continually breaches the covenant of quiet enjoyment, law enforcement, evolvement and associated police reports, uh, can assist in preparing the evidence that might be necessary for that.
Eric Worral: 10:38 I think don brings up some great points here. Uh, you don’t want to get a trigger happy on the 911 call. Well, I hope you’re not calling 911 for this type of situation. Please don’t do that. But if you’re calling the local police and you have this type of situation, uh, you know, do, you don’t want to get too trigger happy with it because like you said, you’re just going to be that big brother pain in the butt landlord who maybe could have handled the situation just by talking with your tenants. But at the same time, if you think this is a tenant that you may have to evict, it may help you to have these things documented by your local police so that it’s not just a, he said, she said, situation. Even if you have them sign a piece of paper, you know, a, at the end of the day, what about that next violation? Are they going to sign the next one too, or are they going to admit to this in court, are they going to fight that. I mean, how is the judge going to perceive this? Uh, if you do have documentation through the police officer, that may be helpful, but that should probably only be used in extreme situations to make sure that we’re not taking advantage of our police force. So, uh, just send it back to Don and he’s wrapping it up here and I’ll have a few more thoughts right after that.
Don Krupens: 11:47 The reality is that landlords are going to have to deal with noise disturbances between tenants sometimes it’s frivolous, sometimes it’s legitimate, but recognize that you have a duty to work through these issues, um, either yourself or by involving others who can assist.
Eric Worral: 12:04 Well, that wraps up this episode. I want to thank Don Krupens from Lawvex for his insights on how to handle tenant disturbances. I think he answered just about every question that you might have on this. So again, make sure you’re researching your local laws and if you do, find yourself in California and you’re looking for an attorney who can help you out as a landlord or small business owner. Don is a great resource at lawvex.com. Again, thank you to him for his insights and hopefully you learn something. I know I did here. And uh, it’s always interesting to, uh, really dive deep into some of the subject matter and realize all the different nuances and different situations that you deal with. Being a landlord who is managing people at the end of the day. So until next week, have a great week and we will be in touch soon. Take care.