Choosing to rent rather than buy your home doesn’t mean you have to put up with difficult neighbors who interfere with your peace and quiet or other use of your home. In fact, a tenant has the same rights as a homeowner under local laws that regulate activities that could disturb neighbors, such as excessive noise. And you don’t necessarily need to solve the problem yourself: Your landlord may be required to help.
Your Lease May Entitle You to “Quiet Enjoyment”
In most cases your lease will include a clause that entitles you to quiet enjoyment of your rental property. When a neighboring tenant causes problems, such as parking in your assigned spot, blocking the entrance to your apartment, holding late night parties, or allowing a dog to bark incessantly or run around without a leash, you’re not able to quietly enjoy your rented home. Enlist your landlord’s help in resolving the situation (especially if you’re concerned about approaching the offending neighbor on your own). If an oral request doesn’t work, put send your landlord a letter setting forth the problem and your legal rights to quiet enjoyment. If your landlord refuses to help (for example, by evicting the tenant who’s unreasonably disturbing you and/or other tenants), you may be able to legally break your lease without further liability for rent.
Contact Your Neighbor’s Landlord for Help
If your troublesome neighbor rents from a different landlord, consider contacting that landlord as well. Depending on where you live, your neighbor’s landlord may have a legal responsibility to take action, especially in serious situations, such as drug dealing on rental property. But if your problems fall on deaf ears, it may be time to take matters into your own hands and file a lawsuit against your neighbor, your neighbor’s landlord, or both.
Call the Police When Neighbors Are Noisy
Renters who live in condominium and apartment complexes share common walls. Often, they complain of noise problems with neighbors. Regardless of the thickness of the walls, you don’t have to put up with loud music or frequent parties, especially late at night or early in the morning, whether it’s from someone in the building or next door. Local ordinances in most communities prohibit excessive, unnecessary, and unreasonable noise; these often designate certain “quiet hours” as well as prohibit sustained noise that exceeds a certain decibel level. Call the local police with your noise complaint and ask them to pay your neighbor a visit. To find your municipality's noise rules, look up the local ordinances. Two useful resources are State and Local Government on the Net and Municode.
You may be most successful if you work with other tenants and neighbors who are disturbed by the excessive noise; a group complaint may get results.
You Need to Have Evidence
If the loud noise continues, and your landlord (and the police, if involved) have been no help, you may need a court to intervene before you’re able to enjoy your space and sleep through the night. Depending on the problem and your particular neighbor, you might first try mediation (available in most communities at no or low cost) to work something out.
Whether you go to mediation, or decide that a lawsuit is the only way to resolve a problem with your neighbor, you need to have proof by the time you go to mediation or court. For example, if noise is the problem, you should keep a diary of the date and time when your neighbor is loud (backed up with sound recordings, if possible), along with police reports and copies of your complaints to the landlord and/or offending neighbor. If you’re seeking money damages alone (say, for the diminished value of your rental), you can use small claims court. For a court order telling your neighbor to stop the noise ("abate the nuisance," in legalese), you'll have to sue in regular court.
If the problem is an improperly parked car or unleashed dog, taking photos or videos can help you make your case.
A Landlord-Tenant Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding troublesome neighbors in rental property is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the subject. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a landlord-tenant lawyer.
Questions for Your Attorney
- The tenant above me has his stereo speakers right on the wood floors, and he plays loud rock music until midnight most evenings. I’ve asked him politely to keep the noise down, and (when that didn’t work), complained to my landlord. Nothing’s happened and the constant music is disturbing my sleep (and sanity). What can I do (besides move out)?
- My next-door neighbor runs a business out of her home with delivery trucks coming and going, often blocking my parking space. It’s created a real problem, because parking is really tight on my street. How can I make sure that my parking space (that I pay extra for) is available when I need it?
- I think the tenant down the hall is dealing drugs, because there are people constantly going into and out of his apartment. What can I do about this?