By Cassandre Juste
Noisy tenants can be extremely irritating for landlords and neighbors alike, and trying to evict them can be even more frustrating. Can a tenant be evicted for being too loud? According to our team of legal experts, the answer is yes, but there are a few measures that should be taken to ensure that landlords are on the up & up when evicting a noisy tenant.
One of the reasons evicting noisy tenants is difficult is because the definition of what is “too loud” is inherently subjective. As in many areas of the law that require an subjective judment, the reasonable-person standard applies – if a "reasonable person" would find the noise disruptive, then it is too loud. As attorney Alisa Levine explains, “It is all about what is reasonable and how that is defined by the parties. Most people would agree that loud music at 2:00 AM is unreasonable; however, a baby crying at 2:00 AM is probably fine.”
Attorney Jim Surane suggests including a solid noise provision in the lease agreement, along with a solid indemnification provision and default clause. The noise provision should detail exactly what is unacceptable and the consequences for breaching this lease clause. It is also important to include that the noise provision extends to the tenant, as well as any family members, invitees or guests. To support the noise provision, the rental agreement should include a default provision explaining that violating the noise provision set forth by the landlord (or any other part of the lease agreement for that matter) is a breach of the lease contract and can be grounds for eviction. Elizabeth Powell, an attorney specializing in landlord-tenant law explains that one way property owners address this issue is by specifying "quiet hours." For example, a landlord could stipulate that the hours of 10PM to 7AM are designated quiet hours and during that time frame any noise that can be heard outside of the rental unit is prohibited.
However, not all tenants are noisy at night time and technically a “Quiet Hours” provision would not be sufficient to protect against a tenant that blasts the Spice Girls every day at 5:00 in the afternoon. For instances that fall outside of the quiet hours time frame or if the lease did not detail a noise provision, the landlord may still have enforcement options, for example if the tenant’s noisy tendencies violate a local law or ordinance a landlord or staff member would be justified in calling the police or making noise complaints to authorities. Usually noise complaints can lead to police/legal fines and landlords can often use violations of law on their property as a basis to evict.
If all else fails, there is always the “Right to Peaceful Enjoyment:” all residents are afforded basic rights to live in peace. However, as attorney Alisa Levine points out, how "peace" is defined may vary from place to place. “But in general if there is a verifiable nuisance or noise that is bothering a neighboring tenant to the degree that they might move, then the landlord may have an obligation to deal with it. Or else face the tenant leaving, breaking the lease agreement, or suing for breach of the warranty.” Neighboring tenants can also use a claim such as "constructive eviction" – meaning the landlord did not do anything to help them and they felt forced to move out.
Attorney Zach Jex explains further: “One of a tenant's conduct-related duties is to conduct him or herself or require other persons to conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb his or her neighbors' peaceful enjoyment of their premises. If neighbors were to complain to the landlord that the tenant or his/her guests were being too loud (i.e., disturbing their peaceful enjoyment), the landlord would have a statutory basis for evicting that tenant.”