One of the most time-consuming aspects of being a landlord is dealing with tenant complaints. These messages often come late in the evening or early in the morning, and need to be handled delicately to ensure that tenants aren’t singled out for issues that are beyond their control.
There are many different ways that individuals can be bothered by noise. In apartment buildings, crying babies, heavy footsteps, and noise from pets are common issues. These are especially prevalent in older buildings, where there isn’t as much sound dampening installed between units, and between floors.
Even if you’re renting out a home, boisterous parties, loud music, continual construction, and maintenance noise can affect other tenants and homeowners throughout the neighbourhood.
Today, we’ll discuss what laws landlords must follow when dealing with noise complaints, and what best practices they should put in place to keep these issues from disrupting tenant relations in the future.
What Ontario Law Says About Noise Complaints
In Ontario, noise is something that’s regulated through municipal bylaws. Take Windsor, for example. Windsor’s city bylaws define ‘noise’ as “unwanted sound, and is prohibited in residential areas at all times”. There are no set times for individuals to make noise. Any noise that bothers another person is technically a violation of city noise bylaws.
Some cities, like Toronto, distinguish between certain types of noises and have set times where individuals may make these noises in a reasonable manner. Generally, most residential noises between 7 AM and 7 PM (9 AM and 7 PM on weekends) are permitted, as long as they don’t go on for an unreasonable period of time. Certain types of noises, like a dog barking, or any noise that disturbs a religious service, are not permitted at any time.
Toronto bylaws also differentiate between persistent and unreasonable noise, and intermittent loud noises.
Dealing with Noise Complaints
When you first receive a noise complaint from a tenant, the first thing you need to do is gather more information. Start by asking them to fill in the full details of the noise they’re experiencing, how often it occurs, and when they usually hear it. If their details are sketchy, it may be a good idea to ask them to keep a record of the noises they hear for a week, so you can investigate.
After you have the full details, take these steps to solve your noise problem.
1. Talk to other tenants
To get to the bottom of the noise issue, you may want to talk to other tenants, or even neighbours in the area, to ask them about their experience with the noise. Sometimes, tenants who are sensitive to noise can make unreasonable requests of their landlord, and it’s a good idea to talk to a neutral third party who can either corroborate the first tenant’s account or give some context.
Go in person, or drop off a letter asking the neighbour to get back to you. They may be able to provide helpful information you would never have been able to learn otherwise.
2. Check your lease
In Ontario, all landlords are required to use the standard lease template, which can be found on the Government of Ontario website. In the standard lease, there is no explicit mention of noise, but landlords may choose to add a clause that delineates quiet hours or sets a limit on the noise that can be made in common spaces like a backyard.
If you have any of these noise clauses in your lease agreement with this tenant, they may be helpful. If you don’t have these clauses listed, you’ll have to dig deeper into local bylaws and provincial laws to make sure you’re citing the right information when you ask your tenants to quiet down.
3. Talk to the noisemaker
Once you’ve done your due diligence and have determined that the complaint is legitimate, the next step is speaking to the tenant making the noise. Let them know that you’ve received a complaint about them and ask them to address the issue. If it’s their first time receiving a noise complaint, you should treat the first discussion as a warning.
In many situations, the tenant will be apologetic, not having realized how their actions affected others. However, if the tenant is defiant, or disagrees with the tenant making the complaint, make sure to listen to their side of the story. They may be able to provide you with details that help explain the situation.
4. Offer your help
If the issue is something that can be mitigated by a structural or design change, you can offer to help out. A great example of this is carpeting a loud, echoing hallway, or putting in window treatments that help dampen loud noises coming from a shared backyard.
If these changes are permanent, or the item will remain in the home after the tenant leaves, the landlord should cover the cost. If it’s something temporary like a rug, you could offer to split the cost with the tenant as a good-faith gesture.
5. Keep a record
Even if it’s a first offense, you should always keep a record of noise complaints that you receive from tenants. Having these reports on file is critical if it becomes an ongoing issue. That way, you have documentation if you need to seek an eviction or pursue another type of action against the tenant.
Ultimately, landlords should investigate complaints, talk to the tenants, and try to mediate the issue, but they cannot be held responsible for the actions of their tenants.
Need More Resources? Get in Touch with Our Windsor Property Management Team
Dealing with tenant complaints is one of the most frustrating aspects of being a landlord. If you’re renting multiple units, it’s easy to spend ever-increasing hours each week dealing with tenant relationships.
Instead of dealing with it alone, let the Windsor property management experts at Goldmar Property Management help. We have strong ties to the Essex County area and love to work with tenants and landlords alike to make their lives easier.
Get in touch today to hear more about the services we can offer you.