Q: I have a problem with neighbors in my apartment building who refuse to stop blasting music, to the extent that at least four or five units out of 12 have complained.
The noisy neighbors have parties attended by sketchy visitors, whom I have reason to believe are responsible for the theft of $200 worth of my property. My landlord has reimbursed me the $200. But the neighbors have now become confrontational with me — five of their drunk visitors showed up at my door yesterday.
My landlord is aware of everything I have stated here, but there is still no outline for eviction, or even a policy on complaints in our leases. Aside from the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment, what if any legal remedies do I have to push for their eviction?
A: Neighbor disputes are difficult for landlords, since they may have to side with one tenant over another. Noise is a common problem that many tenants complain about, but typically it’s not bad enough for a landlord to evict the noisy tenant. The covenants of habitability that a landlord must comply with also apply to your noisy neighbors, which gives them the right to play their music and make some noise in their own apartment.
You didn’t say what your neighbors’ drunk visitors were doing at your door, unless they were just confused as to where to go. If the visitors or your neighbors are harassing or threatening you, then it’s a police matter and you should call the police and file a complaint.
If the lease contained language prohibiting loud music, or stating that noise complaints can be grounds for eviction, that would make it easier for the landlord to take action.
You should complain to your landlord and request a resolution. You can ask to be moved to another part of the building, at no extra charge, and far away from your noisy neighbors. You can also request that your lease be terminated early so you can move out. You should ask your landlord when your noisy neighbors’ lease is ending, because if it’s soon, then your landlord can choose not to renew their lease, thereby resolving your problem.
Since your landlord is hearing noise complaints from several other tenants, your landlord may already be worried about losing tenants over this issue and may already have a plan not to renew your neighbors’ lease. Your landlord can wait until the noisy neighbors’ lease ends, then terminate that lease by giving them proper notice — just so long as the landlord isn’t failing to renew their lease for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.
If your landlord isn’t open to discussing this matter and finding a resolution for all parties involved, you can file a rent escrow action in the county in which you live. You could state that your apartment has become unlivable due to the noise levels and request that your lease be terminated. You must provide proof in order to win, so you’d need a recording of the noise or another tenant’s testimony.
There are city noise ordinances your neighbors might be violating, but I’m assuming the noise level isn’t reaching that decibel. Your landlord most likely doesn’t want to lose good tenants, so will be motivated to respect the noise complaints and deal with this issue to your satisfaction.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.