Q: A tenant moved into the apartment above me in December 2016. From the first day she moved in, she has been making a lot of loud noise, which keeps me awake at night. She is a night person and stays up until 2 a.m. most nights, but sometimes she is still up making noise at 3 or 4. She insists on doing her chores during these early-morning hours, such as washing dishes, banging cupboard doors, dragging chairs and other heavy items across the floor, dropping heavy items on the floor, and rolling things across the floor, which sounds like she is bowling up there. She also has a habit of running the shower multiple times during these hours.
I have been sending complaint e-mails to my landlord about this tenant and her excessive noise from Day 1. We sat down together with our landlord and tried to figure out what could be done to make us both happy. We agreed that she would not make noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., but she has not followed that agreement. At the first meeting, we exchanged phone numbers and e-mails so that I could call, text or e-mail her when noise is occurring. However, she apparently never receives my calls or e-mails because she turns off all electronics at night.
We had another meeting with the landlord, who told me that I had to find a way to block out the noise. My landlord said that this woman is a paying tenant, too, and has the right to make noise in her apartment. He suggested that I try using headphones, playing music, turning on a fan or using a white-noise machine. My lease goes until July 1, 2019. What recourse do I have to get this situation fixed?
A: Noise is a common complaint in apartment buildings, but there is no clear law that applies when the noise is coming from typical daily use of an apartment. There is an implied covenant or promise of habitability and quiet enjoyment from the landlord included in every lease. This promise means every tenant has the right to use and enjoy their apartment, that their landlord promises nothing will disrupt their tenant’s use and enjoyment of their apartment, and that the apartment will be fit for its intended use. You and your upstairs neighbor both have an implied covenant of habitability and quiet enjoyment, which for your neighbor means being able to walk around her place performing chores during the night. Since your neighbor’s activity is interfering with your ability to sleep, your enjoyment is being negatively affected.
Typically, the landlord and all parties would sit down together and come to an agreement, which is what occurred in your case, but your neighbor didn’t abide by the agreement. You didn’t mention whether the agreement was put into writing and signed by all parties, but that would help your landlord’s ability to enforce the agreement. Since the meeting did not resolve your noise problem, it is up to your landlord to find a solution.
You could ask your landlord to terminate your lease early with no penalty fee. You can also request to be moved to another apartment within the building. Another solution is to ask that your landlord try to mediate the problem by meeting with both tenants again, and this time get the agreement in writing and signed by everyone so it’s taken more seriously. You should also check your lease language, since sometimes loud noise during the night is considered a violation of the lease terms. Unless you can prove your upstairs neighbor is violating a noise ordinance or her lease terms, your landlord has no legal requirement to stop the noise. Calling the police on noisy neighbors is usually done only when there are loud parties, excessive music or noise coming from a home or apartment. However, you could start documenting the noise occurrences and call 311 if you live in Minneapolis, or complete the online complaint form at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/environment/environmental-complaint.
If you live in another city, you should contact that city office to find out how to file a noise complaint. You could also request that your landlord reduce your rent for the rest of your lease or until you find another place to live. Make sure to get any agreement for reduced rent and early termination of your lease in writing and signed by all parties.
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.