Q: I have lived in a one-bedroom apartment in St. Louis Park for the past three years and never had any kind of problem or complaint until November when a new tenant moved into the apartment above me. She stomps on the floor so violently that the noise, shaking and nuisance of it is driving me crazy. I am awakened nearly every night by the pounding. Every weekend morning, there are three to four hours of nonstop pounding noise directly above my bed. The stomping is so violent that pictures shake on my walls, and I have noticed what I think are paint flakes when washing my sheets. I am on the verge of losing my job because of the sleep disruption, since most of the noise occurs between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.
I have attempted to talk to the new tenant about the noise, but she will not answer her door. I left a note for her, explaining my concerns and asking her to please reduce the noise, however, the noisy stomping has only increased.
After having no luck with the tenant, I complained to the apartment manager. She said she would speak to the new tenant, but I don’t believe this ever happened. After I continued to complain, the manager told me I needed proof that the noise is happening, so we discussed recording the commotion. The manager promised me she would listen to the recordings and act accordingly, which is all documented in an e-mail. I purchased a $300 digital recorder and left it on during louder episodes over a period of a month.
After trying to tolerate the disturbance for another month, I finally brought the recordings to the manager. She refused to listen to the recordings, saying that I “could have faked them.” I then presented the manager with a “Notice of Tenant Covenant Violation.” However, the manager says she will do nothing unless another resident complains. The problem is there is no other tenant in the building who would be able to hear or feel this disturbance.
Then I was sent a letter stating that I had a complaint against me for the one time I hit my ceiling with a shoe during a particularly loud stomping session at 3:30 a.m. I was trying to get the upstairs tenant and her guest to stop pounding on the floor. The management then said my only option is to call the police, as this is between the other tenant and me. I called the police, and the dispatcher I spoke with said that the city would not dispatch the police for such a call.
I have asked repeatedly to be let out of my lease, but management flatly refuses. I continue to send complaints every time the noise is at an intolerable level. The one offer management made is for me to move to another apartment in the building at my own expense, but the rent is $200 more per month, which I cannot afford. I would also have to sign a 12-month lease, and I do not want to stay in this awful place for another year. Any advice?
A: Your only real option is to file a rent escrow action, and ask that the court let you out of your lease. In order to do this, you need to let your landlord know of the problem in writing and give them an opportunity to remedy the situation. The “Notice of Tenant Covenant Violation” that you’ve already presented to your landlord likely meets this requirement. You need to bring a copy of that with you to the courthouse in the county where you live and complete the forms necessary to file a rent escrow action. You will be required to post any rent that is due during the interim of the action until the court makes a decision, so make sure you post that rent in full. The fee to file a rent escrow action is waived if you qualify as low-income. Then, bring the recordings you have collected and any other evidence, such as the e-mails and the dates you contacted your upstairs neighbor, management and police. Make sure you write down all the issues and each attempt you have made to remedy the situation on your own, so the court knows that moving out is really your only option. You may want to make a video recording, so you can show the items shaking on the walls and the paint flakes. Courts don’t like to just cancel leases on a tenant’s whim, so make sure you are sincere and organized. You need to show the court you have a real problem and are not just making something up to get out of your lease.
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, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.