If you’re a landlord, you can expect to get noise complaints. From “stomping” upstairs neighbors to barking dogs and boisterous children, noise is one of the most common gripes among tenants.
Soundproofing your building, or at least making some changes to help muffle sounds, may not be a requirement. But tenants do have a right to privacy and reasonable quiet, and helping them get it can help keep your tenants happy and help with retention.
Noise complaints often result when there are loud neighbors or inadequate noise barriers within the rental unit. If you’re getting complaints, it makes sense to look into the problem and rectify it when possible. Otherwise you risk losing a good tenant.
If the complaint is about another renter, talk to that tenant. People often feel uncomfortable telling their neighbors to quiet down, and it makes sense for landlords to start the conversation. Often neighbors don’t even realize they are being loud.
You can take an informal approach and talk to them in person. You may also consider sending a letter addressed to all tenants, reminding them of the noise policy.
Dampen the Noise
There are a few relatively inexpensive tricks that can help keep the noise down. You can offer to buy some rugs or add thick curtains, which absorb noise. You can suggest to tenants they add more of their own textiles. And none of the items have to be fancy or pricey.
Check heat vents and ducts. Remember when you were a kid and spied on your parents by putting your ear to the vent? That’s because the confined metal space actually amplifies noise. Try wrapping all ducts with insulation.
If the noise is coming from footsteps and movement in an upstairs unit, simply install a thick carpet pad under carpeting in the unit to do the trick. This is a common complaint and very easy to remedy.
Consider adding fiberglass insulation in the walls and ceilings, if possible. It saves on energy bills and reduces noise. Foam insulation is not as effective as fiberglass.
Install drywall panels on ceilings and floors. Noise experts say that mass can help deaden noise. Making the walls or floors thicker by installing drywall panels, which typically cost $9 to $12 for a 4-by-8 sheet, can be an effective solution.
If your building is near train tracks or a busy highway, you may have to spend a little more to make the noise levels tolerable. Install soundproof windows and doors if the noise problem is coming from outside rather than from an adjoining wall. Soundproof windows can reduce noise by about 75 percent.
If you don’t know where to start on noise-reduction projects or you’re uncomfortable enforcing noise policies, you might want to consider hiring a property management company. A property management company can be a neutral third party when handling complaints and can help you identify worthy projects to mitigate noise, then oversee the work so it is done right.