I spoke to my property manager about the excessively noisy tenant upstairs. The manager already confronted the tenant before, and even had the tenant arrested. The manager later told us that she was evicting the tenant, but when the tenant got out of jail, he gave the manager a sob story. The manager fell for it, and now the tenant is still in the building, and is louder than ever. The manager has three complaints against this tenant already. What should I do? We are located in Oklahoma City.
If your upstairs neighbor is a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder, well, they can be pretty noisy. It’s usually easier to join them than beat them. But you shouldn’t have much trouble going forward for a while. Thanks to San Antonio.
If the noise is because of something other than an overly-excited Thunder fan, then it’s a little tougher to deal with.
The question comes down to this: Can you break a lease due to bad neighbors? Can you withhold rent? What are your other options, if any?
Unfortunately, from the tenants’ point of view, there’s not a lot you can do as a tenant, under Oklahoma Law.
- The Oklahoma Landlord-Tenant Act specifies the circumstances under which a tenant may withhold rent or break a lease without penalty, and noisy neighbors doesn’t make the list.
- Yes, there is what is called a ‘covenant of quiet enjoyment’ but it usually covers interference by the landlord, such as unauthorized intrusions into the property, disruptive renovations, and the like.
- Oklahoma law also recognizes a ‘warranty of habitability’ in residential leases. But this phrase is generally interpreted to refer to such things as functioning stoves, sinks and toilets, safe stairs, absence of rat infestation, and such like. Noise from other tenants usually isn’t included.
There are a few cases of severe noise complaint issues rising to the level of a breach of the warranty of habitability, but none I could see in Oklahoma referencing residential property.
In fact, noise isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Oklahoma Landlord Tenant Act, though section 41-147, Duties of Tenants, says that tenants have a duty to avoid conduct that interferes with the “quiet and peaceful enjoyment” of the property by other tenants.
This section may give landlords a cause of action to evict tenants who generate chronic noise complaints, but it does not give tenants any particular rights to break leases or withhold rent.
If you try, the landlord/manager could sue you and get a judgment in their favor for back rent or penalties.
You may, perhaps, write the landlord a letter, CC the property manager, explaining the situation and requesting he take action. I know if I were the landlord, and my property manager actually had to have someone arrested (was it for assault?) when she went to confront the problem tenant, I would likely consider that tenant to be a potential source of liability for other possible problems.
The landlord may pull the trump card and direct the property owner to evict.
Don’t expect an instant solution if you do manage to get the landlord to move to evict the neighbor – the eviction process can still take a number of weeks, if your neighbor tries to contest it.
Writing about personal finance and investments since 1999, Jason Van Steenwyk started as a reporter with Mutual Funds Magazine and served as editor of Investors’ Digest. He now publishes feature articles in many publications including Annuity Selling Guide, Bankrate.com, and more.