Alice, My Noisy Neighbor is Also My Landlord!

Alice, My Noisy Neighbor is Also My Landlord!

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Ask Alice
Sep 17, 2015
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Allard Laban)

Dear Alice,

My boyfriend and I moved into a great apartment in a great neighborhood about six months ago. Our landlords live in the unit above us, and we are their first tenants. Two months before we moved in they wanted to meet us and during the conversation they joked about how they really need to get carpets as they have two young kids, but they assured us it would be taken care of before we moved in.

Since we've moved in, we've learned the hard way that one of the downsides to the new construction is really poor sound absorption, it's so bad to the point that we can hear their dogs claws on the floor. Anytime their kids run around (which is fairly often) it sounds like a stampede and it's genuinely disruptive. For example, if we're watching TV we actually have to increase the volume so we can hear it! We've broached the subject with them more than once.

A few months after we lived there we asked for an update and the wife of the couple (the one who deals with us) assured us they were going to deal with the carpet situation when summer came around. It was also so bad one night (past 11:00), that my boyfriend texted her to ask if they wouldn't mind keeping it down as we were planning to go to bed and when it didn't stop he went to knock on their door, and they weren't apologetic at all. There have been other things that have taken a very long time to get resolved, such as no screens on our back windows, something she assured me the contractor would deal with. It's been very frustrating and I feel cheated because my boyfriend and I are spending a lot of money on rent every month. The last thing I want is to create an awkward situation with my landlord, because we really want to be good tenants. I also know that with the exception of the carpets, all the other outstanding issues are things I could easily do myself and then take out of the rent, but every time I ask she promises me that she or the contractor is on it and I don't want to insult her ability to get things done. It's now almost the end of the summer and all these issues that were supposed to be resolved are still present. The carpet issue alone is something they've been promising to deal with for almost eight months. How do my boyfriend and I resolve this once and for all without creating tension with our landlords?


Thanks,
Tentative Tenant

Dear Tentative,

When I read that these were first-time landlords, I thought "uh oh," and then proceeded to nod my head along with the rest of your letter. This situation is so tricky and awkward (especially since they are your neighbors!) but I do think you have been very patient and understanding and it's time to stop being so tentative.

I'd be willing to bet that they weren't exactly prepared for all the responsibility that comes with being landlords and are finding out that it's a lot of work. But just because they're experiencing a learning curve, doesn't mean you should have to suffer. You are doing your part by paying rent; they need to do their part by dealing with maintenance problems in your apartment.

I'd start by putting your request in writing. Be friendly, but firm. Say you're disappointed that the carpet and other maintenance issues have not been taken care of in a timely manner and you'd like to make a plan for these promised improvements to be carried out as soon as possible. Explain that you very much want to be on good terms but you need to have these things addressed. Sending an email, rather than just having a friendly conversation, will indicate that you are serious about these things and it will create a paper trail.

I don't know the terms of your lease, but unfortunately, I doubt you can force them to install carpet legally (nor would you want to go that route). However, if there are other true maintenance problems in your apartment now or in the future that are not taken care of, you do have rights as a renter. They need to step up and take care of their property and their tenant (you). Hopefully, your landlords aren't purposefully neglectful but simply busy and this will be the kick they need to realize that they need to get on the ball.
Good luck!

Love,

Alice

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