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Navigating Noise Complaints in Urban San Francisco Rentals - Article Banner

San Francisco is a large city with a lot of noise. While much of that noise is to be expected, especially in neighborhoods with a lot of commercial and industrial activity as well as traffic and development, it can still be disruptive to people who are trying to embrace the quiet enjoyment of their homes. Rental property owners in the city are frequently tasked with mediating the tension that naturally exists between harmonious living and bustling city life. 

You might have tenants complaining about outside noise. You might have them complaining about neighbors. Much of the noise they’re likely to complain about is completely outside of your control. However, addressing noise complaints effectively is crucial to maintaining a peaceful environment and ensuring tenant satisfaction. 

Here’s how rental property owners can address and navigate noise complaints in urban San Francisco rentals, ensuring happy living situations, good neighbor relations, high tenant retention, and adherence to local regulations.

Understanding San Francisco’s Noise Ordinance

There’s actually a law on the books in San Francisco that deals with noise and its management. This won’t always apply to the specific noise complaints that you receive, but it would behoove any rental property owner to familiarize themselves with San Francisco’s noise ordinance laws. These regulations outline acceptable noise levels, specific quiet times, and the processes for managing noise complaints. Knowledge of these laws empowers you to set clear expectations with your tenants and enforce rules judiciously.

According to the noise ordinance, human and animal-related noise is not permitted between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. These are considered quiet hours, and your lease agreement should mirror those hours. Noise that becomes unreasonable during the day is also prohibited by this ordinance. 

Some of the most common noise complaints that this ordinance addresses include: 

  • Fixed building equipment or mechanical systems
  • Construction on private property
  • Construction on public property
  • Delivery or service trucks
  • Establishment with live entertainment
  • Garbage or recycling collection
  • Large event venue
  • Mobile food facility
  • Traffic
  • Tour bus

While residential noises are not included in that list, the ordinance still applies. When your tenants are experiencing noise that they believe should be mitigated by this law or the city of San Francisco, you can instruct them to call the non-emergency safety line for noise in progress that violates Noise Regulations. This phone number is 415-553-0123, and should be used for active noise problems that are in violation of the noise ordinance. Residents calling with a report will need to provide the location of the noise and a description. Complaints can also be made online at sf.gov, and people who file a complaint can track their case. 

Remind your tenants that patience is required. Response times can vary and stretch from three days to 10 days, depending on the nature of the noise complaint. 

Tips for Rental Property Owners

San Francisco’s city ordinance requires that residential noise complaints start with the landlord, whether we’re talking about a barking dog or a neighbor who is playing music too loud. As the rental property owner, you need to know how to handle these complaints when they come in. 

Here’s what we recommend.

  • Start with Proactive Communication

Encourage open and proactive communication with and among tenants. Address potential noise issues before they erupt into disputes. Providing guidelines on noise etiquette as part of the lease agreement can preempt conflicts and promote mutual respect. 

  • Responsive Conflict Management 

Be timely and responsive when a noise complaint arises. Assess the situation objectively, listen to the aggrieved party, and communicate with the tenant causing the noise. It’s essential to take every complaint seriously and approach it with a solution-oriented mindset.

  • Soundproofing Measures 

Investing in soundproofing measures can significantly reduce noise transfer between units. Consider upgrading windows, adding insulation, or installing high-quality carpeting to dampen sound. These improvements, while an upfront cost, can serve as a long-term investment in tenant satisfaction and property value.

  • Mediating Disputes

Sometimes becoming a mediator is part of the job. If tensions rise between tenants over noise, facilitate a meeting to discuss the issue. Encourage each party to express their concerns and work together to reach a compromise that respects everyone’s needs.

Address Noise in Your Lease Agreement

A good noise policy starts with documented rules in your lease agreement. 

Include a quiet hours policy that reflects what the city ordinance requires. This will let all your tenants know that noise won’t be tolerated from 10:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. Your lease can state that quiet hours exist to eliminate disturbances for tenants in the building. Putting this in the lease agreement establishes expectations. When you receive noise complaints that come in during the established quiet hours, you’ll know that a particularly loud tenant is violating the lease agreement, and you can take the required actions.

Not all noise complaints will violate the quiet hours policy, but it’s a good place to start. Your lease can also put forth the expectation that tenants are respectful to their neighbors when it comes to music, television, and pets. 

Documenting a Tenant’s Noise Complaint

Most tenants who complain about noise understand that there’s not much you can do. But, they still want to be heard, and they still want their concerns to be validated. Don’t brush off their problem or act like it’s not a big deal. Be willing to listen. This will help you maintain a positive and professional relationship with your residents and it will show your tenants that you care about their comfort and the quiet enjoyment of their property. 

Sometimes, you’ll have several tenants complaining about the same noise. This will strengthen the argument you may have to make with the offending tenant, so document everything. Gather the following pieces of information:

  • Where the noise is coming from. Make sure this can be proven. You’ll want to know for sure which apartment is causing the noise. Vague ideas that the loud music is at the end of the second floor will not help. Get an apartment number and confirm that with others or by yourself. 
  • When did the noise occur? If it is a recurring problem, make sure you document the number of times that the noise was noticed. 
  • What kind of noise is the tenant hearing? Typically, it’s loud music or a party that’s gotten out of hand or a dog that won’t stop barking. It could also be general noise of the city that’s addressed in the San Francisco Noise Ordinance. 
  • Has anyone reached out to the tenant to communicate about the problem?

The more information you can include on your noise complaint report, the better.  Details are important and can help you resolve the situation faster. 

Legal Recourse and Compliance 

Eviction NoticeIf a tenant consistently violates noise regulations despite warnings and interventions, understand the legal resources available. Following San Francisco’s housing regulations, take appropriate action to resolve the disturbance, which could include formal notices or even eviction procedures as a last resort.

You can encourage your tenants to have a neighborly conversation with the tenant who is being loud. It’s possible that the tenant doesn’t even realize it. Not all tenants will feel comfortable with this, however, and you don’t want an already tense situation to escalate. 

You can reach out to the tenant yourself and ask them to be more mindful of their noise. Or, you can put the entire discussion in writing. Send a letter to the tenant who is causing the problem, letting them know that you’ve received complaints about noise. Include the details of the noise reports you’ve collected and highlight the lease section that addresses noise and expectations of quiet. 

You can always involve law enforcement if absolutely necessary or if a tenant feels like they’re in danger. You can also pursue an eviction if the lease violation is not rectified, but these are things you should only do if the tenant is completely uncooperative and unwilling to comply with your lease agreement and turn down the noise. 

Handling noise complaints with tact and efficiency is important for the well-being of your tenants and your San Francisco rental property. By combining regulatory knowledge with responsive management practices, property owners can maintain peaceful residential communities even amidst the urban hustle.

It often comes down to tenant relationships more than anything else. When you have good relationships in place with tenants, and they’re respectful of you and one another, you’ll find it’s much easier to prevent and resolve noise complaints. Keeping the lines of communication open and creating a community within your rental properties encourages tenants to take shared responsibility for the peace and quiet enjoyment of their homes.

Working with a San Francisco property management partner can also help you avoid those complaints that come in from tenants about noise and other issues. If you’re not thrilled with the idea of getting involved in complaints and conflicts between tenants, we can provide that all-important buffer. 

Let’s talk about noise, tenant relationship, city ordinances, and anything else pertaining to San Francisco property management. Contact our knowledgeable and available team at Sharevest Property Management.