Rental and Reasonable Expectation
August 16, 2017 10:13 PM   Subscribe

My land lord wants things to be quiet from 11 pm to 6 am which is fine. She claims that she gets migraines and is an incredibly light sleeper, and any noise can wake her up.

I try to be quiet. I have stopped going down for a midnight snack,am getting up hours earlier than I usually do, trying to get home before 10, and when I do get in try to make as little noise as possible. It's an old house. and sort of creaky. So regardless of how quiet I am, the stairs make some noise.

Also, I have trouble sleeping, and a nice walk at night, or sitting on the porch is something I enjoy. and I have not been able to do that. Sometimes I go into the city, to see a show or have dinner with friends, and I get home late.

My questions are three fold:
a) How do I climb old stairs in such a way that they do not make noise.
b) What is reasonable to expect in terms of noise abatement
c) Can she evict me for this?
posted by PinkMoose to Human Relations (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is ridiculous. Your landlord should be sleeping with earplugs. I'm a light sleeper and instead of expecting everyone else to literally tiptoe around me I wear foam earplugs by heroes. And in my case "everyone else" is my husband, not a paying tenant who should be able to make reasonable use of her own home.
posted by hazyjane at 10:19 PM on August 16, 2017 [41 favorites]

It's reasonable to ask a tenant, or a neighbor in an apartment that affects yours, not to play loud music late at night, or do jumping-jacks at odd hours. But it's not reasonable to expect no midnight snacks, never getting home late because you've been out with friends, never to go sit on the porch when you're having trouble sleeping. There's no way to keep a creaky house from creaking.

Landlord probably can't evict you for this during your lease term--at least in the US, you could go to court, explain things to the judge, and the judge would think the landlord is being unreasonable. However, your landlord can probably find ways to make your life more stressful or even miserable in retaliation. In your situation, I would probably do a combination of trying to be quiet within reason (taking off shoes indoors and treading lightly up the stairs at night), maintaining reasonable boundaries (keep going out with friends, getting midnight snacks), and looking for a new place to live.
posted by unreadyhero at 10:30 PM on August 16, 2017 [14 favorites]

(Oh, sorry, I see you're in the UK. I have no idea what landlords can do there in terms of eviction.)
posted by unreadyhero at 10:31 PM on August 16, 2017

posted by PinkMoose at 10:34 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding hazyjane. You're doing way more than should be expected of a tenant. Noise rules are one thing but normal living is another. You aren't blasting loud music or throwing late-night parties, you're walking up and down the stairs in your home. Where you pay rent. Where you have a right to perform normal functions like traversing the staircase.

If she's open to suggestions she could:
- carpet the stairs (or put on a runner or some such thing)
- employ a carpenter to fix the creak,
- get some earplugs
- stop renting to people

This is not your problem. She's being unreasonable and if it comes down to some war about rights you can download a decible-reading app to your phone, record yourself for a few days and prove incontrovertibly that you aren't violating any reasonable limits. (Double-check your lease but normal noise by a tenant would never hold up in court as illegal!)
posted by bendy at 10:34 PM on August 16, 2017 [12 favorites]

Walking on the very edges of stairs can reduce your squeakucreakynes.
posted by Grandysaur at 10:36 PM on August 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

unreadyhero makes a good point. Even though your actions are perfectly LEGAL, the landlord could try to punish you other ways. But then you could also punish them. The point of a lease or other contract is to provide guidelines in a situation where both parties could damage the other. By itself it hopes to prevent conflict.
posted by bendy at 10:37 PM on August 16, 2017

My kids walked up and down the stairs very carefully testing them until they found which spots creaked where and which stairs could not be stepped on without a creak so that they could get up and down them without making any noise. This required some significant memory and athleticism on their parts, but they were adolescents and wanted to sneak around without me knowing it. It is possible. But reasonable for a tenant...?

I take it you are a roomer, sharing the house, rather than having separate premises. What feedback has she given you? It frankly sounds like her needs are insupportable if you can't drift around the house softly in the dark when you have insomnia or get in late. But has she said that is not okay, when she knows that is all you are doing?

With luck when she adjusts to having you as a tenant she will be able to sleep through the soft sound of you drifting past and creaking slightly. But she might want to get a carpenter for the stairs if they are that loud. Or even drive a few nails in herself. And take Benedryl at bedtime to sleep a little deeper and maybe better and not get so many migraines.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:43 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's reasonable that you don't play loud music (or TV), don't vacuum, don't run or stomp. It is not reasonable that you don't walk around, go to the bathroom, have quiet conversations, etc.
Depending on the relationship/vibe you get from the landlord, maybe you could find a way to give them a nice pair of earplugs. Couch it in terms of "you mentioned your difficulties, and I've heard people with similar problems saying this really helped" and so on.
It's really on them to find a solution if they are bothered by normal quiet night sounds, you shouldn't have to be the one to go to great lengths, but maybe you can kind of just encourage/imply this first without outright saying it as a first attempt to smooth things over. But if that doesn't work, you are still totally justified and they are in the wrong, and wouldn't be out of line for pushing further.
posted by catatethebird at 10:45 PM on August 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Could you offer to buy her a white noise machine?
posted by Murderbot at 10:53 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Rugs. You should get some rugs and cover the floors if they're bare, and possibly even if they're not. While your landlord seems unreasonable, I can say that different upstairs neighbors sound different on the same floors, and that's mostly up to rugs. And failing to remove shoes indoors.

The noisiest, stompiest neighbors aren't the heaviest, they're just the heaviest walkers. This is likely something you can work on if you're motivated (my current upstairs neighbors don't seem to be.)
posted by asperity at 11:09 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Her headache and sleep issues are not yours to fix with silence from 11-6. She needs to find the solutions that work for her: repair & carpet the stairs, better insulate her room for sound, wear earplugs, take medication, use white noise machine, etc.

Making noise in the context of a lease or house rules could include things like no loud music, no guests in common areas, or no videogames without headsets, but not restricting your movements in the house, changing your schedule - social or otherwise, or walking normally on stairs. You're paying rent to live there. She's not doing you a favor.
posted by quince at 12:02 AM on August 17, 2017 [9 favorites]

I would make reasonable accommodations but I wouldn't be trying to work out how to walk quietly on stairs and I sure as heck wouldn't be buying her any machine! She's the landlord. Her issue, her problem. She can install carpets or any number of things that don't involve infringing on the life of someone whose paying her money to live there. If she can't cope with tenants, she shouldn't be renting out her space.

The next time she brings up you not being allowed to leave your own apartment at night because you walking down the stairs is noisy, laugh like it's the funniest thing ever and tell her you thought she was joking because locking you in an apartment is kidnapping.
posted by Jubey at 12:24 AM on August 17, 2017 [7 favorites]

She claims that she gets migraines and is an incredibly light sleeper, and any noise can wake her up.

She's not in the position to be a landlord then. I'm assuming from the context that you're renting a room in her house rather than a Mother In Law Suite or the like? If so, regardless of the legality, I'd encourage you to start looking for another place to live, because regardless of right or wrong, sharing a house with someone that blames you for their health issues is going to be miserable.
posted by Candleman at 1:09 AM on August 17, 2017 [20 favorites]

I agree with Candleman, fundamentally this woman should not be renting out a room in her house if she requires the tenant to be completely silent between these hours. I think ultimately you need to move as soon as feasible, it doesn't sound like she's likely to realise that she's being unreasonable any time soon.

In the interim (and strictly because you've asked and it might help make your life easier) you may find it's quieter if you tread on the edge of the stairs next to where they meet the wall. But I stress that you should not be required to do this and as long as you are walking on the stairs in a normal way (not running/stamping) your landlady should not expect you to stop or modify your behaviour at all.
posted by *becca* at 3:23 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

That is a totally unreasonable expectation. Move out if you can.
posted by jenjen23 at 3:35 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is this reasonable?.not really. Is this what she wants? Yes. I've had roommates who wanted basically the same thing and complained about me using the bathroom after hours. Could she evict you for this? In Canada, I don't know. Where I live, it wouldn't be super easy but could potentially.happen. (the law here is a lot looser for rooming-in situations because it recognizes that it's her permanent home.) You don't mention wanting to break your lease over this, but I think she might be willing to let you leave early if you found another place
posted by salvia at 3:36 AM on August 17, 2017

In Ontario anyway if you share a kitchen or bath with your landlord or their immediate family you can be evicted any's unfortunate but it recognizes that you are sharing the living space.

So, I think this is completely ridiculous but she may be able to terminate your lease over it.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:40 AM on August 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

It's a shame your landlady is so sensitive to noise. It's not your problem. Unless you are taking clog dancing lessons in your apartment, don't worry about it. If landlady is that sensitive, she should think about not renting her unit out.
posted by james33 at 7:06 AM on August 17, 2017

Someone (maybe both of you, if you're nice) should fix the stairs so they don't creak, and carpet or otherwise pad relevant areas to reduce footstep noise.

Then you can look at doorways, cabinets, and drawers to reduce noise from opening and closing them. Just search for information for "making cabinet quieter" and other relevant phrases.

These are projects that will be worthwhile for her -- even if _she's_ the one opening and closing and walking, the noise isn't that great.

There are even quieter-flushing toilets. I haven't checked, but maybe there's a microwave oven out there that doesn't beep :)
posted by amtho at 7:35 AM on August 17, 2017

I have lived plenty of places with noise restrictions. What that meant was that during "quiet hours" you should not have noisy parties, play loud music, vacuum, or do your aerobics video with lots of jumping and stomping. It did not mean you were literally not allowed to do anything in your living space besides laying silently in a bed. I think reasonable accommodations are things like making sure to always take off your shoes, being conscious of stepping quietly vs. stomping, and not running appliances like a dishwasher/laundry machine/etc. Complete and total silence is not reasonable -- even if this person did not have a tenant, presumably the world would involve noise such as barking dogs, cars driving past on the street, etc. Unless you're going to live in a soundproof box alone in the woods, you cannot expect total silence.

That said, you have to live with this person for some amount of time. I would talk things through and say "This expectation is not realistic, but here are the things I'm willing to do (take off shoes, walk softly, not play music/TV without earphones after 11pm, etc.). On your end, how do you feel about more rugs, earplugs, a white noise machine, etc.?" If you guys really cannot come to an agreement, it will probably be more pleasant for all involved for you to find another place to live, simply because roommate disputes like this are a huge mental/energy drain and it sucks to feel like you can't LIVE in the place you are paying rent to live in. In that case, it is very reasonable to ask your landlord to return any deposit and waive fees associated with breaking the lease early.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:11 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I commented above, but in short, I think you COULD get evicted for this, and that it's fundamentally no way to live, so you should start looking for other options and then (once you gain confidence that you can find something), tell your LL "hey, as these rules have become more clear, I'm realizing that I'm not willing to live that quietly, so I am asking that you either relax these rules or that we plan on me leaving the lease." Then negotiate to leave without paying any penalty fee.

If she wants you to pay a penalty, just say you don't want to do that you guess you'll have to stay and hope that your behavior doesn't wake her up, then start living your life as you'd like to. It's always faster to have someone leave voluntarily than be evicted, so if your normal behavior does start causing her to have migraines, I think she'll quickly want to work with you on how to most quickly put this situation behind you both. (I'm not suggesting you try to wake her up, as migraines are awful, so that's just evil.) Or maybe you'll discover that the occasional stair creak is okay. Either way you'll be free of the unreasonable requests.
posted by salvia at 11:46 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had a apartment manager who would scream that she would evict me for the way I walked every time I took out my trash. A lawyer friend of the family let me know that she couldn't and I wrote her a letter stating this cc'd to him. After that she shut up.
posted by brujita at 11:58 AM on August 17, 2017

I would suggest talking to her and use a pretty assertive script like: "I didn't realize that everyday activities like walking up the stairs were causing the noise problem. As I'm sure you can understand I can't stop doing that. Can we figure out something else, like getting you a white noise machine or putting in more carpeting?"
posted by capricorn at 2:04 PM on August 17, 2017

I have lived with landlords like this. For me, the answer in the end has been to move out. And that's ok!

Maybe these shouldn't be her needs, but in the long run, this is what she needs. My landlord needs someone who isn't in the habit of doing some reasonable thing, I need to live somewhere where I can do the thing.
posted by aniola at 2:52 PM on August 17, 2017

My mother used to sprinkle talcum powder and kind of sweep it into the floorboard cracks to stop their creaking. Maybe try that?
posted by honey-barbara at 7:48 AM on August 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

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