Noise complaints about baby in new apartment
May 6, 2023 5:58 PM   Subscribe

I really need advice, I just moved into a new apartment with my 10 month old, alone, I just received these text messages from my landlord, I am not sure what to do.

Some information: my child will wake up and cry for a bottle very briefly (like 30 seconds) before I get to him to pick him up and make his bottle, the mornings he is not actually running or crawling around, he is in his room and watching ms rachel or taking a nap. During the day he is crawling around but nothing crazy. I don’t understand.

I just moved here last week, I am very quiet, no music, in bed early because I work as well. My baby truly hardly cries, just momentarily if he wakes up for a bottle.

Landlord: i am getting numerous complaints of stomping and loud noises what is going on I need an explanation I will need to stop by tomorrow and next week these tenants have been there or 6-8 years

Starting at 5-6 am stopping at 9 am

Me: Hi I’m very sorry, it’s just my ten month old is stating to walk

Landlord: I can’t have this disturbance but I will stop by

I am frozen and want to leave at the same time. Find a new place. Get my security deposit back. Why does he need to stop by tomorrow and next week? I know you don’t know, it just doesn’t make sense.
posted by DeltaForce to Law & Government (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Today I was at work and his father had him all day and weren’t home. Most days we wre not home all day. He was running around a little bit maybe ten or 15 minutes then went into the pack and play which is low to the ground and he was lying down kicking his legs a little bit and I think I heard a thump from the downstairs neighbor. And then I got these text messages.
posted by DeltaForce at 5:59 PM on May 6

What city are you in? This matters in terms of tenants-rights organizations and the like, to say nothing of fundamental legal rights.
posted by aramaic at 6:04 PM on May 6 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I am in northeast Ohio.
posted by DeltaForce at 6:06 PM on May 6

There are federal and state fair housing laws that make it illegal to discriminate based on having a family - I would look up your local fair housing office.

Landlords are allowed to stop by if they have cause as long as they give notice (this should be in your lease). When he comes, I would back track the bit on your 10 month old walking - instead I would express your genuine confusion and shock - i.e. explain that you are a quiet family, and so these complaints do not make any sense. I would emphasize that you have never gotten complaints in previous apartments, you go to bed early, and you don't play music.

Your neighbor is in the wrong here, and it sounds like they feel entitled to having things as they like it, which makes sense if they've been there 6-8 years. I would be polite but firm with the landlord - you have done nothing wrong! Babies are allowed to learn to walk in their own home.
posted by coffeecat at 6:19 PM on May 6 [18 favorites]

One issue might be that because you just moved you might not have much stuff in your apartment so everything seems louder than it is- especially if you have hardwood or tile floors. Curtains, rugs, and furniture will absorb sounds. However, like everyone is saying- you are not in the wrong- people in apartments can usually hear some noise from their neighbors.
posted by momochan at 6:24 PM on May 6 [5 favorites]

Landlord: I can’t have this disturbance but I will stop by

Save every single message they send you.

Ohio law (I am not a lawyer!!) has a concept called "familial discrimination" which may be useful here -- Ohio law makes it illegal for housing to be denied, or for different rental rules or terms to be applied, to a family with at least one child younger than 18 years old, a pregnant woman or a person who is in the process of obtaining legal custody of a minor.

Wooster has a document you may find useful. It's only applicable to Wooster, but the laws they reference are state wide for the most part, and it specifically refers to matters relating to children.

I have in the past found it extremely useful to passive-aggressively refer to my local laws in relation to disagreements with my landlord (I am an asshole, this may not be helpful for you!). For example "Wow, I'm really sorry to hear that, I didn't mean to inconvenience anyone, but your request seems like it gets really close to violating state law XYZ, you didn't mean to say that, did you?"

...followed by them saying "oh no that's definitely not what I meant, my apologies for the misunderstanding let's all be cool, it's all cool, we're cool, everyone is cool right?"
posted by aramaic at 6:28 PM on May 6 [14 favorites]

I assume he knew you had a kid when you signed your lease. What did he expect? Kids make noise.

Before he stops by, make video of your kid at his noisiest, along with something to compare the noise to (like your speaking voice). Send it to your landlord. This will both show that you’re not being unreasonably loud, and also make your kid seem less noisy by comparison when your landlord is actually there.

When he’s there, you might want to drop a little “this isn’t because I have a kid, right?” Because, as already pointed out, that’s illegal.

If you do want to move, though, you can use that to your disadvantage. Ask him to release you from the lease and refund your deposit, and in return you won’t pursue any discrimination claims. It’s a bluff, but my sense is that most landlords won’t call it.

There’s a bright side way to look at this, too, though, which is that he’s coming over because he wants to prove to your neighbors that they’re being unreasonable. Right now, all he can say when they complain is “I’ll talk to [you] about it”. But if he watches you and your kid and doesn’t see you doing anything unusually noisy, when your neighbor complains tomorrow, ge can say “actually I was there, and the noise wasn’t excessive”. I don’t know that that’s what’s happening, but it might help your nerves to think it’s a possibility.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:43 PM on May 6 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I am so upset. Backstory is my landlord knows my partner and I are separated currently and have separate residences. I don’t sleep there and he doesn’t sleep here. We are separated but coparent and still have a relaidonship. My landlord knows this because I explained why I was looking for an apartment when applying.

This feels very wrong. I am a professional, I work, I have good credit, I feel like this is nuts.

The rest of the exchange:

Me: what time?

Landlord: 4:30

Me: okay let me just make sure my partner and I will be home (at this point I realized I messed up because I didn’t want him to think that my partner lives here because he very much does not.)

Me: he doesn’t live here but he comes to see our son

Landlord: I cannot have any issues lease is for you

Me: is he not allowed to visit during the day? He doesn’t live here.

Landlord: let me deal with it tomorrow
posted by DeltaForce at 7:40 PM on May 6

Would be helpful to know your specific city.
posted by kensington314 at 7:51 PM on May 6

Response by poster: I am in Cleveland Ohio.
posted by DeltaForce at 8:03 PM on May 6

Good advice above. What I would suggest is documenting the texts and, if it’s legal where you live, asking him to send an email once a week instead. The constant texts disrupt your quiet enjoyment. In fact, it would be better and probably more legal if it came by mail.

In the meantime, take steps to dampen sound. Put down rugs, chair/sofa pads, soft materials to dampen sound. Don’t wear shoes inside.

But laws protect you. Toddlers need go toddler. My guess is this guy has some other agenda or doesn’t want your child’s other parent around.

I’ve been through a neighbour making noise complaints when I wasn’t even home. Hang in there.
posted by shockpoppet at 8:12 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]

Legal Aid Society of Cleveland Tenant's rights page. (Even if you're not specifically in Cleveland city proper, most landlord/tenant law is state of Ohio law.)

Here's a link to their page with phone numbers to call for info. For Cuyahoga County tenants, call 216-861-5955. For Ashtabula, Lake, Geauga and Lorain Counties, call 440-210-4533.

Cleveland Office of Fair Housing & Consumer Affairs

If you live in Cleveland city proper, here's how to find out what ward you live in and who your city councilperson is. If you have more trouble, call them. (Speaking from personal experience, most Cleveland council-people LOVE to do stuff that generates good publicity - like keeping a single mother from being kicked out of her home by an asshole landlord.)

You may also be able to get some assistance from The Fair Housing Center for Rights and Research.

Strong second to aramaic - the document they linked is an overview brochure of state law, it is applicable all over the state of Ohio, I found something virtually the same issued from the office of the Attorney General. (here)

3 relevant excerpts:
• Be careful with interview questions: A potential resident will often want to see the property before renting it. This gives you an opportunity to ask questions of potential tenants, but be careful about what you ask. “Do you have children?” and “You have an interesting last name. Where are you from?” might be suitable for everyday conversation but are unlawful when asked of a potential tenant by a landlord. Asking such questions during the application process may give the impression that you are using the information to decide whether to rent to a tenant. Save such “getting to know you” questions for after you’ve entered into a rental agreement; focus instead on the potential tenant’s qualifications to rent the property. A question that is unlawful to have on a lease application is also unlawful to ask during a tenant interview.

• A note about potential occupants: As noted, it is illegal to ask potential tenants whether they have children. But asking them how many occupants will be living in the unit, without asking the age of each occupant, is fine.

"Ohio law makes it illegal for housing to be denied, or for different rental rules or terms to be applied, to a family with at least one child younger than 18 years old, a pregnant woman or a person who is in the process of obtaining legal custody of a minor.12 Such action is called “familial status” discrimination."
You have every legal right to be there. Your neighbors are cranky assholes, and them being there for 6-8 years is irrelevant.

Why does he need to stop by tomorrow and next week? I know you don’t know, it just doesn’t make sense.

As a long-time Cleveland resident, just from your description I would bet actual US dollars that you're renting part of a house and/or a place in a small building with a landlord who owns maybe a few rental properties. Unfortunately many of these people are ignorant or dismissive of the idea that they need to adhere to non-discrimination and fair housing laws - they treat their properties like they're their own personal fiefdoms.

But if you contact Legal Aid and print out the brochure (or download it on your phone) proving your legal right to be housed with a child, your landlord may back down.

Note that actual Ohio law states: "Except in the case of emergency or if it is impracticable to do so, give the tenant reasonable notice of the landlord's intent to enter and enter only at reasonable times. Twenty-four hours is presumed to be a reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary." It sounds like at least so far they're in the 24-hour-notice time frame, but keep this in mind for the future - they can't just drop by whenever they want.

The stuff about your child's father being around is irrelevant - you didn't mess up. Of course you're allowed to have visitors, you don't live in some 1880's Home For Wayward Young Women, the child's father doesn't live there, it's not on you to prove that he doesn't, don't let your landlord bully you about how you were maybe lying about who resides in the apartment just because you were a little unclear in a text message when you were upset.

posted by soundguy99 at 8:50 PM on May 6 [10 favorites]

I happen to think the landlord will see that you are being reasonable. However, this can go one of two ways. It all depends on you and what you want. Do you want to stay or do you want to move? Do you want to fight to stay or make a deal where you get your security back in full and moving expenses to the next apartment?

You can take all the advice above about your legal rights and fight and likely win. Or, if he wants you to find something else, you can negotiate with him for expenses and your money back including security and this month's rent.

An alternative course of action would be to go downstairs and talk directly to the complaining tenants. Maybe they are reasonable and don't know the circumstances of toddler. Maybe you find out that there is nothing you can do to appease them and you negotiate with landlord to move on.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:59 PM on May 6

Also, bit of a side note, but if you do decide to leave soon or when your lease is up in 6 months or a year, you might want to consider a larger building and/or one that's run by a professional property management company.

Not saying they're all great, but there at least you (mostly) don't have the weird territorial attitude of "This is MY property!!!!!" you'll often get from small Cleveland landlords. I've lived in larger apartment buildings almost my entire time here in the city and I never have these sort of garbled text communications. I only get a text message if there's some sort of emergency water or power shut off, communication is almost entirely by email, and if the management company wants to speak to me personally they call and ask to schedule a meeting in their offices, they don't come by my place. They understand this is business relationship with rights and responsibilities on both sides, not some kind of personal battle of maintaining property values and making a tiny profit against hostile, lazy, and irresponsible tenants.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:08 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]

When your landlord visits, don't go on the defensive. Don't offer up your theories why you're the cause.

A different way of saying what you're saying is 'the only thing I can think of is that my youngster is starting to walk' and if you did want to expand on that I think it'd be reasonable to say 'and they weigh X pounds and can't make an unreasonable amount of noise by themselves'.

Before we get to the issue of housing discrimination, the questions are 'why does he think it's you' and 'is the complaint reasonable', and they need to come up with some evidence in that regard - that you're misusing your apartment, that you are the source of the noise complaints by your misuse. Maybe the noises don't align with anything you're doing, maybe they come from other parts of the building, maybe the other tenant (or tenants? How many complaints?) is complaining about something despite the fact that it's just a reasonable level of noise. Maybe (been there, lived that) the building's sound insulation sucks and normal behaviour causes noise in other apartments, which absolutely does not make it your fault or your problem to fix.

In summary: let the landlord do the talking, and avoid apologising for right now.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 12:18 AM on May 7 [9 favorites]

Do you have rugs/carpeting on the floors or are the hardwood? I don't know how it is in Cleveland, but most leases in NY/NJ have what's called an 80/20 clause where you're required to have 80% of the square footage of your apartment/condo covered with rugs/carpeting to cut down on noise.

It is incredible how much sound carries if there is no buffering and little kids can sound like baby rhinos. I have all hardwood throughout my ancient house and you'd think there was regular stampeding going on when, in reality, it was my kids just being kids. I also remember when we owned a condo below a family that never had a bedtime for their infant/toddler. The kid was up at all hours (and I do mean ALL hours) running up and down a long corridor (he also liked to throw toys and scream). The thing is, we had a baby about a year younger and we were friendly with this family. It made it incredibly awkward and he woke our baby up regularly. It made a world of difference when they finally put rugs down and his mother took her shoes off.

If this is the problem, check out someplace like and go to their sale page. I've been able to find really nice rugs there for crazy cheap and they deliver quickly.
posted by dancinglamb at 5:57 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]

Get a decibel measuring app on your phone. I don't know much about them but there must be a way it can keep records over a set time period. Bonus: let the app measure how loud landlord is when he comes by.
posted by mareli at 9:16 AM on May 7 [3 favorites]

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