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Real Estate Today

Buzz-saw Snore Keeps Tenants Awake at Night

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Robert S. Griswold | Steven R. Kellman | Ted Smith
22-October-2000 Sunday

This column on issues confronting renters and landlords is written by Counselor of Real Estate and Certified Property Manager Robert Griswold, host of Real Estate Today! with Robert Griswold (10 a.m. Saturdays on AM1130 - KSDO radio, or on the Internet at www.retodayradio.com), and by attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenants' Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a law firm representing landlords.

QUESTION: My next door neighbor's loud snoring is causing us many sleepless nights. Is my landlord required to do anything about the snoring neighbor if we complain? We have tried banging on our common wall but this only wakes him up for a few minutes before he falls asleep again and resumes snoring.

ANSWER: Kellman: The right to have a quiet and peaceful rental can easily collide with a neighbor's right to do innocent protected acts that make noise. For example, singing in the shower, running a juicer, watching TV, having peaceful but slightly heated arguments are all lawful activities
that make noise. This "normal" noise must generally be tolerated in
multiunit housing, which means that very sound-sensitive people will not
like living there.

Neighbors can, however, make too much noise. When this happens, the line may be crossed where the noise making needs to be limited. Snoring is clearly an innocent act done without intention to bother anyone. But if the snoring is very loud, it certainly can bother neighbors who have the right to be able to sleep without such annoyance.

If you have tried all you can do without success, the landlord should step
in and advise the snoring tenant to take whatever action he/she can do to
alleviate the problem at the source. A considerate individual will
certainly wish to cooperate and take advantage of the many methods
available to reduce or eliminate the snoring noise. The simple use of
communication and cooperation may go a long way in resolving this problem.

Smith: It'll be a sad day when California landlords are legally required to
modify the sleeping patterns of their tenants. You'd have a tough time if
this was a case going to court.

But I do have some suggestions. First, go next door. Ask him to prop his
head up, sleep on his side or stomach, or take some inhaler. Then, I want
you to go buy some earplugs.

Seriously, noises of this nature are inherent in multifamily housing. In
this case, based on the snoring, the landlord has not sufficiently breached
the implied warranty to provide quiet enjoyment. If you are thinking about
trying to get out of a lease, I don't believe that you can. You would be
stuck unless you can get the landlord to move you elsewhere.


Not a lost cause

A friend moved here from an apartment in New York City several months ago. Her former landlord has not yet returned her security deposit, despite her many requests. We realize that he's confident he can get away with it
because she is not in a position to fly back to New York just to sue him
through Small Claims Court.

Additionally, in the four years she's lived in his building, he has never
paid her the monthly interest on her escrowed security deposit, as required
by New York law. Are you aware of any action she might be able to take to get her money back (including whatever additional money he now owes her for not returning it within the requisite 21 days) without leaving California?

Kellman: Of course it sounds like your friend has a potential claim for
damages regarding the improper handling or refund of the security deposit
if, in fact, the landlord did not follow the law in New York.

According to the New York State Unified Court System Brochure, "A Guide to Small Claims Court (September 1996)," you can sue in New York Small Claims Court for up to $3,000. The important difference between that court and the Small Claims Court in California is that there you are allowed to be represented by an attorney.

Therefore, it appears that your friend may be able to retain an attorney to
present her claim with a neighbor or friend appearing as a witness along
with her sworn affidavit as to her version of the situation.

In New York, one may have the case heard by a judge or an arbitrator. If
the parties agree on an arbitrator, the award is final and there is no
appeal as there would be if a judge had heard the matter. The case may even be filed by mail and the filing fee is $10 for claims up to $1,000 and $15 for claims between $1,000 and $3,000.

For further information (and to confirm if an attorney may appear in place
of your friend) you may call (212) 791-6000 for general information or
(212) 374-5779 for the Manhattan Courts.


Last month's rent?

I am a month-to-month renter who is planning to buy a home soon. My current rental agreement states my monthly rent plus the security deposit. There is no reference to the security deposit being used as last month's rent.

When I give my landlord the proper 30-day notice to move do I have to pay rent for that month or can I use the security deposit money to pay for the last month's rent?

Griswold: Since your rental agreement does not state specifically that you
have paid "last month's rent" as part of your security deposit, then you
must pay the last month's rent or face the serious possibility that your
landlord will begin legal action.

You would receive a three-day notice to pay rent or quit. Of course, you
could contact the landlord and ask him to agree to use your security
deposit as the last month's rent, however, if he reads our column then he
will not make this mistake!


IF YOU'RE A TENANT OR LANDLORD, the authors stand ready to answer your questions in this column, although letters cannot be answered individually. Write them at: Rental Roundtable, Homes Section, San Diego Union-Tribune, P.O. Box 120191, San Diego, CA, 92112-0191. Or you may e-mail them at rgriswold.sdut@retodayradio.com

Copyright Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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Robert Griswold and the Real Estate Today! radio show strongly support the intent and the letter of all federal and state fair housing laws.  As a reminder to all owners and managers of real estate, note that all real estate advertised is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to advertise "any preference, limitation, discrimination because of race, color, national origin or ancestry, religion, sex, physical disability, or familial status, or  intention to make any such preference, limitation or discrimination." Additional state and/or local fair housing laws may also apply.  Be sure to inform all persons that all dwellings offered or advertised are on an equal opportunity basis.

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Revised and Updated - Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Robert S. Griswold, CRE, CPM, CCIM, PCAM, GRI, ARM
Griswold Corporate Center
Griswold Real Estate Management, Inc.
5703 Oberlin Drive, Suite 300
San Diego, CA 92121-1743
Phone: (858) 597-6100
Fax: (858) 597-6161

Email: rgriswold.ret@retodayradio.com

2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996 Robert S. Griswold.  All Rights Reserved.
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