Can My Landlord Be Held Legally Responsible for My Noisy Neighbors?

The Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment

In Massachusetts peaceful living in a rented property is a tenant’s fundamental right. However, disruptive noise from neighboring tenants can significantly disturb this tranquility.

Typically, landlords are hesitant to get involved in disputes between tenants and prefer to allow the tenants to work it out between themselves.

So, what can you do when dealing with a noisy neighboring Tenant?

First, it may be best to make an attempt to speak with the noisy tenant yourself to come up with a solution to the problem. When approaching a noisy tenant, it is best to actively listen and handle it in a respective manner. Avoid making accusations or personal attacks and employ active listening techniques. Remember, the cause of the noise could be unintentional or related to personal circumstances beyond the individual’s control. Be sure you demonstrate that you are willing to work together to come up with a mutually beneficial solution to the problem.

If after speaking to the noisy tenant, the noise persists, you can resort to speaking to the landlord. The best way to go about this is to start by documenting the disturbances and formally notifying your landlord in writing. If your landlord neglects to address noisy neighbor issues, they might be infringing upon your right to peaceful habitation. Contrary to popular belief, your landlord does in fact have an obligation to address loud noise disturbances by another tenant.

In Massachusetts tenants have the right to the quiet enjoyment of their rented space, ensuring they live without disturbances caused by neighboring units or nearby housing under the management or control of the landlord. G.L. c.186 § 14 is commonly referred to as the covenant of quiet enjoyment and protects a tenant’s freedom from interference with their tenancy if the interference is significant enough to “impair the character and value of the household”. [1] A landlord (including a public housing authority) may be liable for a third party’s breach of a tenant’s quiet enjoyment, if the breach is a “natural and probable consequence of what the landlord did, what she failed to do, or what she permitted to be done.” [2] Among other things, a landlord may be liable for failure to take action against a tenant whose excessive noise breached other tenants’ quiet enjoyment.[3] A breach of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment is essentially a contract claim and is an implicit term in every lease in Massachusetts.[4] A landlord’s breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment entitles a tenant to a minimum of three months’ rent as an incentive to the pursuit of relief where actual and consequential damages are slight or even difficult to prove. [5]

One of the leading cases in Massachusetts in this area is the case of Blackett v. Olanoff. In this case the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial court ruled that a landlord’s duty to provide quiet enjoyment of the rented premises included controlling a noisy tenant. Arthur Blackett and his business partners owned property in Massachusetts which included an apartment building and a nearby lounge. Jared Olanoff and other tenants entered into a lease with Blackett to rent apartments and after their tenancy was commenced, Mr. Blackett rented out a nearby dwelling as a cocktail lounge. The tenants repeatedly complained to Blackett that the cocktail lounge played loud music into the early morning hours. The sound was so loud that the tenants were unable to sleep or even converse within their apartments. Although Blackett attempted to address the noise issues, the disturbances persisted. Finally, the tenants moved out of their units, and stopped paying rent. Mr. Blackett filed suit against the tenants for the nonpayment of rent. The tenants argued that they were constructively evicted as a result of the landlord’s omissions in abating the noise disturbances by the cocktail lounge. The court ruled that the tenants were in fact constructively evicted and the landlord breached the covenant of quiet enjoyment under G.L. c. 186 § 14 which he owed to the tenants.[6]

Although every factual scenario is different, in most instances your landlord has an obligation to make reasonable efforts to abate a noise disturbance caused by other tenants or defects under his or her control. It is important to note that in order for a landlord to be held liable in a situation such as this the noise disturbance must be serious and repeated. The best way to show this is through repeated written complaints to your landlord. Although this can be frustrating when drafting your written complaints always be courteous and respectful towards your landlord.

Should the problem persist, seeking guidance from a specialized attorney in landlord-tenant disputes within the Commonwealth is recommended.

There are a number of key Massachusetts court rulings in this area:

It is important for you to know that you have rights and legal remedies available when your landlord fails to take action in addressing a noisy tenant. These steps, alongside legal guidance, can help you uphold your rights to a peaceful living environment.

If you are dealing with a loud neighbor or experiencing bad living conditions within your rented dwelling call JD Molleur Law at 508 – 407 – 8338. JD Molleur Law offers free phone consultations and, in many cases, will take on your legal matter for little to no cost.


[1] Andover Hous. Auth. v. Shkolnik,443 Mass. 300, 311, n. 17, 820 N.E.2d 815 (2005).

[2] Doe v. New Bedford Hous. Auth., 417 Mass. 273, 285 (1994).

[3] See Shkolnik, 443 Mass. at 311.

[4] Burofsky v. Turner, 274 Mass. 574, (1931); Dyecraftsmen, Inc. v. Feinberg 359 Mass. 485, 489 (1971).

Ianello v. Court Management Corp., 400 Mass. 321, 324 (1987); Darmetko v. Boston Housing Authority, 378 Mass. 758, 762 (1979).

[6] Blackett v, Olanoff 371 Mass. 714, (1977).

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