Q: My neighbor and I both rent single-family homes from the same landlord in a residential neighborhood. This neighbor, however, traps squirrels and feeds them live to his dogs. He also shoot birds and squirrels with a pellet gun, with the shots often hitting or ricocheting into my yard, nearly hitting my family or pets. Our enjoyment and use of the yard is affected by his shooting of birds and animals, and having to listen to his dogs tear apart live animals is disgusting.
We are in the middle of a one-year lease and can’t move or we would be responsible for the remaining rent. What is the landlord’s responsibility in getting the neighbor to cease this behavior?
A: While you have the same landlord as your neighbor, I think you should make your first call to local law enforcement to report the shootings and the near misses. Shooting any sort of gun may be illegal in your area, and law enforcement should be advised.
Illegal actions by tenants should always be brought to the attention of law enforcement first and then the landlord. Similarly, if your house was on fire you would call the fire department first and then notify your landlord.
You may also want to check with law enforcement and local animal control or animal advocacy agencies, as the shooting of birds and squirrels may be a violation even if shooting the pellet guns (i.e., target practice) is allowed. In many areas, even where squirrels are quite abundant, it is illegal to shoot or poison them. This is also true for snakes and many other animals.
I am not sure of your relationship with your neighbor, but if it is cordial then you may want to try to speak to him about your concerns before taking any other action. But you need to be careful, as some neighbors could react negatively to your request to cease this behavior and you could have even more pellets flying through your yard.
And you could contact your landlord in writing to let her know of your concerns. Be sure to clearly explain that you are unable to enjoy your property and that ricocheting pellets coming into your yard is a serious safety issue. You should demand that the landlord take steps to stop this tenant behavior immediately or that you may need to vacate the property for your safety. …CONTINUED
Q: Where I currently live, one tenant plays an electric guitar plugged into an amplifier and screeches (I think it is an attempt to sing) along with this noise for hours at a time. You can hear it all over the building and even out in the parking lot. Recently I observed a couple get out of their car to look at a condo for sale nearby.
They heard this abysmal noise and got back in their car and drove away. So not only is it completely annoying to everyone in the building, it is costing someone potential buyers.
I have contacted the landlord and even the local police and the tenant has been warned, but in this economy no one seems willing to terminate their lease. The police are even unwilling to come back out, as they say they don’t have the staffing due to budget cuts. So I am left with wondering why would someone think it is ever OK to use an amplifier in a building that they do not own and which houses a dozen other people?
A: This week’s column contains just two of the more bizarre situations that renters can face. It just proves that common sense and common decency and respect are lacking with some individuals. It is also an unfortunate reality that local law enforcement or code enforcement officials are severely limited these days in their ability to respond to such non-life-threatening issues.
You may want to get together with your neighbors and calmly approach this individual and inform them that he is disturbing the entire neighborhood. Maybe he will respond to the peer pressure. Or you (and possibly some of your fellow tenants) could let your landlord know that if he doesn’t eliminate the noise source that he will find a lot more than just one vacant unit at his building.
Another more novel approach is taking the landlord and the offending tenant to small claims court for breach of your quiet enjoyment. You should come prepared to demonstrate that the noise level is unacceptable by having copies of police reports and statements from several neighbors.
Better yet, try to get your neighbors to also file a small claims action and schedule the hearings all on the same day so you can each testify for each other to support the claims.
Finally, it would be my hope that people like your musically challenged neighbor would see this column and realize that they need to rent space in a sound-proof booth or consider relocating to an extremely remote area, where they can practice as much as they want without bothering anyone.
This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of "Property Management for Dummies" and "Property Management Kit for Dummies" and co-author of "Real Estate Investing for Dummies."
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