Can a landlord be held responsible for failing to address a nuisance neighbor?

Under California law, landlords and property managers can be held liable for failing to address a nuisance neighbor. Implied in all California leases is a covenant of “quiet enjoyment”. Cal. Civ. Code § 1927 [1]. Landlords have a duty to ensure that tenants can peacefully possess their rental unit free of disturbances. In extreme cases, landlords must take steps to evict bothersome tenants to abate the nuisance. Davis v. Gomez, 207 Cal. App. 3d 1401, 1404 (1989) [2].

Tenants who are affected by landlords who fail to address nuisance neighbors have causes of action against their landlords for wrongful and constructive eviction, negligence, breach of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment, unfair business practices, and nuisance.

What is a nuisance neighbor?

A nuisance neighbor is any person who is (1) harmful to health, (2) indecent or offensive to the senses, (3) interfering with the comfortable enjoyment of life, or (4) causing a fire hazard or other potentially dangerous condition. Cal. Civil Code § 3479 [3].

Examples of nuisance behaviors that Tobener Ravenscroft have held landlords liable for include smoking, yelling, banging, use of obscenities, name calling, discriminatory statements, selling drugs, using drugs, engaging in prostitution, sexual harassment, playing loud music, placing offensive signage, blocking access, running an illegal casino or nightclub, allowing strangers or vagrants to enter the property, running an illegal salon, or causing filth or vermin.

What must a landlord do to address a nuisance neighbor?

As soon as a tenant makes a complaint about a nuisance tenant, a landlord or property manager must take affirmative steps to address the nuisance. The first thing the landlord should do is investigate the claim. This can include interviewing other tenants and witnesses, reviewing security footage, and meeting with the resident manager. The landlord should encourage the complaining tenant to keep a log, make police reports, and collect evidence, such as legal recordings, videos and photos. The landlord should put in writing to the complaining tenant that if the tenant feels unsafe to contact the police immediately and seek a restraining order.

Once evidence is collected, the landlord or property manager should immediately contact a landlord lawyer to discuss appropriate legal action against the nuisance tenant. The lawyer may start with a warning letter. If the behavior continues, the lawyer can then serve a curable eviction notice, which give the nuisance tenant an opportunity to correct the behavior. If the behavior is still not addressed, the landlord can issue a non-curable eviction notice.

What reasonable steps should a landlord take to address a nuisance neighbor?

Landlords have an obligation to take serious measures to address a nuisance neighbor. Courts have held landlords liable for harm caused to a tenant by a nuisance neighbor that the landlord knew about and failed to evict. Andrews v. Mobile Aire Estates, 125 Cal. App. 4th 578 (2005) [4]. Eviction is just one way a landlord can address a nuisance neighbor. In the past, Tobener Ravenscroft has held landlords liable for failing to take other minimum measures, such as moving the complaining tenant to a unit far from the nuisance neighbors; installing surveillance; issuing warning letters; meeting with onsite managers and security; and contacting an eviction lawyer and keeping the lawyer up to date.

What can the affected tenant do to address a nuisance neighbor?

Tenants should complain in writing to the landlord and property manager. Email or text is a great way to do this because it keeps a digital record. The written complaints should be made frequently. If the behavior is daily, a complaint every two weeks with a summary of the nuisance activities will suffice. It is important that the written complaints be succinct, yet provide enough information so that the landlord can understand the facts. Long complaints can have the effect of being lost on the reader and may even make the complaining tenant seem at fault.

When possible and legal, the affected tenant should record the nuisance. It is legal to record when there is no expectation of privacy. A nuisance tenant likely does not have an expectation of privacy when yelling, pounding, or doing illegal acts in common areas.

The complaining tenant should also gather witnesses. Neighboring tenants are the best witnesses. Try to get witnesses who share walls, floors or ceilings with the nuisance tenant. Other good witnesses include family and friends who have visited, heard, or seen the nuisance. Contemporaneous text messages to family and friends about the nuisance behavior can also be good evidence, since such messages memorialize events as they happen.

Keeping a simple log of events is also important. A print calendar is great for this. Note the time and the event with facts specific enough to recall what happened at a later date.

What should an affected tenant not do when trying to address a nuisance neighbor?

There are a few things a tenant should never do when trying to address a nuisance neighbor. Never tell your landlord that you do not want to testify against the nuisance tenant. Often complaining tenants are fearful that if they take action against a nuisance neighbor, the nuisance neighbor will retaliate by ramping up harassing behavior. Even if you are not willing to testify against the nuisance neighbor in an eviction acion, never say that. It gives the landlord an out to argue that no eviction action could go forward because you were not willing to testify.

Tenants should also never retaliate or provoke the nuisance neighbor. Too often tenants affected by nuisance tenants are caught on video taking action into their own hands. Usually this is because the landlord and property manager have ignored the issue and the affected tenant feels desperate. But provoking or retaliating against the nuisance tenant makes it seem as if you are also at fault, unnecessarily muddies the water.

What are the financial damages that can be recovered against a landlord who fails to address a nuisance tenant?

Where a landlord fails to properly address a nuisance tenant, the affected tenant can recover emotional distress, return of rent, loss of the value of the unit, moving costs, punitive damages, and attorney fees and costs. Emotional distress is worry, anxiety, frustration, embarrassment, and sleeplessness. The loss of the value of the unit is measured by taking the market rate of the unit, less what the tenant was paying, multiplied by the number of years the tenant would have remained in the unit. In rent-controlled jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, triple damages or per act penalties are available where it can be shown that the landlord failed to act because the affected tenant was paying low rent. Triple damages are also available in any city in California where the nuisance neighbor is engaging is discriminatory behavior. If you are being affected by a nuisance neighbor, please contact Tobener Ravenscroft to speak to a tenant lawyer.

Some of our Nuisance Neighbor Case Results


Awarded to two rent-controlled units in San Francisco after
the tenants were forced out due to neighbor nuisances including a
neighbor setting things on fire, slamming heavy metal objects against
the wall, and yelling slurs and threats in the common areas.


Awarded to a married couple who were forced out of a
rent-controlled apartment in Oakland after fourteen years of tenancy
due to loud neighbor noises and repair issues


Recovered for an Oakland tenant who was constructively
evicted from her rent-controlled apartment of ten years due to ongoing
and unchecked nuisance neighbor issues. The landlord and property
manager ignored complaints from several tenants in the building about
an ongoing nuisance from a neighbor next door to the plaintiff,
including threats to tenants, loud music, late-night disturbances,
possible gang activity, and a shooting incident that resulted in the
death of an individual in the unit next door to the plaintiff’s.
Despite the plaintiff’s and other tenants’ complaints and requests for
intervention, the landlord and property manager did nothing to stop
the nuisance neighbors’ behavior.


Recovered for a couple and their infant who were forced to
vacate their rent-controlled home in San Francisco due to chronic
noise, banging on the walls, smoking, drug use, noisy partying, and
derogatory name-calling from downstairs tenants.


Recovered for a couple who were forced to abandon a ten-year
rent-controlled tenancy in San Francisco due to continuous nuisance
from an upstairs neighbor/landlord and his live-in boyfriend, who
engaged in screaming, cursing, throwing things, smoking, living in the
garage, and hosting homeless friends in the garage. Despite numerous
complaints, the landlord continued to rent units in the tenant’s
building to large groups of short-term rental guests who regularly
partied into the early morning, knocked on the tenant’s door asking
for assistance with their short-term rental unit, littered, and caused
damage to the building’s common areas.


Recovered for a married couple who were forced out of their
four-unit rent-controlled building in Mountain View due to a nuisance
neighbor who was aggressive and then physically attacked tenants,
causing serious bodily injury. Even after being granted a permanent
restraining order, the neighbor refused to comply, and the manager did
nothing to ensure the plaintiffs’ security.


Recovered for a Los Angeles couple forced out of their
rent-controlled apartment by a property manager who lived above them
and landlords who ignored his threatening behavior. The property
manager routinely sexually harassed the female tenant, smoked
methamphetamine, and attempted to enter the couple’s unit and attack
them by hacking a hole into the crawlspace in their ceiling.


Recovered for a single female queer tenant who had to move
from her nearly three-year rent-controlled tenancy in Los Angeles. She
endured severe harassment and violence from the downstairs neighbor,
including homophobic and other derogatory comments toward the tenant,
her roommates, and guests, threatening to harm the tenant and her
roommates and damage their property, and several incidents of smashing
the tenant’s front door with a baseball bat, as well as hosting
all-night parties every week with blasting music and gunfire from his
unit. After the court granted a permanent restraining order, the
neighbor refused to comply, and the landlord and manager took no
active steps to evict the neighbor.


Recovered for a single tenant in San Rafael who was
constructively evicted due to a nuisance neighbor and the illegal
construction of a unit causing chronic noise in her unit. The tenant
also endured minor habitability issues including excessive moisture,
trash accumulation, and illegal soundproofing.


Recovered for a single mother with two young sons who lived
below a neighbor who made violent death threats, spewed profanity, and
made noise to keep the family awake on a nearly nightly basis for more
than a year.


  1. Cal. Civ. Code § 1927
  2. Davis v. Gomez, 207 Cal. App. 3d 1401, 1404 (1989)
  3. Cal. Civil Code § 3479
  4. Andrews v. Mobile Aire Estates, 125 Cal. App. 4th 578 (2005)