Dealing With Noisy NeighborsOctober 4th, 2006 by aptsherpa
We’ve all experienced them: noisy neighbors. Whether they fight constantly, play loud music, have big parties, own dogs who love to bark, or make noise in other ways, noisy neighbors aren’t fun to deal with. You can take a variety of approaches to asking your neighbors to quiet down, ranging from polite conversations to getting the police involved. You don’t want to get confrontational, but you also don’t want to be plagued by constant commotion. Here are some tips for successfully dealing with noisy neighbors.
Face to face
Before addressing minor noise issues with your neighbors, it can be helpful to establish a relationship with them. Instead of going over to their apartment to complain, go over to present them with a basket of home-baked treats or to invite them to a cocktail hour at your house. Presumably you’ll identify the noise problems early on in your tenancy, so either you or the neighbor has recently moved in. This means that welcoming them makes sense, so go ahead and do it. Once you’ve established a bit of rapport with the neighbors, maybe you can bring up the fact that you occasionally hear noise coming from their apartment. This approach is probably better for more minor noise issues, since it can be difficult to become friendly with someone only to raise a concern. If your noise issue is more severe, you might want to skip the friendly step and just talk to your neighbors about it.
TIP: When discussing an issue like noise with your neighbors, focus on why the noise is a problem, and propose a reasonable solution. Don’t just attack your neighbors for being loud, as this will simply put them on the defensive. For example, say “I work very early in the morning and need my rest, so I’d appreciate it if you could lower the volume of your music after 11:00 p.m. on weeknights,” instead of “You’re so loud all the time—can’t you knock it off?” The first approach will almost certainly get you better results. More specific techniques for approaching noisy neighbors can be found here.
If you want to take a more official approach, sending your neighbor a copy of your city’s noise ordinance and/or a clause in your apartment lease that guarantees you the right to quiet enjoyment of your home. You can also suggest legal mediation if direct conversations don’t produce results. Sometimes just being reminded that they are breaking the law can be enough to convince people to quiet down.
Through the landlord
If you don’t get results after a casual conversation or two with your neighbor, it may be time to talk to your landlord about the problem. This can get sticky, because it’s not likely that your landlord will prioritize your noise complaint above more pressing issues like recovering late rent payments or making physical repairs to apartments. Your landlord might only address the issue after you make repeated complaints, or if multiple complaints are submitted about the same tenant. Though noise issues are definitely legitimate, they can easily get buried under other responsibilities. Be persistent with your landlord and your neighbor, and hopefully you can all reach a successful compromise.
If your neighbor doesn’t respond to repeated conversations with you and your landlord, or if you have a more extreme case that’s immediately interfering with your ability to engage in normal activities, you might want to get the police involved. This can be a tough step to take, because you don’t want to give your neighbors a negative opinion of you. However, the police should respect your privacy and refrain from revealing who called in the complaint.
If you don’t find improvement after involving the police once or twice, you may want to take further legal action. It’s possible to sue your neighbor in small claims court for the nuisance caused by their noise. While the judge can’t order your neighbors to quiet down, they can order them to pay a daily fee to compensate you for the inconvenience posed by the noise. The simple threat of having to pay you money regularly can be extremely effective in getting your neighbors to quiet down. Of course, you’ll have to provide the court with ample proof of your neighbors’ consistent noise production (recordings may help, and testimony from other tenants will also bolster your case) and your attempts to resolve them in other ways.
In your apartment
While the behavior or others is not something under your control, the state of your apartment is. If you can’t get your neighbors to cooperate easily, it may be simpler to take the “pacifist” approach and modify your apartment to better absorb sound. While it may be hard to compensate for fundamental structural shortcomings, you can certainly add some soundproofing to your walls. Homosote, cork boards, wrapped acoustical panels, fabric, carpeting, and basically anything thick and soft (relative to your walls) can all help provide sound proofing for your apartment. You may be surprised by how effective a few fabric-covered soundproofing boards or panels can be in reducing noise in your apartment, and they can also add exciting color and decorating opportunities for your apartment. Rooms that aren’t carpeted are likely to be particularly noisy, so adding area rugs throughout your apartment can help reduce noise as well. With a little ingenuity, you can take matters into your own hands and make your apartment more livable.