Loud neighbors are a fact of life for apartment dwellers. Living in close proximity to others includes hearing your neighbors’ activities. Judgment must be used to determine whether noise falls within the expected sounds of daily life or represents excessive noise, which infringes on your rights.
Sounds of Daily Living
Certain types of sound are produced by daily activities. These include:
- Muffled television or radio sounds
- Doors and cabinets closing (especially on walls adjacent to your apartment)
- Running water
- Ringing telephones
Despite our best efforts, we all make noise as we go about our daily life. Since people vary in how they respond to the noise of others, you may be more or less sensitive to sounds produced by your neighbors.
Some types of noise fall outside of what you would expect to hear. These noises are produced by activities that are either not part of daily life or are louder than necessary for daily activities. An example of excessive noise is when your neighbor throws loud, late-night parties. There is a difference between socializing with friends and blasting music so loudly that it can be heard down the street. If music is loud enough to be considered high volume, when heard outside your building, it’s too loud.
Using power tools or other loud machinery during your apartment’s quiet hours is another example of excessive noise. As a guideline, any activity producing loud, unnecessary noise could be considered excessive.
Deciding Whether to Cope or Take Action
Once you’ve determined whether your neighbor’s noise is normal or excessive, you can decide how to proceed. Regardless of your opinion on whether a certain type of noise is excessive, think about how it affects you.
Start by asking yourself a few questions. Can you sleep? Can you study? Can you have normal conversations without shouting? Do you have any way to block the noise?
Prioritize each of your responses to establish which is most important. Keep in mind that you can’t live in a completely noise-free environment, when living in an apartment. Therefore, you must focus on the noises that interfere with your own life, not just those that you’d prefer not to hear.
If you can live with the noises, but they occur at a bad time, try asking your neighbor to engage in those activities at a different time of day. In other words, if you can live with the noise at certain times, but not others, work with your neighbor to find a way to peacefully coexist.
When a neighbor won’t cooperate in coordinating schedules, or produces noise so loud that you can’t sleep, study, or work, then it’s time to take action. In such cases, plan to take steps to enforce your apartment building’s noise rules against your neighbor. Be prepared to move out, in the event that you can’t gain compliance. Whichever approach you take, always remember that you must live there while sorting things out, and a conciliatory approach is usually better than a combative one.
Lisa Bernstein: As a long-time apartment dweller and seasoned condominium trustee, I have dealt with numerous landlord-tenant, property management, and day-to-day apartment complex issues. My extensive, direct experience has led to invaluable insights into apartment life from both the tenant and management perspectives.