I'm having a love affair with my neighborhood. The industrial Westside of Atlanta has been experiencing a total resurgence lately, something my boyfriend and I have been lucky to witness for the four years we've lived in our 1100-square-foot 2-bedroom apartment — the one with the tiny kitchen but a great view of the city skyline. We're close to brilliant little boutiques, amazing new restaurants and the campus of Georgia Tech, which delights us (although neither of us have ever attended school there) with its beautiful architecture and great spirit.
The vibrant university energy is a joy most of the time, but not when your downstairs neighbors are hard-partying college students. After the second year in our third-floor apartment, a group of guys and their subwoofer moved in to the unit directly below us. I know this not because I saw them move in, but because I felt it. Whenever they played music, the floor in our apartment would shake to the beat.
I blame the construction of our building more than the tenants, though, since the music wasn't actually all that loud. It was the vibrations that made Friday and Saturday's kegger nights difficult for my homebody lifestyle to handle.
At the risk of sounding like the annoying couple on House Hunters ("We want to be close to bars."/"Why is it so noisy?!"), I'm sharing this story because my experience with the frat boys in #223 taught me some useful lessons about dealing with noisy neighbors. When you love your neighborhood, you'd rather manage than move out. Here's how I learned to cope.
Establish a non-complaint relationship. This is a pre-emptive strategy (and just good for neighboring in general), but building a solid relationship with your fellow residents before any problems arise is helpful in making sure future complaints don't fall on deaf ears. I wish I had gotten to know our downstairs neighbors before I had to ask them to turn it down.
Don't be passive-aggressive. I've been the noisy neighbor before, and I'm much more responsive to a face-to-face conversation than a passive-aggressive note on the door or banging on the walls. When the music got to be too loud from the neighbors in our new space, I would walk downstairs and let the guys know in person. They were always polite and apologetic, and thankfully we were able to build up a good rapport.
Be realistic. Am I annoyed when my floor shakes at 10pm on a Saturday night? Sure. But I know that it's a reasonable time to play music and entertain friends. It was tough on some weekend working nights, but I made sure to never go downstairs with a request until it had gotten very late.
Be receptive to complaints (and maybe even ask for them). Being a good neighbor goes both ways. If your complainee ever comes to you with a request, you should always comply. You might even ask outright if there's anything you can do to be a better neighbor ("Let us know if we ever get too loud, OK?"). A grievance goes down better with a spoonful of sugar.
Find and offer a solution. Like I mentioned before, it wasn't the volume of the music that was the problem with our neighbors, it was the vibration of the bass from the subwoofer. After a few noisy nights, I asked a simple question of our frat guys: Are your speakers on the wall? I knew that speakers touching walls or floors were more likely to carry bass noise louder and farther. It turns out the subwoofer was on the floor and touching the wall. By putting it on a stand and pulling the speakers away from the wall a bit, we were able to nip our noisy neighbor problem in the bud.