Here’s How to Deal with Even the Noisiest Neighbors

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Whether it’s noisy outdoor phone calls during the day, all-night dance parties with terrible music, or loud stomping above your head 24/7, it’s hard not to be annoyed when boisterous neighbors won’t just be quiet. I speak from personal experience when I say that these issues are even worse if you NEED some peace and quiet to work, get your young child to sleep, or nurse a killer migraine.

For a one-time, short-term noise problem, it’s often best to improve your home’s soundproofing (you can even soundproof the ceiling), put on some noise-reducing headphones, use a white noise machine, or ignore the noise. But there’s definitely a point where you need to take action — especially if your neighbors never seem to quiet down.

When it’s time to speak up, these steps can help you restore peace to your home, hopefully without starting a rivalry with your neighbors.

Quick Overview

How to Deal with Noisy Neighbors

Whether you’re living in a house, apartment, or college dorm, you’re likely to have a noisy neighbor at some point. When dealing with a loud neighbor here’s the sequence we recommend.

  • Learn about your legal rights.
  • Document the problem.
  • Talk to your neighbors.
  • Speak with your building manager or landlord.
  • File a noise complaint.
Credit: Erin Derby

First, Learn About Your Legal Rights

Read up on your local laws and see what rights you’re entitled to before filing any complaints or taking it up with someone other than your neighbor. Different cities, counties, and states may all have differing noise laws, and you should check those in your area to understand your rights before taking action.

Regardless of where you live, explains attorney David L. Berkey of Gallet Dryer and Berkey LLP, “generally, noise ordinances have more restrictive provisions for hours when most people would be sleeping (nighttime) than daytime.” For most communities, he adds, “the law bars neighbors from making excessive noise that rises to the level of a nuisance, or is determined to be unreasonable and objectionable because it violates local noise codes.”

Beyond those governmental noise ordinances, Berkey says that if you and your neighbors have a lease, live in a condo, or a coop, you most likely have rules and regulations having to do with noise. So check your building or coop agreement to find out what additional noise rules apply to you and your neighbors.

But if this noise problem just started, there are a variety of solutions that are worth trying first, before you take legal action. 

Credit: Getty Images | eyecrave

Document the noise problem.

Noise can be subjective and memory isn’t always as reliable as we’d like. That’s why it’s important to keep detailed notes on what exactly is happening.

“A person disturbed by noisy neighbors should keep a record of the days and times when excessive noise is heard,” explains Berkey, “and if the person bothered by the noise has a measuring device the decibel level of the noise should also be recorded.” A sound measuring device can be particularly useful as it can prove definitively whether or not someone broke rules and regulations in the area or building. He suggests also describing the type of noise in your notes.

You’ll also want to document what days and times you spoke to your neighbors, how they responded to the conversation, and the outcome of the conversation (did they comply temporarily or turn up the volume in response?). When you escalate the matter to a landlord, police, or the city government, you’ll also want to document these actions.

This documentation can be important if you need to go beyond talking to your neighbors, as it can provide evidence for your building manager, landlord, cooperative, condo board, etc. If the issue becomes serious enough, this information can even be used in trial.

Speak with your neighbors. 

Gather your social courage and take a deep breath! This may be the last thing you want to do, but the first person to talk with about the noise problem is your neighbor.

“It is always best to try a friendly approach and speak with noisy neighbors before writing a letter,” suggests Berkey. While it may feel a little intimidating to ask someone to keep it down, remember that people are usually pretty receptive to these requests and oftentimes don’t realize how loud they were being in the first place. Talking to your neighbors may result in them reconsidering their behavior or adding some soundproofing to their own home.

If you’re nervous about face-to-face meetings or if you’re neighbor isn’t home when you come by, try leaving a note with your contact info.

Willing to play the long game? Get to know your neighbors first as people over a period of a few months before bringing up their noise. They’ll be more receptive to your requests for quiet, and you’ll have a clearer idea of how to bring it up in a way they’ll hear.

Talk to your building manager or landlord.

Many apartments and condo complexes have on-site managers and leasing offices (while college campus dorms have resident advisors you can speak with). If talking to your neighbor didn’t put a stop to the problem, reach out to your building manager, RA, or landlord. Explain how the sounds are negatively impacting you and present your evidence to show the frequency and type of noise.

Speaking with a building manager or landlord who owns the other property may help because they may require carpeting or other soundproofing. They may also insist the tenant turn down the volume on their stereo or television after a certain hours or make other accommodations to address the issue.

If the tenant still doesn’t change their ways, property owners have more options for dealing with noise than a mere neighbor has. “Landlords can send default notices, termination notices or bring lawsuits seeking an injunction,” explains Berkey.

 

Credit: KLH49 | Getty Images

File a Noise Complaint

If the noise pollution is egregious, filing a noise complaint with your municipality may be the only way to get the attention and consideration of your neighbors. Unfortunately, each municipality has its own process for doing so. You will want to check your local city and county regulations to find out exactly how to file a noise complaint.

In some areas, the sheriff’s department will document and enforce official noise complaints. In others, you’ll need to file a form online with the city government. Note that many municipalities prioritize noise complaints that come from multiple sources, so you may want to urger your other neighbors to reach out to the authorities as well.

How NOT to Deal with Loud Neighbors

In the heat of the moment, it may feel easiest to leave a note or yell back. Resist the urge. There are a handful of things you should never resort to — no matter how frustrating the noise is.

Do not leave passive-aggressive notes.

As tempting as it is to write a snarky note and leave it on their door, it’s better to leave the sticky note wars to the movies. Don’t be sarcastic. Don’t shame or insult your neighbor, or mock them, or call them names. All of that will backfire.

While it’s alright to leave a brief and polite note, try to keep your emotions to a minimum. Remember that your neighbor probably isn’t trying to make you miserable; they’re just trying to enjoy their time at home.

If you do want to write a note, stick to the facts by writing what days and times they were loud and how the noise impacted you — for example, keeping you up all night or preventing you from working. Leave your name and your phone number or apartment number so your neighbors can contact you and discuss the situation. Sometimes a neighbor will be willing to work with you on solving the noise problem if you give them the chance. It’s worth a try.

Do not try to compete with their noise level.

Turning your TV volume up 10 notches higher or playing music to drown out the sound from next door might be a temporary fix, but there are a few issues with this method.

For starters, you’re adding to the noise, which defeats the purpose. And, while it may seem like you’re being nice by not complaining, you’re most likely annoying your neighbors back (or the next-door neighbors who surround you).

Likewise, while pounding back on the wall or floor may feel like you’re teaching your neighbor the best kind of lesson by giving them a taste of their own medicine, it will backfire. You’re just piling onto the mutual animosity. It’s so much better, in the long run, to first approach the situation kindly.

Do not confront them with anger.

There is no doubt that noisy neighbors are absolutely infuriating. But spewing anger can lead to unnecessary drama, fear, or less of a chance that they’ll listen. Although it’s upsetting, try to regain your composure before broaching the subject.

Only call the police as a last resort.

“Contacting your local law enforcement agency can seem like the easiest and best first action,” says Deputy Michael Wilson of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office (who spends his off-hours creating award-winning cosplays under the stage name Knightmage without disturbing his neighbors). But noise complaints “can quickly tie up officers that are needed for emergency situations.”

Deputy Wilson says contacting your local police or sheriff’s department should be an option of last resort. Aside from bothering your neighbors, he points out that calling law enforcement can further increase tensions between you and your neighbors.

Before calling law enforcement about a specific incident, Wilson suggests first speaking with your neighbors and then your landlord, if possible. If your neighbor won’t quiet down and you’re sure they’re breaking the law, use the local sheriff or police department’s non-emergency line. Never call 9-11 for a noise complaint.

When reporting the issue to authorities, “you may be extremely irritated but try to remain calm so that you can articulate the issue,” he says. “Try to have an accurate timeframe as to how long this has been going on.” He adds that you should also let the operator know that you have already exhausted your other options.