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How to Get Neighbors to Turn Down the Noise
by Cora Jordan
Copyright © 1994 Nolo Press
- Talk to Your Neighbor
- Get a Copy of Your Local Ordinance
- Warn Your Neighbor in Writing
- Suggest Mediation
- Call the Police
- Sue for Nuisance
- Side Bar--If You're a Tenant
It's 2 in the morning. You're lying in bed trying to sleep because you
have a big
meeting tomorrow morning. You feel a pounding sensation in your head. At
you think it's a headache. But then you realize that it's the funky
blasting from your next-door neighbor's stereo, reverberating through
your bedroom and rattling your windows.
Before you pound on the neighbor's door and yell something you'll
even worse, resign yourself to living with the noise, try some more
1. Talk to Your Neighbor
Your first step is to talk to your neighbor and try to resolve your
in person. It's hard to believe, but sometimes neighbors are not aware
are causing a disturbance. Even if you're ready to punch somebody's
try a little sugar instead.
2. Get a Copy of Your Local Ordinance
Your next step is to get a copy of your local noise laws. Most cities
counties have ordinances that control the times, types and loudness of
example, many local ordinances prohibit unreasonable vehicle noise (like
the car horn early every morning for a carpool) or dogs barking all
every night. Noisy neighbors are in for a warning or even a fine. You
can look up
your local ordinance at city hall, a public law library or the public
Make at least two copies of it, one for your neighbor and one for
3. Warn Your Neighbor in Writing
If things don't improve, ask your neighbor again -- this time in writing
quiet down. Don't make threats, but state that if the situation doesn't
you'll be forced to notify the authorities. Enclose a copy of the noise
ordinance. Keep a copy of your letter; you'll need it if, as a last
later sue your neighbor.
4. Suggest Mediation
Most cities offer free or low-cost mediation services, which means they
an impartial mediator who will sit down with you and your neighbor and
help you resolve your differences.
Just call the mediation service; someone there will contact the neighbor
suggest mediation. (These people are very good at convincing others to
mediation a chance.)
5. Call the Police
If you have done all of the above and your neighbor has responded by
the volume, now is the time to call the police (or the Animal Control
the problem is a barking dog). Try to get the police to come while the
Of course, you can call the police on a noisy neighbor the first time
gets too loud for your taste. But the police will be more sympathetic to
situation if they see that you have tried to solve the problem on your
6. Sue for Nuisance
If all else fails, you can get your neighbor's attention-and maybe some
suing in small claims court. You can sue your neighbor for nuisance if
neighbor's noise unreasonably interferes with your enjoyment of your
the lawsuit, you ask for money to compensate you for the interference
right to peacefully enjoy your home.
Small claims court is easy and inexpensive, and you don't need a lawyer.
You will need to show the following:
- There is excessive and disturbing noise.
- Your enjoyment of your property is diminished.
- You have asked the person to stop the noise (your letter should be enough to prove this).
To prove your case, you can use police reports, witnesses, recordings,
testimony and the testimony of neighbors or other witnesses.
The amount you'll want to ask for will depend on how much the noise
Did you lose sleep? Were you unable to carry on your usual activities,
reading, playing music or talking to friends? Decide on a reasonable
amount per day, and multiply that figure by the number of days you've
seriously bothered. The amount of money you can ask for in small claims
limited, between $2,000 and $5,000 in most states.
Side Bar--If You're a Tenant
Noisy neighbors are always bad news. But when you share walls with the
insensitive neighbor, the problem is especially vexing. The good news
is that, in addition to all your other options, you have built-in allies
battle to keep your apartment livable: your lease or rental agreement
Remember the lease or rental agreement you signed? Chances are your
signed one too. Standard leases and rental agreements contain clauses
entitle you to "quiet enjoyment" of your home. A neighbor who is
stereo in an unreasonable manner is probably violating the lease or
agreement and can be evicted for doing so.
If you warn your neighbor about the noise in writing and are sure that
entitles you to a reasonable amount of quiet, send a copy of the lease
your letter. In your letter, tell the neighbor that the next complaint
will be to
the landlord or neighborhood association if the noise continues.
If warning your neighbor doesn't work, go to your landlord. Most tenants
like to complain to the landlord or manager about unreasonable noise or
nuisances because they are afraid of being branded as troublemakers. But
neighbors are probably bothered by the noise too. Get together with them
complain to the landlord as a group. It's easier and you might get
results. Most landlords don't want arguments between tenants and won't
with tenants who cause trouble by ignoring signed lease or rental
Your landlord will probably tell the noisy tenant to pipe down or face
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