Dealing with a Noisy Neighbor

Everyone who has lived in an apartment has probably been the victim of an unruly neighbor or two. The longer these disruptions continue, the more irritable we become, and the more we worry about dealing with a noisy neighbor.

Imagine this scenario:

It’s 11 p.m. on a Thursday night and you've been having the most horrible week at work. You've been working on a presentation all night long and you’re finally done. All you can think about now is your big, soft, squishy pillow and your blankey. You've had your chamomile tea and you’re all tucked in for the night ready to dream about sugar plum fairies and the land of Nod when the distinct thump thump thump of the beginning of “Bootylicious” begins to emanate from the apartment of your downstairs neighbor.

Or this scenario:

You had a great night with the guys last night and your head is just a little bit in pain. You’re about ready to take your second dose of aspirin when you hear shouting in the hallway. Your next door neighbors are at it again. Before you know it, there goes the slamming door, breaking glass and more shouting that seems to go on forever.

Odds are, if you create a scene or confront your neighbor in a hostile manner, your neighbor will probably be provoked into making your life even worse. There are ways to go about getting your neighbor to lower the sound levels while keeping the peace in your apartment community.

The Polite Approach

It's always been said that you attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Try being polite but direct with the neighbors who are creating the issues and approach them with your concern. Try to calmly tell them how their noise is affecting you. There is a good chance that your neighbor didn't realize that his nightly treadmill antics were causing that much of a problem and he may switch to a different exercise routine. If the idea of face to face confrontation is not for you, a polite letter or email may do the trick. Record the dates of any letters you send, along with copies, as well as any confrontations that may have taken place. If the polite approach does not work, you may need this documentation.

The Lease-agreement Approach

Most leases have a written clause regarding appropriate noise levels. (If you haven’t already gotten your place, don’t forget to check to make sure your lease will have a clause relating to this, as noise is one of the most common problems facing a renter). If talking to your neighbor did not result in a positive response, or if it actually made the situation worse, you might try talking to them about the rules found in your lease. Perhaps if your neighbor sees the rules in writing, and knowing they signed a copy themselves, they will understand that the noise really is a problem.

The Landlord Approach

If you've already confronted the neighbor, either in person or by letter, and they are also aware of the rules in the lease and the noise is still a serious problem, indicate that you will have no other option other than to bring the noise problem to the attention of your landlord. Begin by speaking with your landlord about the situation and then follow up your conversation with a letter in which you describe how you've attempted to resolve the issue. In the letter, outline the dates that you've spoken with your neighbor and the details of those conversations. Keep a copy of all correspondence for your files. If there is a clause in your lease regarding noise levels, your landlord should be able to enforce this policy to the tenants of the building.

You may want to speak with other neighbors to determine if the problem you’re encountering is also affecting them. The larger the problem, the more influence you will be able to use with your landlord. If possible, try to get your neighbors to also contact your landlord to voice their discontent. Again, and as always, make sure to document your conversations.

If all of these tactics do not work, call the non-emergency police number during one of the times when the disturbance is occurring.
Your final option, if nothing works to stop the irksome interruptions, is to find a new apartment. Although this is a drastic measure, if the noise is a serious problem and your landlord isn't taking the appropriate steps to rectify the situation, it would be for the best for you to find a place to live where you can be at peace. Although you’ll probably want to retaliate, this is not the best idea. You’ll only cause potential trouble for yourself. The best thing to do would be to move on.

Regardless of which of these tactics work for you, before attempting any of these, take a look at what you’re calling a disturbance. If your neighbor’s dog barks, well, that’s normal and part of living in an apartment. If your neighbor’s dog barks for three hours straight starting at midnight, that is a disturbance.

This post was updated on April 1, 2013. 

Read more tips & advice for coping with noisy neighbors:

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