When a neighbor’s noise bothers you, the best solution for everyone is usually a polite conversation. Unfortunately, that doesn't always work. Some neighbors won’t respond to a friendly request, and sometimes the source of the noise isn't so easy to control—like a crying baby. When the amicable approach doesn't get the job done, it’s important to understand your rights and know where to look for help and information.
Noise and your lease
First, look to your lease. Most standard leases include a right to “quiet enjoyment” of the property, which means that you have a right to use your apartment in peace. And, in order to ensure that other tenants enjoy that right as well, your lease probably prohibits excessive noise. In essence, you can’t disturb your neighbors with your noise and they can’t disturb you with theirs.
Although your lease won’t provide you direct recourse against your neighbors, your landlord or property manager can enforce those lease provisions against your neighbor. So, a simple call to management may be all it takes to put a stop to the problem. Of course, some management companies are more responsive than others, and some tenants take notices from the landlord more seriously than others. If complaining to management doesn't solve the problem, you have additional legal options.
Most cities and/or counties have noise ordinances, local laws that restrict noise within city or county limits. The phrasing of these ordinances varies, and some include different requirements for different times of the day and night. In most areas, you can find a copy of your local ordinances on your city or county website. If you don’t know where to find your local government website, try searching any major search engine—the page you’re looking for should be among your first few results.
Noise ordinances are a powerful tool for those struggling with noisy neighbors because they are enforced by local police and Sheriff’s departments. When that stereo next door starts to shake your walls in the evening, simply pick up the phone and call the police. Depending on the source of the noise, other agencies may also be involved in enforcement. For example, in some areas local animal control will respond to ongoing problems with a barking dog.
Lawsuits against noisy neighbors
If all else fails, you may have a cause for action against your noisy neighbors for violating the local noise ordinance, interfering with your quiet enjoyment of your home and possible other claims. However, if your goal is to put an end to the noise then it probably isn't something you can resolve in small claims court. That means you’ll likely need an attorney to advise you on your potential claims, draft the complaint and help you present your case. This kind of action is expensive for everyone and likely to drive a lasting wedge between you and your neighbor.
It’s usually to everyone’s advantage to work out the problem with your neighbor if that’s possible, and only escalate to contacting the police or consulting an attorney when it becomes clear that no amicable solution is available.