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Living near an excessively noisy neighbor can be stressful, annoying, and disruptive. While you may not have the legal right to address every single noise your neighbor makes, some noises that substantially and unreasonably interfere with your comfort and convenience in your own home may qualify as nuisances.
If you’re a renter, you may be able to hand the problem off to your landlord to help resolve it. But there may be limits to what your landlord can or should do, so it’s important to understand your rights and the procedures for addressing nuisance noises.
One of the biggest problems in addressing nuisance complaints for noisy neighbors is that, in most jurisdictions, there are no hard-and-fast rules for what qualifies as a nuisance. Most communities have specified quiet hours, typically around 9:00 p.m or 10:00 p.m., to 7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. During these times, noises are required to stay below a certain level. Noises that breach these limitations may often be easier to address than noises during unrestricted times.
A key measure in considering if a noise is a legal nuisance is the reasonableness of the sound. Having a motorcycle-riding neighbor who starts their bike up at 10:00 a.m. every morning and then drives away may feel annoying to some, but it’s not unreasonable for a person to use their own vehicle to come and go from their home. Conversely, starting a motorcycle at 7:00 a.m. every morning just to loudly rev it and let it run in the driveway for an hour, could likely be considered unreasonable, and therefore, a nuisance.
It can also be difficult to draw the line between nuisance or not when it comes to barking dogs or other noisy pets. Some jurisdictions may outline more stringent rules on what’s considered an unreasonable level of barking. A neighbor’s dog that barks whenever a car pulls into their driveway is very different than a dog who barks continuously throughout the day and night.
However, the legal validity of any noise complaint will likely hinge on the local rules and ordinances in your area.
If you believe that your neighbor’s excessive noise level is a nuisance, there are a few places you should start when addressing the problem.
Start by keeping a record of when you hear the noises and how often you hear them. This record will be helpful if you need to escalate your complaint.
In most cases, after documenting to prove you may be dealing with a true nuisance, your next step should be talking to your neighbor directly. Often, perfectly reasonable people may be making a lot more noise than they realize, or they may not realize that the level of noise they make is bothering you. Having a friendly, non-confrontational conversation could let your neighbor know that there are certain noises bothering you, and they may adjust their behavior.
Make note of the times you talked to your neighbor and what their responses were.
Of course, if you have reason to be afraid of a conversation with your neighbor, like if their noise consists of a lot of fighting or threatening, violent yelling, it would be reasonable to skip this step and go straight to your landlord for help.
So what if your neighbor isn’t cooperative, or is unable to stop the noises? This would likely be a good time to talk to your landlord. Share the notes you’ve kept detailing how often this is a problem and what steps you’ve already taken to try and remedy the situation. Your landlord may be more likely to start working on a resolution for you if they can tell you’ve already tried to address it yourself or they have reason to believe this is indeed a nuisance and not just an occasional sound.
Your landlord is limited in what they are required to do to help you address noise complaints. In most areas, landlords are forbidden from causing unreasonable, uncomfortable disturbances that impact your ability to enjoy your home. They’re also responsible for preventing their agents or other tenants from causing unreasonable disturbance as well.
So your landlord will likely try to help you resolve your conflict with the person in the apartment next to you, but wouldn’t be required to do anything about a barking dog across the street in someone else’s apartment complex. However, you could still ask your landlord for help or advice, in case they know how to better address noise issues in the neighborhood in general. Just be aware that there could be more limitations.
In some cases, just hearing from the landlord that a problem exists can be enough to scare a noisy neighbor straight. If the noise doesn’t stop, continue documenting the problems and follow up with your landlord. Depending on your lease, your landlord may be able to impose penalties, such as fines, that could encourage your neighbors to watch their noise level.
In extreme cases, your landlord may start the eviction process on especially loud neighbors, but be aware that this can take quite awhile in many jurisdictions. If your otherwise helpful landlord hasn’t solved the noisy neighbor problem right away, ask for follow up or updates. It could be that they’re doing everything they can to help you, but that they’re tied up in waiting times.
If your neighbor’s pets are creating the noise problem and you cannot get a resolution, you may be able to invoke a local noise ordinance, pet ordinance or state law. Laws regulating pets and other animals often have the terms “dogs,” “animal control,” or “animal law enforcement” in the title.
The following animal behavior, pet owner actions, or other conditions are typically regulated by such laws:
Having more information on the laws being broken can help you determine if you should contact the police or animal control services.
In extreme cases, you may need to call the police or animal control to file a noise complaint or to address a dog barking. But be aware: private nuisance complaints are usually civil problems, not criminal, so there may be limitations on what the police can actually do. This step can also strain your relationship with your neighbor, which could make it harder to resolve any further issues just between yourselves. However, if you think there is a genuine safety risk, this option may be available to you.
Nuisance lawsuits may be difficult to win. You may have to prove you sustained some type of harm that is worth financial compensation, or that the nuisance is so severe that the courts need to intervene and require your neighbor to stop what they’re doing.
These results aren’t impossible, but they may be tricky, and could require knowing the exact technical language of the local rules to make a strong case in your favor. Hiring an experienced landlord tenant attorney or law firm can help you understand your options, and, if necessary, better prepare your legal case.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified landlord tenant lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact an attorney in your area from our directory to discuss your specific legal situation.