It has happened time and time again. You try to relax with a good book, or watch some Netflix after a hard day, or just take a well-deserved nap. When all of a sudden, there’s a loud din coming from that apartment upstairs, or the next-door living room. Your neighbor is at it again, and your ears have to suffer the consequences.
Naturally, if you want the noise to stop, you will have to take some drastic steps. And sometimes those steps may involve you recording your neighbor’s noise as evidence in case it ever gets to court. But how exactly can you record your neighbors while they’re being loud, and more importantly, should you? This article is here to help you figure that out.
The legality of recording a neighbor, at least when it comes to collecting evidence of noise, is often murky. Broadly speaking, it’s never legal to directly record a neighbor in their home or yard, in any capacity, if they don’t consent to it. It can be misconstrued as snooping, which is a breach of privacy laws.
However, there are a few caveats when it comes to recording for a potential noise violation. Namely, you can gather up any audio evidence as long as you don’t record any private information that the neighbors are sharing through their shouts, screams, etc. To put it simply, if they are stomping their feet or dragging their furniture, it’s fine to record it, but not if they’re discussing private matters like finances, family drama, and so on.
In addition, you must make sure that you record from your own home, without invading the privacy of theirs. For instance, if you’re recording while outside, do it from within the confines of your own home or yard. Once you lean over their fence or through an opening, you’re effectively trespassing, and that’s a crime.
Anything can count as noise, from mere stomping on the floor to loud yells and shrieks. But in order for you to pursue a legal case against your neighbor, the loud sounds they make have to qualify as so-called nuisance noise.
Broadly speaking, you have three types of nuisance noise, so let’s go over them all.
As its name suggests, this type of noise occurs in the workplace. Of course, if people have to go out and do on-field work, e.g., construction, reroofing homes, etc., the noise they make also counts as occupational.
More often than not, the loud, annoying sounds of this type involve either the tools or the method of work. If an employee handles a broken piece of machinery, it will inevitably clatter or squeal, causing an irritating din. Furthermore, the same can happen if the worker happens to use the tool incorrectly.
In addition to the tools themselves, the approach of individual employees can also contribute to the noise. For instance, if they need to communicate with other colleagues, but don’t have the tech to do it, people will resort to shouting. Since it happens at the office or in the field, this shouting is technically occupational noise.
And speaking of technicalities, your neighbor can also create occupational noise at home. Granted, they have to be self-employed in order to do it, or at least work remotely from the comfort of their home. Once again, the noise they potentially make as they work from home is occupational since it’s done during their working hours.
Consumer product nuisance noise is, in a lot of ways, similar to occupational noise when tools are involved. The major difference is that the tools our neighbor uses aren’t work-related, but rather everyday gadgets and machines that they have around the house.
It’s also an extremely common type of noise for neighbors to experience. How many times have you heard the sound of a mixer or a juicer across your door? Have you had sleepless nights because of a dingy washing machine or a dryer that tumbles a little too much? That right there is consumer product nuisance noise, and if not handled at once, it can cause major issues for a long time.
Much like the prior noise type, this one is also something you can expect from your neighbors. Basically, a community nuisance noise is anything related to how your neighbors communicate on a day-to-day basis. Maybe they’re a bit too rowdy or boisterous with their family. Perhaps they tend to speak profanities a little too loudly when the game is on, or when they stub their toe.
Overall, community nuisance noises are best left for the community as a whole to address. Considering how common they are, they’re also the type of noise legal experts understand the best. So, if you require help from an advisor before recording anything, they will more than likely come prepared if community noise is the issue.
How to Record Your Neighbor’s Noise
In order to get the clearest evidence of noise, you will need the right tools for the job. And to get the best tools, you have to figure out a few crucial details.
Firstly, consider the range of your equipment and the clarity of the recording. If your neighbors are making a lot of noise, but it’s on the other side of their room, you’ll probably be able to hear it, but not record it properly. That’s because the sound is too far from the actual recorder itself.
Furthermore, even if the noise is fairly close, a wall between you and your neighbor will present a barrier that will muffle some of the sounds that pass through. In other words, even if you record it with a low-quality recorder, it will not be as clear as you need it to be. Therefore, you’ll require a high-end recorder model that can capture human speech.
Next, there’s the battery life. Capturing a few seconds of noise will not stand up in court, so you will need hours of footage. With that in mind, your recorder will probably have to stay on for a long period of time, and if it drains the battery while recording, you won’t capture enough footage. The best solution is to purchase a model whose battery can withstand several solid hours of uninterrupted audio capture.
If you’re getting a separate mic alongside your recording equipment, make sure that it’s compatible and that it cancels out the background noise. Again, you will want a clear audio recording of what your neighbors are putting you through, so muffled audio is a big no-no here. Moreover, if the microphone you buy doesn’t work with your recording equipment, you’ll only be throwing money away.
Depending on where you live and what type of recorder you have, you will place your equipment differently. For example, if you happen to use a cordless security camera, aim it at the yard. That way, you will pick up both the sounds of your neighbors roughhousing and potential footage to go along with the audio.
If your neighbors are in the yard, but there’s a hedge preventing you from security camera recording, try to use a cleverly cloaked device and place it close to the hedge. For example, you can use this voice recorder pen; simply leave it working right on the outdoor table. Even if the neighbors spot the device, they will assume it’s an ordinary pen and pay no attention to it.
Of course, if you’re recording from your apartment, you can place a regular recorder as close to the noise source as possible. So, if you share a wall with your neighbors, place it near that wall, or even on a shelf hanging from it.
On the other hand, you can place it next to an open window. That way you’ll be able to capture all of the voices coming from the neighbor’s windows nearest to yours. Whatever you choose to do, make sure there are as few distractions as possible between the device and the source of the din.
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While there are unreasonable neighbors out there, most people tend to compromise if you approach them the right way. For example, you can always talk to your neighbor about the level of noise. Let them know that it’s not good for your health, and that it’s obstructing you from your everyday activities.
If they don’t cooperate, feel free to contact their landlord (if they have one) and bring the problem up with them. More often than not, they will try to set everything right and convince your neighbor to stop making noise.
Sometimes, talking to the neighbor simply isn’t enough. With that in mind, if your building or your neighborhood has a local organization that is in charge of keeping everything clean and safe, discuss the matter with them. If your neighbors are too noisy, chances are high that other neighbors will join you in your pursuit.
Unreasonable neighbors are sadly all too common. However, we advise you don’t go to court just yet. Instead, get a legal expert to act as a mediator during informal talks with your neighbor. An expert backing you up may convince your neighbor to pipe down. But when that fails…
A legal expert on your side is an excellent asset even before any trial begins. They can coach you into handling the matter professionally. You’ll be able to legally force your neighbors into proper behavior. In that case, your recording will serve as solid evidence for their misbehavior.
Now, while contacting the police is perfectly acceptable if the noise level comes from a dangerous source (e.g., domestic abuse), we advise against it unless it’s absolutely necessary.
The police may arrive at your home only to find your neighbors behaving normally. That way, you’ll get reprimanded by the police for a false alarm. Plus your relationship with your neighbor will deteriorate further. Finally, if the police arrive and they see your recording equipment, you’ll have additional problems on your hands.
To a lot of people, it’s tempting to get back at the neighbors for all the noise they make. And while that strategy can work, we strongly advise against it. In fact, here’s a brief list of all the things you should avoid doing as a reaction to noisy neighbors:
- Trying to be louder than them and shouting at them to stop
- Blasting even louder noises at the neighbor during their rest hours
- Leaving passive-aggressive or even outright insulting notes on their door
- Confronting them with anger and range directly without talking things over first.
A Quick Summary
As is the case with many noisy situations, you can always try to soundproof your home in such a way that not even a peep from your neighbor reaches you. Alternatively, you can try and discuss the matters with your neighbors. But if all else fails, then grab that recorder and capture them in the act. One well-placed recording can mean the difference between a life of utter chaos and one of blissful silence.
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