Having loud neighbors can be incredibly distracting, especially if you’re forced to spend long hours at home. For example, if you’re working out of your home office, you’d probably like to have peace and quiet all day long, not just at night. So today, we’re going to figure out how to stop neighbors from playing loud music and being generally raucous during the day.
The idea for this article came to me a few weeks ago, as I was lounging on the couch watching Mr. Bean: The Animated Series with my nephew. In one of the episodes we saw, the famous man-child was struggling with this very issue. While the couple next door was blaring loud music in the yard and hammering nails, their children were diligently practicing their trombone and drum skills. Even the baby and the dog added their voices to the cacophony.
As expected, Mr. Bean found a creative solution to the problem. He recorded the various sounds the family next door was making during the day. Then, he waited for nighttime to play it back to them, while he put on earmuffs and went to bed.
Clearly, it wouldn’t do for us to bring out the ol’ recorder every time something like this happens. In any case, I’m sure that nothing good can come from becoming angry and taking revenge. Instead, I suggest brushing up on the noise laws in your area and the basics of neighborly relations. So consider this article your crash course in both!
Does the U.S. Have Noise Regulation Laws That Are Applicable During the Day?
When it comes to dealing with noisy neighbors, noise regulation laws are going to be your biggest obstacle. As I’ve discussed in my article about playing loud music late at night, most of them only restrict noise at night. Still, there are plenty of regulations at local levels and many residential buildings have noise rules as well.
First, let’s talk about the history of noise regulation. If you’re interested in delving deeper, I recommend checking out the article I linked to. It has plenty of resources for further research in it — though most of them only apply to night hours.
As far as I know, noise pollution laws in the U.S. started with the 1972 Noise Control Act. In fact, that act was the official beginning of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC). The new regulations relied on research to establish the threshold of human tolerance for noise at 90 dbA and higher. Understandably, most of the operations focused on restricting noisy traffic and machinery.
Fast forward a couple of years, and we saw the same governing body pass the Quiet Communities Act. Essentially, the 1978 act promised that the government would pour even more resources into educating the public about noise pollution. More importantly, the act set up a plan to continue coming up with effective solutions to the problem.
The End of Federal Noise Regulations
Unfortunately, if such governmentally funded research ever existed, it quickly screeched to a halt when Congress stripped ONAC of funding in 1981. In fact, the EPA was largely responsible for the budget cut, as several officials recommended the disbanding of ONAC, even though it had been doing a pretty good job up until that point. Sadly, the program didn’t have allies on either side of the political spectrum to help save it.
So our brief flirtation with noise regulation laws came to an end. It was expected that the business of protecting the American public from hearing damage would then be taken on by the state and local governmental bodies. However, a decade later, hardly any progress had been made.
Now, all that remains of this history is the few “quiet hours” regulations which usually only limit the noise levels during the night. Still, many cities have zoned areas which determine the noise ordinances and the fines one might get for violating them. By which logic, the residential areas ought to be the quietest, while more noise is to be expected in industrial zones.
If you’re struggling with loud neighbors, I recommend reading up on your local laws. This list of cities can get you started, but you can also research county (e.g. Marion County regulations) or state regulations (e.g. Minnesota noise rules).
Noise Laws in Other Countries
Now, I also wanted to mention that not all countries are as lax about noise regulations as we have been. Unlike the U.S., many countries across Europe and Asia have laws in place that forbid loud noises, particularly during daylight hours. In the regions where such regulations exist, they are often cultural in origin.
For example, the culture of Japan is such that the people do their very best not to disturb others at all hours of the day. Outside of Tokyo, you aren’t likely to see someone yelling on the street or talking loudly on their phone in public. Still, when noise disputes do happen, city workers come in to run audio tests and determine if the complaints are legitimate.
Other countries also have a culture of respecting quiet, at least during certain hours of the day. According to the Ramstein-Miesenbach Office of Public Order, residents of the U.S. Air Base in Ramstein, Germany occasionally have trouble adhering to the local noise ordinances.
In addition to having strict noise regulations during night hours, Sundays, and German national holidays, the local government also prohibits loud noises between the hours of 1 and 3 pm. Many other German municipalities have similar laws in place — as do countless other European cities. Of course, that doesn’t mean that people can make all the noise they want outside of those hours.
I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of having a few guaranteed hours of silence every day. So if you’d like to get something similar passed into law at least on a local level where you live, I suggest contacting your local lawmakers.
Apartment Building Regulations
Ultimately, if you live in the U.S. and you have a neighbor who won’t stop blasting their tunes day in, day out, I’m afraid that the law isn’t likely to be on your side. However, there’s one last option we haven’t talked about — building rules.
If you’re renting or leasing an apartment in a reputable area, the deal probably includes signing a bunch of paperwork. But not all of it is designed to swindle you.
Sometimes, residential buildings add a “quiet enjoyment” clause to the contract, guaranteeing a peaceful environment to all tenants. Moreover, it’s the building’s management’s duty to ensure that that promise is fulfilled. If your building doesn’t have such a clause, you might want to mention that at the next tenant meeting.
How to Get Your Neighbors to Keep It down During the Day
Now that we’ve gone over your legal options, we can get into the neighborly relations part of this article. If you follow the steps I’ve laid out here, your neighbor will definitely tone it down. But first things first!
Take a Breather
The best piece of advice I have for you when dealing with noisy neighbors is to keep your cool. We want to avoid conflict if at all possible. So if this is the first time your neighbors have turned up their music in a long time, you could just pop on your noise-canceling earmuffs and let it slide.
Alternately, you could make yourself scarce for a little while and go for a walk. On the other hand, if walking isn’t an option, you could appoint the calmest roommate or family member to act as a mediator. Hotheads need not apply.
One time, the neighbors I shared a bedroom wall with were having a party with incredibly loud music which lasted from daytime hours to well after midnight. Needless to say, I was ready to call the cops by the second hour. Fortunately, I was still clear-headed enough to tap in my then-roommate to take care of the situation in my stead. That made the next few steps much easier.
Knock On the Wall
Hey, I’m all for remaining seated if the situation allows for it. When my neighbors were having their party, I was on my couch, conveniently positioned against the shared wall. So it took no effort at all to reach out and give the wall a few sharp knocks.
Granted, in my case, the few sharp knocks quickly descended into banging as I realized that my neighbors couldn’t, in fact, hear me because the music was just too loud. Hence, I let my roommate handle it. Still, if the neighbors’ music isn’t loud enough to cover the sound of someone banging on the walls, this could be enough to settle the issue.
They probably won’t even be angry with you. Why, just put yourself in the same situation. How would you respond to someone knocking on your walls? If you’re anything like me, you’d just be contrite and tone down the activity that provoked the knock.
Call Your Neighbors — Or Show Up At Their Doorstep
If the noise is something you’ve been dealing with consistently for a while now, it may be time to talk to your neighbors directly. Obviously, you want to be as polite as possible here, as I have suggested in a prior article. But then again, that is why the first step required clearing our heads.
If possible, send the first request for silence via a text message. Thanks to the wonders of technology, you may not even have to talk to your neighbors in person. Moreover, having a text exchange ensures that there will be a paper trail if worse comes to worst.
In the same vein, you may also want to record your conversations with your neighbors, if you do end up having to call them or talk to them face-to-face. Just make sure that recording conversations is legal wherever you live.
No matter how you establish contact, remain calm and polite. Furthermore, if the music is loud because your neighbors are having a party, you could ask that they warn you the next time they plan to do so. That way, you could plan to be somewhere else on the day in question. Alternately, a warning would give you ample time to charge your noise-canceling headphones and select a good podcast to listen to.
On the other hand, if your neighbors are being particularly stubborn, you could also try to educate them on the local laws or your building regulations. And, if that fails, you may issue a final warning before involving the landlord.
Contact the Building Management
If you’ve realized that your neighbors are far more likely to listen to the building management than yourself, you can go ahead and contact whoever’s in charge. Hopefully, your neighbors will listen to the landlord. In any case, if your lease or rental agreement has a quiet enjoyment clause, your landlord will have a vested interest in resolving the issue. After all, if they can’t manage it, they’d be breaking the contract.
Additionally, while you have the management’s attention, you could use the opportunity to suggest the implementation of building-wide quiet hours. If you have a better idea to ensure silence, that’s when you should pitch it. Alternately, you could just bring it up as a talking point during your next tenant meeting.
Make an Official Complaint
But what if the landlord doesn’t get anywhere with your neighbors either? First of all, congratulations: you have the most stubborn neighbors on the whole planet. Secondly, the next step is inevitable.
If the music has reached the point of being unbearable, you can always call the police. However, as I’ve emphasized in my article about playing music late at night, remember to call the number for non-urgent complaints. If you’re in the U.S., just change that 9 in 911 to a 3.
The officers may show up with a decibel meter and measure the noise levels in your apartment as well as outside your neighbor’s place. However, if things have reached the boiling point, you may also want to take some drastic actions.
Sue for Nuisance
The only time I could imagine suing someone over the amount of noise they’re making would be if they were harming living beings with their activities. So, if my dog were to grow more restless every day while my neighbors blasted their music, I’d be understandably upset as well. And if they had refused to tone it down despite all the warnings, I may decide to report their behavior.
Fortunately, suing for nuisance is actually easier than one might think — you won’t even need a lawyer. You’d file a report at your local small claims court, and come in with all the proof you can get your hands on. That includes:
- Proving that the noise was ongoing and overwhelming. Recordings with different time stamps would do the trick here. You can also inclose decibel readings and police reports that may be on the record.
- Providing proof that the people you’re accusing are, in fact, the source of the noise.
- Proving that you’ve asked them to stop on numerous occasions. You can prove both of these points by providing text message exchanges between you and the neighbor.
With any luck, your suit will result in a lasting change of behavior.
Final Thoughts: Should You Retaliate?
Finally, we only have one last question to answer. Should you retaliate when your neighbors are playing loud music?
With all due respect to Mr. Bean, revenge doesn’t really seem like the most productive solution. It would only negatively affect your relationship with your neighbors. Still, Mr. Bean certainly isn’t the only one who’s ever contemplated such methods.
The guy in the video below certainly put a lot of thought and effort into his revenge. As it happens, it ended up pretty similar to Mr. Bean’s! However, since the video is currently sitting at almost 3.5 million views on YouTube, there’s a chance that his neighbors have actually seen the evidence of his pettiness online. As gratifying as it is to see someone go through with their payback plans, I’m sure it did nothing to solve the underlying tension.
Hopefully, following the plan I’ve laid out above should stop the noise altogether. In the meantime, you can mask the music with white noise, earmuffs, and noise-canceling headphones.