Thursday, January 12, 2012

What Can You Do About Noisy Neighbors?

     My tenants are having a noise problem again. They called the other day and said they'd been woken up on Saturday night about 3 a.m. by some loud banging and thumping coming from upstairs.

     We've been through this before. The upstairs neighbors have a wooden floor. When the current tenants moved in, they had no rugs. The condo policy says at least 70% of a wooden floor has to be covered by carpeting. So eventually, after much prodding from us, the upstairs neighbors got a rug. Or so they tell us. We don't know how big the rug is, or whether it really covers 70% of the wood floor, or if there's proper padding under the rug to dampen the noise of their footsteps. We're attempting to find out through the condo association.

     The condo association has a regulation banning excessive noise, especially at night. The upstairs tenants got a letter from the condo management, asking them to please be quiet and considerate of their downstairs neighbors, especially during the hours between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. It seems they were getting the message and being considerate for while, but slipped up the other night.

     Have any of you suffered from excessive noise from neighbors? It's a bitch, isn't it?

     B and I had a conversation about this last night. But she blames my tenants. They live in an apartment building, she says, and everybody knows you get noise in an apartment building. She recalled, during her single days, renting an apartment in an old building, and actually being amazed at how quiet it was. Then one evening she came home from work, only to hear clomp, clomp, clomp on her ceiling.

     It turned out the apartment above her had been empty. Now a big strapping single guy moved in, and treated her to plenty of noise. "I remember, every night, I could hear him take off his shoes," she told me. "I'd hear a little creak from the bed as he sat down. Then, clunk, as he took off one shoe. And another clunk, as he took off the other one."

     She continued, "But what do you do? You live in an apartment. Someone's right on top of you. You've got to expect some noise."

     I have more sympathy for my tenants. I recall in my divorced days, 2002 - '07, I moved into a townhouse. My next-door neighbor (we shared a wall) was a quiet guy who kept to himself, and I never heard a peep out of him. Then he sold his place. A fellow in town bought it, and moved his sister-in-law in, with her two children and two dogs.

     The kids were fine. But the dogs were a horror. I don't know what kind they were; but they were tall and sleek, weighing probably around 80 pounds. They had short hair and big mouths. And they used them. Every time a neighbor walked past her townhouse, the two dogs would jump at her windows and bark aggressively, lunging at the glass. Then she would tie them up outside (against the development's policy), and when people went by they charged toward them until they were stopped by the end of their chains, and again, lunge and bark aggressively until the person got at least 100 feet away.

     I complained a dozen times to the woman; and another several times to the management. Fortunately, some other residents also complained (lending credence to my story, so I didn't come across as just a complaining neighbor). After about six months, the woman finally moved out. I don't know what went on behind the scenes, or who talked to her, or her brother-in-law, the owner. But she was gone. The place eventually went back on the market; a normal person bought it and moved in.

     Currently, at our house, we have a next-door neighbor with a dog. The neighbors have a fenced-in backyard and they occasionally let their dog out. And he barks. But it doesn't bother us. He's not outside very much, and he only barks when he sees another dog, which isn't that often. And also, their dog is not ten feet away from us; he's 100 feet away, and we barely hear him when we're inside our house, especially in the winter with the windows closed. Plus ... our dog is in love with the next-door neighbor's dog. It's cute!

     So, I don't know what's going to happen with my tenant. Noise levels are pretty subjective things. What bothers one person may not bother another. And how many rules can you put in to ensure peace and quiet? If people are noisy and inconsiderate, is anything going to make them easy to live with?

     People complain about the noise level of the political scene. But you can turn off your TV; you can avoid the nasty, opinionated websites. You can't get away from your noisy neighbor.

20 comments:

Mac n' Janet said...

Our daughter lived in an apartment for about 4 years and when we visited the noise would drive me crazy, she didn't seem to notice it much. She said it was only really bad when they were out on the balcony above here.

Catch Her in the Wry said...

Did you address this problem in your lease? If so, and the tenant has been contacted many times about the infraction and refuses to cooperate, then it's time to evict them and look for a new tenant.

As landlord, you also have a right to inspect the apartment to see if their carpeting meets the condo requirements. As owner, you are responsible to the condo association so you need to protect yourself.

As for noisy next door neighbors, if you're not their landlord, there's not much you can do unless they are breaking some laws.

Rubye Jack said...

This is why I so much love my little house. I lived in apts for years in SF. Not only do you have to tolerate the noise of others but also the smells of their cooking. Lots of diversity in San Francisco.
I discovered that a good old box fan would cover up much of the noise and now have a habit of sleeping with the noise of a fan even though things are quite quiet where I am now.

Stephen Hayes said...

Fortunately I haven't had a problem yet with noisy neighbors. My problem is when the garbage people show up at three a.m. to collect garbage.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

We had issues with the neighbors for a while. The house next door was a rental, and the tenants were college boys. They were awful. Now the owners kids live in the house (girl and boy) and they are wonderful. They shovel our walkway when it snows and do other kind things too. Dianne

Olga said...

Our neighbors have a small dog with a very big mouth. It barks all the time and I don't understand how they can stand it. But otherwise they are the best neighbors ever so we just try to tune it out as well.

rosaria said...

It's my worst nightmare, actually, to end up back to an apartment house full of kids, pets, teens, and insensitive souls. The problem is compounded if the management does not enforce rules.

Jono said...

There are a couple of hundred yards between me and my nearest neighbors. It's still too close.

Douglas said...

For many, many years I worked "graveyard" (midnight to 8AM) and had to put up with neighbors mowing lawns, working on their cars (or boats), playing music, and other stuff that bothers no one who worked normal hours. I bought ear plugs (foam) and learned to sleep without problems.

I also lived (while in the Navy) in an apartment that was part of the second floor of a house. The landlady would just kill the electricity if I played my stereo too loudly after 11 PM.

Janette said...

I would ask the to video (with time stamp) the noise. It is much easier to "show" someone how noisy it is.
If you have a decent condo (not cheap) your tenants have every right to be reasonably undisturbed. With the rental market what it is I would work hard to make sure good tenants are happy....

Nance said...

Before The Fall (pre-recession), we took an apartment in San Diego and spent two months there/two months here at home on the East Coast, year-round. It's what we had to do to be part of our grandson's life there. It was my first time back in a multi-family dwelling since my twenties.

I'm really clear now that I'll do almost anything to avoid the apartment fate in the future. They have single-story, stand-alone condo cottage communities here and, if we're ever able to sell our house and downsize, that's what I'll have or just shoot me.

Snowbrush said...

I wish I had some good thoughts about this. I just know that I would do very, very poorly with a noisy neighbor.

Knatolee said...

I grew up with noisy, partying neighbours from hell. I'm sure it's partly why I've ended up living on a quiet farm where the nearest house is a kilometre away! I feel for everyone who has to suffer through noise like that.

Donna said...

I had neighbors above me who gave parties on the weekends. One Sat nt they were blasting music and dancing all over the apartment. I asked them to be more quiet and they told me they were young and liked to party.
On mon morning, I got up at 5am and blasted music and went into the hall and yelled up to them that I was young and liked to party too only in the morning.
It never happened again. I'm 62 now-don't think I would want to handle it this way now-but it did work. Also, no other neighbors were disturbed because I was renting in a 2 family house.

Robert the Skeptic said...

We had a problem with a neighbor leaving their Beagle out in their back yard when they weren't home. The dog would howl for hours.

One Saturday night it was particularly bad; I got dressed and went around the block to their house; arriving just as they did. I told the guy to his face that I didn't appreciate the noise. He blew it off.

The next time I recorded the noise and sent a link to the recording barking and a letter to local law enforcement animal control. They called me and asked if they wanted them to just talk to the guy or cite him. I said to give him a warning.

That worked for about three months - unattended dog howling again. Sent another letter and link to the barking to law enforcement with a copy of my first letter. Said I want them cited and that I am WILLING to appear in court.

The dog has been silent ever since. My rule is to give someone one warning - if they don't get it, bring in the heavy sledge hammer.

Grace said...

There are lots of affordable soundproofing methods. I've used Green Glue - it's cheap and you can do it yourself. I bought it from Sound Isolation Company.

Anonymous said...

I currently live in a side by side home and my neighbors repeatedly open and close their garage door which is in major need of lubrication. Recently their grand-daughter moved in with them and one evening she opened and closed that door 14 times until after midnight. I finally asked her if she was finished and she waited until I was back in bed and did it 4 more times to be a jerk. Unfortunately, I rent from them until my home is ready, so not many options there. Keep in mind, when I say 14 times that is up 14 times and down 14 times. Nice!!!!

Anonymous said...

We live in a high rise condo. One of the first floor owners has complained at length about noise in the lobby and mail room adjacent to her unit. The Board has told her, politely but firmly, that this is a multi-family building and a bit of noise from time to time must be expected particularly if you are in close proximity to the lobby and mail room. It was there when you bought the place and you should have taken notice of possible noise problems.

Kathy Sterndahl said...

I've only lived in an apartment once, but that was enough. The 'oversized' young woman upstairs decided to lose weight by jogging around her apartment every day. Fortunately, she did it at a regular time, so I was also to schedule my daily walk for the same time. My pet peeve, though, is dogs that are permitted to bark all night. I've learned to sleep with earplugs.

Anonymous said...

As I'm reading this blog, my neighbor is hammering the wall. its almost midnight!!! damn you