Whether you live in an apartment building or a house, noisy neighbors can be quite a nuisance. Organizing parties in the middle of the night, vacuuming at 5 am, or turning on their blender at midnight — there seems to be no limit to their annoying activities.
Can any of these disturbances be classed as unreasonable noise? And if so, what can you do about it? Stay tuned to find out!
According to federal and state laws, unreasonable noise is defined as any type of noise that is not in accordance with local noise ordinance standards. These laws dictate which noise levels are allowed during different times of day and night. In addition, they refer to all types of noise, be it industrial, residential, or commercial.
Every state has its own regulations that determine quiet hours and acceptable decibel levels during this time. Furthermore, some states might even leave that decision to counties and cities, with each of them having different rules based on their geographical location, population, and so on.
When talking about unreasonable noise, people usually refer to industrial noise. This term includes all sounds made by industrial machinery, vehicles, workers at construction sites, road repairs, etc. In order to be allowed, such noise cannot exceed the legal limit that each state/county/city determines.
However, unreasonable noise does not have to be purely industrial. In fact, neighborly unreasonable noise is one of the biggest causes of reports in most states. This type of noise includes parties, loud music, arguments, uncontrolled pet noises (usually dogs barking), or doing some type of construction or renovation on one’s home.
In addition, unreasonable noise can also include loud lawnmowers, motorcycles, cars, and other similar sound sources. As long as it is happening within quiet hours and is too loud, pretty much any sound can be classified as unreasonable.
Noise control is important because a lack thereof can lead to serious consequences for the health and overall well-being of residents. That is especially the case in urban areas, where excess noise from construction sites and vehicles poses a significant problem.
Studies show that frequent exposure to loud noises can lead to hearing damage and loss. In addition, it can cause severe anxiety, depression, as well as sleep disturbances.
Of course, loud noise also impedes you from being able to concentrate well. That can be a significant problem if you have to work or study from home. However, it is just as much of a nuisance if you simply want to enjoy a quiet afternoon or evening at home.
People are usually able to escape most types of unreasonable noise. For example, road repairs usually do not last longer than a few days or weeks. The same is true for loud renovations or certain types of construction people do around their homes.
Even cars and other vehicles aren’t as frequent during the night and other quiet hours. After all, most people are either at home or at work, leaving the roads less busy and, by extension, quieter.
However, it is not so easy to escape noisy neighbors, as they live near you and probably won’t be moving anytime soon. Thus, if they’re playing the drums every day, having loud get-togethers with friends, stomping loudly above you, or mowing the lawn at six in the morning, there isn’t much you can do to get away.
Luckily, this type of noise is also unreasonable if it occurs during quiet hours. In many cities and municipalities, quiet hours last between 10 pm and 7 am on weekdays and until 8 or 9 am on weekends. So, if your neighbors are making unnecessary noise during these hours, you have the right to complain and get them to stop.
Aside from quiet hours, you should also pay attention to the decibel levels of a certain sound. Most cities and towns have different decibel limits, but they mostly range between 70 and 90 decibels.
Therefore, if your neighbor is exceeding these levels and you are able to record it with a decibel meter, you will be able to file a complaint. If that noise is also happening during quiet hours, your complaint will be even more warranted.
Should You Report Unreasonably Loud Neighbors?
As already mentioned, you have the legal right to report any unreasonable noise happening during quiet hours. In addition, you can record the decibel level and check whether the noise is above the allowed decibel limit.
But should you do it right away? And how should you go about it in case a complaint is truly necessary? Here’s a guide that can help you.
A mistake that many people make when it comes to unreasonable noise is reporting it as soon as it first occurs. For example, if your neighbor has never transgressed before, it hardly seems fair to call the police immediately. After all, they could be having a celebration or making noise for a particular reason outside of their control.
Whatever the case, it is essential to talk with your neighbor first. You should approach them civilly and cordially and ask what’s happening. Moreover, you can state that them making noise is disturbing you and hindering your ability to sleep, work, study, or go about your everyday routine.
In most cases, such a conversation will be enough. Namely, many people aren’t even aware of how others perceive their activities. Thus, your neighbor might not realize that the noise is too much for you.
Approaching them and making them aware of the situation is the first step you should take. As long as you remain calm and nice and talk about the problem without an accusatory tone, the issue will probably be resolved soon.
Moreover, you and your neighbor can agree on a schedule that would suit you both. For example, they can let you know when they might have people over to celebrate a birthday or a different special occasion. In turn, you can do the same, ensuring that everyone is okay with a little more noise from time to time.
That way, there won’t be arguments and issues when someone makes excess noise every now and then. As with all neighborly concerns, compromise is the key to harmony.
Of course, not all neighbors are friendly and want to work together to ensure everyone is at peace. If your neighbors do not heed your pleas and continue making unreasonable noise all the time, you should consider some further options.
For example, you could try and talk to your other neighbors as well. If more of you agree that the noise is too much, you can all approach the neighbor in question together. Furthermore, if you call the police, your report has more merit if more people participate in it.
At this stage, it is still best if you try and come to some type of compromise. After all, you will still all live near each other, and getting into heated arguments is in no one’s best interest.
But if nothing works, you should contact the police. First and foremost, you should make sure that you don’t call 911 to report unreasonable noise. This number is reserved for life-threatening emergencies. As annoying as it is, unreasonable noise does not fall into that category.
Instead, you should report your neighbor to a local number that your PD reserves for non-urgent complaints. Every state has different numbers, and they might even differ between cities and counties. Thus, it is best to look for this number online prior to calling.
Moreover, you need to ensure that the law is on your side. To do so, you have to prove that the noise is happening during quiet hours and/or is exceeding the legal decibel limit. That way, the police will have grounds to warn your neighbor.
You will most likely have two ways to report unreasonable noise. First, you can give your local PD a call and do it that way. On the other hand, most PDs also allow residents to report unreasonable noise by filling out a form on their website.
Whichever way you opt for, the report will go similarly. You will have to describe the noise to the best of your ability, provide any proof you might have, and give some personal data. In most cases, that includes your name and ID number.
However, you will have a choice to make. Namely, you can decide whether you want to file the report anonymously or not. In the case of an anonymous report, the police are simply not allowed to reveal who reported the noise. It is usually best to do it anonymously, as you make things easier for everyone that way.
For one, you won’t open yourself up to any further inquiry by the police. In addition, you won’t risk the report turning into a prolonged public disturbance case against your neighbor. Even though their antics annoy you and disturb your peace, they usually do not deserve to go to court and suffer such severe consequences.
Thus, settle things anonymously if you can and let the police handle the rest.
Of course, just reporting unreasonable noise to the police won’t result in officers arresting your neighbor. Rather, the police will pay them a visit and issue a warning.
In most instances, this warning is enough for people to take you seriously. If you are willing to involve the police, the neighbors will understand that the noise is truly disturbing you. From then on, they will probably try harder to keep the noise down and maintain peace in the area.
Sometimes, neighbors can be equally as unreasonable as the noise they are making. So, if not even the police can make them stop partying and making all other types of noise at ungodly hours, all that’s left for you to do is to sue them.
Before you make any sudden decisions, it is important to understand what a lawsuit actually means and requires. For example, you will have to hire a lawyer and pay for the entire process, which is usually not that affordable.
Moreover, you will definitely need to provide indisputable evidence that your neighbor actually broke noise ordinance laws. That includes providing decibel level information, recordings, as well as proof that the noise occurred during quiet hours.
Civil lawsuits usually take a few months to resolve if all evidence is in order. However, if your neighbor decides to fight you and you both provide witnesses, the case could go on for more than six months. So, you should be prepared to pay for a full prolonged case before you file any suits.
It goes without saying that lawsuits should be your last resort. It is always preferable to try to sort everything out without paying excessive amounts of money and involving a court. In addition, it is better to remain friendly with neighbors, and that is rarely the case after one party sues the other.
So, think carefully about whether a lawsuit is really a good way to go. In addition, have a lawyer inspect all the evidence and paperwork you have before you file it. They can give you advice and determine if pursuing a case is truly worth it.
Though most people connect the term unreasonable noise to industrial and construction sites, this type of disturbance can also come from neighbors. For example, they could organize a party past midnight, mow their lawn early in the morning, or honk their horn at the crack of dawn. As long as the noise is unnecessary and it occurs during quiet hours, the law classifies it as unreasonable.
Whatever the noise is, you have a right to report it to the police. Of course, it is better to talk to the neighbor first and resolve the matter that way. But if all else fails, involving law enforcement is simply necessary. As a last resort, you can even sue your neighbor, although that comes with many expenses.