What to Do About a Neighbor's Noise
Your neighbor's dog barks at all hours of the night, keeping you up and agitated. At one point, you nearly picked up the phone and called the police. But have you tried simply talking to your neighbors about their noisy dog? Maybe they're such deep sleepers that they don't even know how loud their canine friend can be. Even if you're sleep-deprived and cranky, it's important to take a reasonable approach to such disputes. Below are suggestions for what to do about a neighbor's noise when it becomes a problem.
Neighbor Noise and the Law: Basics
In almost every community, there are laws and ordinances that prohibit excessive, unnecessary, and unreasonable levels of noise.
When you do find the local noise ordinances that apply to the area that you live in, don't be surprised to find out that the laws set aside certain times of the day when there is supposed to be a general quiet. These hours range and depend upon the day.
In addition, many cities and towns also have some prohibition on sustained noise levels above a certain decibel. Police will often investigate by placing a decibel meter near the property line and take a reading over a period of time.
How to Confront Your Neighbor About Their Excessive Noise
If you're already thinking about calling the police or a lawyer, you might want to stop and think about less-adversarial ways to solve the problem first. In many cases, they may not be aware of how loud or distracting the noise is to their neighbors. Below are suggestions for how to address the problem, from talking to filing a lawsuit.
- Talk - Plain and simple. Rather than having a shouting match across the fence, try instead to ring their doorbell and ask to have a conversation about the noise.
- Give a warning - You can then give a warning to the neighbor by sending him a copy of the local noise ordinances with the relevant parts underlined or highlighted. Keep copies for your own records. Also, if you happen to live in a planned community or some other neighborhood that has a housing agreement, you can also send a copy of that agreement with the relevant portions highlighted again.
- Mediation - This is only necessary if you enjoy a good relationship with your neighbor and want it to continue. The mediator will invite you and your neighbor to sit down together and try to hash out a solution to the noise problem. These mediation services are generally available in most cities and sometimes are free or low-cost.
- Call the Cops - If nothing has worked, you should call the police. You can show the police that you have attempted to solve the noise problem on your own, but that your neighbor continues to violate the noise ordinances. At this point, the police may come in and investigate. Your best bet is to call the police during a period when you feel the noise ordinance is being violated, or giving the time period in which the violation repeats itself.
- File a lawsuit - If the police fail to investigate, or otherwise do not judge a noise violation, you can file a claim in small claims court. Most small claims courts are easy to navigate because they are designed for citizens, not attorneys.
Suing Your Neighbor for Making Too Much Noise
If neighbors' noise is bothering you and nothing you have done to resolve the situation has worked, you have every right to file a lawsuit. Generally speaking, there are two different remedies that can be sought from such a lawsuit. If you want money damages, you could probably get away with filing a lawsuit in small claims court. However, if you seek a court order from the judge directed at your neighbor to cease and desist making the noise, then you will have to file suit in regular civil court.
In order to win your case in small claims court, you will need to prove that there is excessive and disturbing noise and that your neighbor is the source of the noise. Next, you will need to show that your quiet enjoyment of your home is being disrupted and that you have previously asked the person to stop making the noise. You will need evidence to prove your case. Evidence can be found in copies of documents requesting that your neighbors quiet down, witnesses, recordings of the noise and even your own testimony.
In most states, small claims judgments are limited to maximums ranging from $2,500 to $7,500. A good starting point is $20 to $30 per day that the noise disrupted you. If your job performance was affected you may be able to claim a higher amount.
Excessive Noise and Injury
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), noise of only 85 decibels (60 decibels is the sound of a normal conversation) can cause noise-induced hearing loss over time.
What Should You Do About a Neighbor's Noise? An Attorney Can Help
Disputes with neighbors should be handled with delicacy. This means that you'll need a detailed understanding of your rights and your neighbor's obligations under local laws and regulations. While it's always best to resolve disputes directly with your neighbors, sometimes it's necessary to work with a skilled, local real estate attorney instead.