Dealing With A Noisy Neighbor

What can you do about a noisy neighbor and get results?

Been dealing with a really bad neighbor about 12 years. Live in Co-op as a share holder. Offender is also share holder. Going through building management/Board, police or even approaching neighbor just did not work and actually made things worse. City even changed noise ordinances making noise complaints even more difficult to use.

Knowing How Sound Travels Helps:

Did lots of research on noise. There are two types of noise- audio and impact. Audio noise is loud music, TV, talking and sounds that passes through the air.  Impact noise is direct contact with a surface area (walls, ceilings and floors) and/or connected to other surfaces (i.e. banging on wall traveling to floor and/or ceiling). Audio is easier to deal with.

Impact noise is almost impossible to stop except at source. Audio noise can also make impact noise. For example, a loud speaker that touches a surface can beat into that surface.

Audio noise in my building travels up and down between units stacked on top of each other but not from units on same floor. Had a neighbor tap dancing on their wooden floor affect my refrigerator. It shook and this was with an apartment next to mine. Hammering a surface directly or indirectly can travel everywhere. My building had a pump going all night long that I heard from the other side of building. This was a building ordinance violation in my municipality so a complaint to City stopped this. It sounded like a whale in the ocean.

Knowing Your Rights:

You have a right to a quiet environment in your building and/or municipality. This can be written in a lease,  house rules or in a municipal ordinance. No one in turn should disturb one’s neighbor unnecessarily.

My building dates from 1954 and found out that there is an empty space between floors. Sound coming from above is often worse than from below.  Floors in my building require that 80% of floors be covered except for kitchen and bathroom. These floors needing carpeting are wooden. Sound travels from surface to surface (i.e. floor to walls to ceiling) by way of the “studs” or the wood beams that connect the surfaces to each other. Sheetrock does little to absorb noise and travels through it. Noise travels easily in open space like the space between ceiling and floor. When one hits or walks on ones floor, the impact of this hits the studs and the sound waves created by this action travels down to the floor below.

Action Taken With Temporary or Worse Result:

  • Speaking with Offender.
  • Calling, Speaking to or writing letter to building management and/or Board. Keep copies of letters and e-mails. Follow up calls with either e-mail or letter.
  • Calling police who might show up and talk to neighbor but do little else. There might not be a violation. These ordinances are often referred to as nuisance laws. Read your ordinances in your community. They can also change. One policeman did tell me that the women above me had no carpets but had children running around in sneakers late at night (10:30 pm). I realized after one visit by police that my neighbor wasn’t even home. Her music was running loudly but she wasn’t even in the unit. Get reports by police and ask them to put in report things like they got no answer and/or that there were no carpets.

Action Taken That Got Results:

  • Masking noise: Running white noise machines, fans or even air-conditioners. Out of season, fans can be faced to wall. You can also mask noise from the outside and having storm windows or double panes is better than one pane. But you can also put another barrier on windows that can be effective for outside noises.
  • Playing an audio device (had to get surround sound and additional speakers cause  my TV wasn’t loud enough).
  • Striking back: Hitting a surface with a strong whack. You do not have to strike the ceiling but the walls connected to them. Hitting door metal frames is effective. Make sure the object you use will not damage your surface.
  • Running a loud vacuum cleaner or motor (i.e. blender or electric tool). This is not the greatest method because you could damage machine. Doing this when you know your neighbor is sleeping can be effective. I figured out when my neighbor is in the unit or sleeping. Running an audio device does not require the offender being home. My neighbor runs hers when she isn’t in her unit. I did not hear foot steps or other banging. Car being gone from parking space is another indication.
  • Sounding an alarm (loud noise). I got one that is used on doors and when I separate two parts, the alarm sounds. It is loud for me but this has been the only thing that seems to work with impact noise. I use it in my bed when neighbor gets up between 5 and 6 am and is noisy dropping things, slamming drawers or just walking in shoes on bare wooden floors.

Things Considered Doing

  • Getting a Gong or loud instrument like an electric guitar with amplifier. Have played piano but did not work.
  • Suing. But one needs proof and damages. Saw couple sue in small claims court (People’s Court) with wife winning a bigger cash reward (max) cause she had doctor bills showing pain and suffering. Husband did not have medical damages but won a lesser amount. Suit was made against building (not tenant) who did not have proper floor covering with a bunch of cats jumping about the apartment above the couple’s. I saw on YouTube. I myself was able to tape noise using video showing my apartment, and time on TV.
  • Putting in sound proofing but this is not fully effective or easy to do. I asked to do this by filling in space between my ceiling and floor above but building did not allow. Could be a fire hazard. I considered putting in a ceiling below other but this is expensive and may only dampen 10-20% of noise. Would have to do with walls and even floors cause sound travels down or through them. Cost could be high and finding a contractor is difficult. All work has to go through my Board. They do sell sheetrock that dampers sound, clips for studs to attach surfaces that have rubber dampers and black plastic sheets that dampen noise that can be placed on ceilings, paint and even tape for connecting breaks in surfaces.

Being a Good And Quiet Neighbor:

One can lessen the noise you make by:

  • Following rules of building by covering floors. Carpets need to be thick, large and have rubber under them. Small throw rugs do not do the trick.
  • Walk on covered floors and not uncovered areas.
  • Place things on floor and avoid dropping them.
  • Avoid banging furniture up against walls, floor or ceilings (kitchen cabinets).
  • Close draws and not bang them shut.
  • Deal with squeaks at source. Oil them with even cooking oil.
  • Avoid banging cabinets shut especially the noisy bathroom wall cabinet over sink.
  • Doing construction at times allowed by building and/or municipality.
  • You can go barefoot and/or shoeless. One can wear slippers without heavy bottoms or heels or socks with rubber grips on bottoms . Socks can be dangerous on a slippery surface. Socks with rubber grips on bottoms are given at hospitals and airplanes (upper classes) but they can be purchased.
  • Lifting furniture when moving or put felt on bottom areas. You also avoiding scrapping your floors causing scratches.

Good luck and let me know your stories!

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