Handling noisy neighbors without being passive-aggressive

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LOUD speaker

Hannah wrote in to ask us about her apartment dilemma:

Offbeat Homies, How do you deal with noisy neighbours?

We frequently hear a kid crying, people arguing and loud music during the day and evening. It’s can be very disturbing — I’m a full time student and at home during a large part of the day.

I don’t want to be a cranky neighbour. I haven’t met the people but I don’t know how to approach them!

Noisy neighbors can be such a pain. I never wanted my neighbors to think I was an overly-sensitive stick in the mud, and sometimes even when you talk to the noisemakers they shrug you off. And we’ve probably all been the noisy ones at some point — nothing like a bleary-eyed neighbor knocking on the door when you thought your Rock Band drumming wasn’t disturbing a soul.

What plan of action would you put together for Hannah, a perturbed neighbor who wants to be pleasant, but who hasn’t even met the offenders?

Comments on Handling noisy neighbors without being passive-aggressive

  1. I have a question, I know it’s rude to complain about a baby crying but what about older children and the amount of noise their mom makes yelling at them. Cause it’s bad, I know when they have to brush their teeth, do hw, go to bed, get up for school. She seems to yell ALL the time but during the day of course and we are the only neighbors so an anonymous call to the landlord wouldn’t work 😉

    • Hmm…I think if she’s that prone to yelling at her kids (i.e. people she supposedly cares about), she’s probably going to yell at you too 🙁 If you think she’s actually being abusive, maybe you should call child protective services. If it’s just a noise problem, and it gets too bad, you could call the police. At least then if she retaliates in some way, you have it already on record with the police.

      If the issue is just that you can hear her going about her life…well, IMHO that’s something one has to deal with when they live in close proximity to other people.

  2. I think everyone covered this pretty well, but I think it’s worth sharing:

    I have a loud two-year-old. He’s rowdy, and jumps around and occasionally dissolves into a temper tantrum. We had a couple days last month where he was having trouble sleeping, and no matter what we did he would do nothing but howl in the ass-crack of the morning. And this happens occasionally; every couple of months we have a bad night, and I know that my son’s bedroom is on the other side of my neighbor’s bedroom.

    I’ve always waited for the knock on the door in the middle of the screaming fit — because the first words out of my mouth would be, “Because I’m doing this just to hurt you.” Trust us: the crying child is just as frustrating to the parent who isn’t getting any sleep.

    Thankfully, the neighbors have been pretty mellow, and are nice when they see us. To be fair, they have a stomping up and down the stairs at midnight thing, so it’s not like we’re the only loud ones.

  3. I’ve been lucky not to have noise problems since college when I lived in an apartment and I swear the upstairs neighbors had their washing machine directly above my bed and liked to wash clothes at midnight, but I thought you might appreciate a noisy neighbor story of my mom’s.

    Back when she was pregnant with me, she lived in an apartment. She was home one day with a migraine when a tremendous banging started from upstairs. After waiting a bit for it to stop, she went to politely ask them to keep it down. The woman who answered the door was extremely apologetic: “I’m so sorry! The baby just discovered pots and pans!”

    The two of them ended up great friends for years, and the “baby” was one of my first friends. So, here’s hoping that nicely talking to the neighbor will work out well for you, too.

  4. Wow! Reading all these stories makes me very glad that it’s three older, deafer ladies living in the other apartments in my building. That said, we always let them know when we’re planning a party for more than our usual gaggle and ask them to let us know if we get too loud and bother them. I subscribe to the “knock and ask politely” school of thought when on the receiving end of noisy neighbors, then after that I’ll call night management or the police. Sometimes turnabout works if nothing else does. During college, the guy next door to my room would have loud drunken sex with his girlfriend after they came home from the bar on weekends. My solution was to turn on internet porn when I got up the next morning, put my speakers against his wall, and leave for breakfast. They went to her room after that.

    • Trying to quiet a barking dog is exactly like trying to quiet a crying baby. I know, I’ve had both. I don’t understand why non-dog owners think there’s a magic off-button to keep them from barking. If we could instantly make them be quiet we would. It’s not like we enjoy their barking any more than you do.

      • I agree. I have two large breed dogs that love to bark at passing neighbors/kids/other animals and I abhor their barking. Now, I do love my dogs very much. They’re awesome dogs and love people and other animals. (We also are foster parents for various animal breeds: dogs, cats, rabbits… ferrets.. etc. and my dogs _LOVE_ these new animals that are temporary family members.) But, I think they believe that barking at people/creatures walking by is some sort of game. “Hey, hey, hey YOU! I’m here! Wanna play? See my house/yard? This is my house/yard. Hey there!”

        We’ve tried so many different forms of training with them, and overall they are very well-behaved dogs, but jeeze… I cannot get them to stop barking. I usually end up saying “NO Barking!” and they’ll stop for a moment whilst I bring them back inside. But then they want to go back outside the next time they see a neighbor passing.

        I also happen to find bark collars to either be useless or very cruel. 🙁

        Oh well. This is why I eventually want a farm.

        • Thing is, although YOU may love your dog or kid, your neighbour didn’t choose to have a dog or a kid and does NOT love them.

          So it is annoying. It doesn’t matter if it’s hard to shut up either the dog or the baby. If I wanted either of them (crying kid or barking dog), I’d procreate or go to the animal shelter.

          Okay, I know this sounds harsh for people who have a dog or a kid, but it’s what I think when people say: ‘but it is annoying/hard for me too!’ or ‘it is rude to complain about a baby’. It still is annoying :).

          In dealing with actual neighbours though, thanks for the helpful advice above. It is good to be assured that going over there is the best strategy (albeit scary!) and to be reminded it’s part of apartment life. (Which I did not choose voluntarily; if I had the money, I would go some place where neighbours aren’t on top of you). So it’s something I will have to learn to live with.

          • My dogs don’t bark that much. And, I said that we bring them in when they do bark. It’s intermittent and a part of living in a neighborhood, especially one that is dog-friendly. I don’t live in an apartment, I live in a single-family house in a suburban neighborhood.

            They never bark for hours on end, and we don’t let them bark after dark. It’s only when things pass by their yard. They’re saying, “Hey, we’re here! This is ours.” They are never left to bark on end. (Now, the same can’t be said for the owner of the four small poodles down the street! Jeeze, they will bark four -hours-. Ugh.)

            As social beings we learn to live with each other in a somewhat harmonious matter. Do I like it when I hear neighbors fighting loudly? No, but I deal with it. Do I like hearing loud music at midnight? No, of course not. But if it’s not a super common occurrence, we have to deal with these things. It’s part of humanity. Some of us like kids, and if they’re mostly well-behaved – we deal with it. Others of us like dogs, and it’s the same situation. There’s no such thing as perfect quiet, even in the country.

        • We use a spray bottle (just water, although you can add some vinegar for smell), and squirt our dog when she starts barking or growling. Granted, this doesn’t always work, but you might find it useful. I’ve used the hose in the past as well. Just remember that the intent is not to hurt but is to startle and annoy.

          I’ve always wanted to hook up a bark collar to a sprinkler system – every time the dog barks in the yard, they get sprayed.

          • Haha! We do use a spray bottle, but it doesn’t always work. I kind of love spraying them with the hose – it makes me feel so vindicated at times.

            As I said above, we don’t leave them out to bark. They just bark to announce things. We tell them to knock it off and bring them inside or let them out depending upon the situation. They’re most certainly indoor dogs and are fairly well trained. It’s just those darn squirrels/walkers/mailmen/etc. passing by!

  5. We live on the ground floor and for the first time my FH is working nights. Our neighbors weren’t really bothersome until they started baby sitting their grandchildren after school. Oh then the fun started. FH went and knocked on the door, three times, with one time getting rather nasty, but mostly they were just stressed out for the kids. We talked to the office, then we talked to the man who owns the entire property. He was an asshole and said to get over it. The office just asked them to tone it down, as did we. We still have trouble now and then, but they have made an effort to tone things down and take the kids outside, etc, to try to minimize noise.

    Just try explaining the situation face-to-face with the neighbors in question. Some people might be most receptive to this tactic, while others might respond better to the land lord asking them to quiet down. It will really depend on the people.

  6. I had a different problem. It wasn’t noise that bothered me – I live in an absurdly well insulated building in a top-floor corner unit. Well… mostly absurdly well insulated. The problem was that my last downstairs neighbour liked to smoke up. A lot. Like… every day, starting at 10 am, hot boxing his unit. It started coming through the access panel for the pipes that handle my bathroom. One morning, no joke, they’d managed to hot box MY place. And if they’d smoked not-bad stuff, I might not have minded, but this was the lowest quality, headache inducing stuff I’ve ever seen (smelled?). In the end, I had to write a formal complaint to the building, which apparently was submitted at just about the exact time he decided to leave. Hasn’t been a problem with the new people.

  7. I’m sort of with the camp that agrees that you really shouldn’t complain about daytime noise unless it’s excessive (extremely loud music, for example). I’d either take the suggestion above to buy some noise canceling headphones, or play some of your own music (at a reasonable volume, obviously) as a camouflage.

    My partner works nights and I have all evening classes, so I’m on his schedule, and neither of us feels anyone should have to alter their behavior just because we sleep during the day. Sometimes it is going to be noisy, but we realize that the majority of the rest of the world is on another schedule and it’s not their responsibility to cater to us because we’re different.

    Now, if the noise really *is* excessive, it’s always best to try to be direct with the neighbor first because he or she may not even be aware what they’re doing is bothering you. If you’ve knocked on their door and asked them to keep it down and then they persist, you have no obligation to continue to be polite about it. At that point, that’s when I’d get the landlord involved because going to the landlord without talking to the neighbors first is going to cause bad blood, no matter what.

  8. I used to be, “If they’re being loud, obnoxious, and rude, go over there and tell them so,” until we moved into our most recent place. A few months after moving in we had new neighbors move into the unit next to us. They blast their music NONSTOP. 5am? Time to blast music. 10pm? Time to blast music! 2pm? Guess what, time to blast music!

    Late at night or absurdly early in the morning we would go over there and ask them politely to turn it down. With each successive day we were less polite. And still they kept up with the music. So we finally started complaining to the apartment management. Apparently other neighbors started complaining too. FINALLY they’ve stopped for the most part. MOSTLY.

    I’ve decided that if they do it again after our town’s noise ordinance time kicks in, I’m just going to call the police. I can’t take it anymore. It’s been six months now with little change to their behavior.

    • i feel your pain..call the police! and make a noise complaint to your city! I can’t speak for where you leave, but where I live (Vancouver BC), I made a formal noise complaint to the city, who issued my landlord with an official warning. If they received another complaint about the tenant making the noise, my landlord will be faced with a possible fine. Now it’s in HIS best interest to look after the complaint, and not just a problem you’re faced with dealing with on your own.

  9. First I try a version of this phrase:

    “You probably didn’t realize, but the walls are really thin…etc.”

    That way you aren’t placing blame on anyone. If there isn’t any improvement I knock on their door when the noise is occurring and let them know that it’s TOO LOUD! As a last resort, I call the police. This has always worked in the past. Good luck!

  10. Bake em cookies and say hi a lot. It reminds them you are there. I have to go confront my neighbors today because they were blaring music at 2am this (Monday) morning. I am taking my toddler and my 3 month old with me to remind them that there are little ones who need sleep too.

  11. After reading these comments, it seems that I am in the minority, but I feel like people noise is just a part of living in a populated area. Apartments especially. I feel like noise is just going to be a part of living anywhere where the neighbors are within a mile. I understand the whole bumpin’ base thing, and I work overnights so I totally understand how much it sucks not being able to sleep, but people have to live. I can’t expect people to tippytoe around their apartments and not listen to their tvs because I need to sleep. Hell, even on the nights I’m home it doesn’t bother me if there’s noise. Its a part of life.

  12. Got a noisy neighbor? It’s time to arm yourself with some defense…. that is, get yourself a bass guitar and an amp with a hugh speaker. This worked for me. Counter your neighbors bass attacks, with your own, at a greater volume, and they’ll soon get the message.

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