Am I the horrible neighbor they seem to think I am?
March 9, 2009 7:28 PM   Subscribe

How late is too late to expect to be able to make a moderate amount of noise in my apartment?

We live in a 100 year old schoolhouse that has been converted into five apartments. The neighbors who live below us have been doing everything from yelling to banging on the ceiling because of what they apparently deem inconsiderate amounts of noise coming from us and our cats. This usually begins around 10-10:30pm on weekday and weekend nights.

Also, the person who lives above us makes at LEAST as much noise as we do (she plays the drums!), but we understand that it's an old building and noises are to be expected. Is it too much to ask for the same consideration from our neighbors downstairs?

Other factors:

- I made cookies for everyone in the building when we moved in. The only people to not even say thank you? The people downstairs.
- They only had one car for over a month and instead of keeping to their parking spot, they parked in the middle of the spot that they were using for that car as well as the other car they had in order to prevent me from parking on our side of the building.
- They have a dog who they let poop all over the yard which is supposed to be for everyone's use and don't clean it up.

The thing is that I'm typically the type to bend over backward to make people happy, but I can't help but feel that these people are so insane that it makes me just want to tell them to suck it up and buy ear plugs. Am I being unreasonable? With the exception of crating my cats at night (which I will not do) and basically not leaving my bed after 10pm, is there anything that I can do about this? We're only here for a couple of more months, but they're cops and have guns and to be honest, they kind of scare me.

If they had just come up here and talked to me like civilized people, I would be so much more willing to work with them, but the banging and yelling is just obnoxious and hostile.
posted by youcancallmeal to Human Relations (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also: the noise in question? Us walking around at night, playing moderate (about ten minutes) of Wii Fit at 10pm and the cats chasing each other in 3-5 minute spurts.
posted by youcancallmeal at 7:29 PM on March 9, 2009

You're leaving soon. Don't sweat it.

And, no cop will shoot you for making noise in the apartment above you. Stop worrying so much. I think your behaviour is fine. I'd keep doing what you are doing, if it were me, and ignore their issues. If they can't come up and discuss it like adults, I'd see 1030 as a hard limit for 'quiet now' and ignore the rest of it.
posted by Brockles at 7:35 PM on March 9, 2009

I'd ignore them. Honestly, you walking around and the cats chasing each other is NO BIG DEAL. Maybe doing the Wii Fit a little earlier, but that's it.

I once had a neighbor that wouldn't pick up their dog's poop from the yard. Nice notes were left. Then nicely mentioned to them in person. Still no improvement. One night, around 3am, someone ventured outside, gathered up all the poop, and put it on the dog owner's front stoop. [innocent blinking]
posted by HopperFan at 7:35 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

City dweller (San Francisco) -- my view is 9:00 pm-ish on school nights, 11:30/midnight on weekend nights.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:36 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Set up a microphone on your area but close to them, and record how many decibels you are using along with the frequency (hz). You need to quantify it - that way we can tell how annoying you're being. Also, get a base reading (background).
posted by leafxor at 7:36 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

My feelings are that 10 and 11 for weekday and weekends, respectively, are appropriate for noise like playing Wii Fit (you do a lot of thumping). I don't think there's any point at which it's inappropriate to walk around the house (barefoot, right?) and cats are cats.

It might have been generous for them to let people use their parking spot, but it wasn't required, and you should really let that go. I can imagine lots of very good reasons they parked so as to reserve two spots: they didn't know when they'd get a new car; they wanted it to be free for a friend or family member; they didn't want someone else (either in your building or elsewhere) to get used to taking their spot, etc.
posted by jeather at 7:36 PM on March 9, 2009

This usually begins around 10-10:30pm on weekday and weekend nights.

Well, I think that 10:00 is a reasonable time to start 'quiet time' in the adult world. Lots of people have jobs that require them to be up early, so to get a full night of sleep and get up by 6 or so 10:00 is really bedtime. So in answer to your question, 10:30 is probably too late to be making a lot of noise in many buildings.

The puzzling part is that you don't sound like you are making a lot of noise. Cats running should not be a huge sound. Wii Fit maybe - if you're bouncing around, that can sound a lot louder downstairs than in your own house.

it sounds like they have a nasty disposition and you are leaving soon anyway. Let it go. If they develop the balls to come talk to you, talk to them pleasantly. In the meantime, treat them sweet as pie and act like nothing's wrong. "Hear you banging? What, on your ceiling? Because you heard noise? No, we didn't notice. Was there a problem? What do you suggest we do about it?"

It's tempting to develop all sorts of wonderful revenge fantasies, like gathering up all their dog's poop and...never mind. It's not worth it, and you're leaving soon anyway. Let it go. Maybe move the Wii workout to 9:30 if you can.
posted by Miko at 7:37 PM on March 9, 2009

1) Turn on some soothing classical music at full volume
2) Keep playing the Wii; don't worry about the cats
3) Pointedly leave them cookies, and a nice note to thank them for moving the car.

That's my passive aggressive response to people with guns.
posted by puckish at 7:40 PM on March 9, 2009

Bear in mind you can complain to the landlord about them making noise (banging on the ceiling and yelling) when you're being sensibly moderate in your noise level. Let the landlord deal with it. However, not everyone works 9-5, especially cops, so what is typically a good time to start being quiet (10-11) might not mesh with their schedule.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 7:45 PM on March 9, 2009

Best answer: Just to preface my answer: usually I'm the one demanding that the neighbors be quiet; I live in a rather noisy 'nabe in Newark, NJ. But I don't complain about walking-about noises and I certainly don't complain until sometime after 1 am.

If these people are up in arms about walking-about noises and cats-being-cats noises... wow. That's unreasonable. Assuming, of course, that we're not talking about Dutch clogs on hardwood floors or Riverdancing.

Tomorrow morning, file a complaint with your landlord. Why? Because you want it on the record that the folks downstairs are being unreasonable and are disturbing your peace and quiet. If they've already complained, then this will give you the chance to rebut whatever they've told the landlord. (You've said "apartment", a word that I associate with non-ownership, versus, say, "condo". If you own... well, come back and say so). Add in your complaint about the dog poop; in many communities, that's a fine-able offense (in some, it's enough to convince the landlord to decline to renew the lease).

Also, if they keep this harassment up, call the police. Ask the police to come over and check the downstairs neighbor - you could say that there is yelling, shouting and loud banging coming from down there. In my neighborhood, that would lead the police to believe there's a domestic issue in the apartment. Having the police called on them might make them realize how horrible they are being. It might also escalate their hostility.

Then again, you could try to be diplomatic and go down to ask what their issue is. I'd be concerned about doing so for my own safety; I'd rather go through the landlord.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 7:51 PM on March 9, 2009

Personally, I think 8:30-9pm weekdays, 10:30 or so weekends, but then I get up early.

But I think it's been said before that people often don't know how loud they are or how loud things are. For example, at my place if you let the cellar door bang via gravity, rather than close it gently, it literally shakes the *whole* house. Like an earthquake tremor. What's nutty about it is that it doesn't seem that loud when you're outside, and you don't feel it. I finally had my roommate stay inside while I went outside to close to door to 'feel' it, and she finally got why I kept nagging her to close the door gently.

Can you do something like that? Approach your neighbors, and say you'd like to understand the problem? One of you goes downstairs while the other does the usual stuff upstairs? You might be surprised.

Try to put the other things (your perceived lack of neighborliness on their part) aside. It isn't necessarily relevant. A gift should be given without expectation of anything in response, even a thank you, or it isn't a gift. It's an obligation. Their behavior that annoys you - well hopefully you approached them to address this. If you didn't, you can't have a tit-for-tat accounting in your head (yes we're loud, but you don't clean up dog poop), because everyone bean counts that differently.

(Note, all of this void if you suspect them of being capable of violence towards you).
posted by anitanita at 7:58 PM on March 9, 2009

Noise after 10:30 p.m. is very annoying if you have to get up even moderately early, say 7 a.m. or thereabouts, like I do. But your noise is canceled out, IMO, by their dog poop.

Here's what's not acceptable: Being kept awake for an hour between 2 and 3 a.m. while your upstairs neighbor drunkenly stomps in, then drunkenly stomps multiple circuits around their entire apartment, then has loud, drunken conversations with roommates, then drunkenly (or perhaps semi-soberly, by that point?) takes a long shower (esp. when the water running upstairs can be heard loudly in the downstairs bedrooms). This, when one of the downstairs neighbors (my boyfriend, this past Sunday) has to be awake at 5 a.m.
posted by limeonaire at 8:06 PM on March 9, 2009

Complain to the landlord about the dog poop.

Don't play Wii Fi after 10 pm. I have a feeling this makes more noise than you think, and after 10 pm on a weeknight is too late.
posted by fructose at 8:15 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

As the perennial advocate for the put-upon downstairs neighbor I say the question is, do you have rugs/carpets down? If not, you are contributing greatly to the problem. You cannot make noise on bare hardwood and expect it to be anything but extremely disturbingly annoying to the people living downstairs.
If you do have carpets down, well, not much you can do but maybe cut out the wii fit at 10pm, and take off your shoes when you're home. Cats will be cats, and you're out of there in 2 months. But taking off your shoes and putting down rugs are life lessons if you are going to continue to live in apartment buildings.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:16 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Protip: Some people are simply assholes.

Nevertheless it might be a good idea to put down some rugs.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:18 PM on March 9, 2009

It sounds like they are reacting rather poorly to the situation. That said, I can attest from personal experience that the Wii Fit can be very loud when played on a hardwood floor directly above one's room. I think it is reasonable for them to ask you not to play it after 10pm.
posted by fermion at 8:37 PM on March 9, 2009

When making personal phone calls, I live by the "Double Digit Rule", that is, I don't call anyone until after 10am (so I don't interupt sleep-ins) and I don't call after 10pm (so I don't interupt sleep or other things). I think this is a good guide for low level noise too.
posted by lottie at 8:49 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd agree with 10pm on a weeknight as being a good time to start quiet time. Also, things that sound quiet to you could well sound much louder downstairs if those things are thumping on the floor -- like WiiFit would be.

It really seems like the noise should be loudest for you, where you make it, and the layers of floor should mask it, but that's just not the case.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:53 PM on March 9, 2009

Best answer: I'm always the guy that ends up under the loud neighbors. Two places ago, I came to dread my music... enthusiast neighbor coming home. I would just get so angry and it was the same thing every day. So I totally understand where they are coming from. It can make your life hell and you just fume about it all day and stay stressed in anticipation of it every night. It's about not being able to control your environment in the one place you should be able to control your environment, the one place where you can escape everything and have some sanctuary. And people don't realize how much noise comes through the walls and ceilings. My middle aged neighbors at my current place play music at really reasonable levels, but I get all the bass through my wall. Just no way around it, unfortunately. Luckily they never play it for long. And I also think noise needs to be done by 9pm. That's when a lot of people start going to sleep or winding down. Not me, but I still expect things to be quiet by then on weeknights, and I make sure to do the same, if not even a bit earlier. Time for some peace. Weekends I'd say it shouldn't be much later than that unless there's a party or something.

But with all of that said, fuck these guys! When I have loud neighbors, I try to be accommodating for as long as I can, and then I go politely let them know how things sound from my side (often people just don't realize it) and ask them to try to help me out. If these people have never been reasonable or come speak to you politely and just shout up through the floors and act nasty, then fuck them. Stomp harder, I say. Get a big box of shooter marbles and dump them out every night and let the cats chase them and go nuts. How's your roundoff back handspring? Shouldn't you be practicing that? Haven't you always wanted a pogo stick? If you were going to be there long term, you'd need to reach an agreeable equilibrium so as not to have a poisonous atmosphere, but you're not, and they're jerks, so at a minimum, just ignore them. Cats are going to be cats, and if the building is such that neighbors can hear even that, then that's just the unfortunate reality of that building.

If they ever decide to be reasonable, then you can consider some steps to help them out.
posted by Askr at 8:56 PM on March 9, 2009

Eek - I'm not saying the neighbors aren't unreasonable, and it's really, really hard to consistently respond reasonably when faced with triffling-ass behavior from people, but try to fight that impulse to intentionally do anything as a big-fuck-you. Don't escalate the hostility. It will probably escalate on it's own due to the fact that this is going to continue over a period of time since you're probably not going to take any steps because you're leaving soon, so try not to tweak them even more with extra noise. And I'm not saying this because they have guns, but because I think your home is your refuge, and it would help to do what you can to not to turn it into a war zone.

You can't/don't want to handle it yourself - that's fine - many people don't like conflict. But whoever upthread suggested bringing in the landlord to address this had the right idea. It's part of their job.

Part of the question here I think you're asking is how do you reasonably respond to unreasonable behavior? What do you do with whatever quite righteous indignation and frustration you have towards people you neither know or understand? What's hard, I think, is to accept that it's actually very rare and special day when most appropriate and best answer to that has been any variation of "stomp harder". Though some days, with some people, I can entirely understand why it would seem to be the most obvious one.*

*confessing that this answer is entirely skewered the fact that I just ended a long day of mediating today. A *long* day.
posted by anitanita at 9:27 PM on March 9, 2009

Response by poster: For the record, I've sent an email to the landlord. Prompted by another bout of screaming. Sigh.

And I won't be stomping around or otherwise seeking revenge because..well, I'm too damned nice. But I liked Askr's perspective on the situation, so they got one (of a few) best answers.
posted by youcancallmeal at 9:30 PM on March 9, 2009

Don't engage them.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:09 PM on March 9, 2009

I would say 11pm for normal levels of activity, with the exception of the 3 times a year house party (and don't forget to invite your downstairs neighbors, even though they'll never come), but if you are doing Wii Fit / aerobics / Irish step dancing every night, I might get annoyed if it happened after 9pm.

Jumping on floor = big, thumpy noise.

I'm assuming there's jumping or running in place with Wii Fit. If not, then move along citizen, nothing to see here
posted by zippy at 11:00 PM on March 9, 2009

I have your neighbors, living downstairs from me. Threatening to call the cops for harassment worked splendidly.
posted by _dario at 11:47 PM on March 9, 2009

I have some friends with your downstairs neighbors. These friends are ultra-considerate, so it was obvious their neighbors were extreme. My suggestion was to be noisy for approximately 3-4 weeks, and then from then on, their normal activity would count as quiet and considerate.
posted by salvia at 2:38 AM on March 10, 2009

Could they be hearing the drummer upstairs as well? I lived with a drummer for a year in a house where we had the top two floors, and someone else lived on the ground floor.

We put the drummer right up top because we foolishly thought this would help minimise the noise that got through to our neighbour downstairs, but it was practically just as loud on the ground floor as it sounded on the first floor directly beneath.

It was an electric drum kit, but the thumping and stomping really travels through the floors. Our neighbour hated those drums.

Then again, he once complained about the drums being played too late when our drummer had been away on holiday for the past month, so who knows.
posted by lucidium at 5:34 AM on March 10, 2009

I've also got broom lady downstairs. I knew the previous residents of my apartment and they warned me about her, which was nice.

I don't wear shoes inside, I'm in bed by 11pm, off to work from 8-830am until 7-8pm. I rarely play music loudly and then only while cleaning the house on weekend afternoons. In fact, I work most weekends anyway. About a month after I moved in she came up to complain that I was being loud and explained that she got up at 6am and that I was frightening her cat with my constant thumping, scraping and dragging noises. I apologized, noted that I had previously been in a situation where I got up at 6am, and offered to try to be quieter. She went off on a tirade about people not having experience in apartment living. I explained that I had been living in apartments for more than ten years, told her that I'd see what I could do.

I put felt pads on furniture, tried not to thump around, pitied her cat.

Things you can't avoid: accidentally knocking things over on a once weekly basis.
Time between things being knocked over and her brooming the ceiling: she must be standing around holding the broom waiting for an opportunity.
Time of day this was happening: I looked at the clock on two occasions, 9:06pm, 9:16pm.

Also, while I was out of town over a holiday she complained that I was making noise to another neighbor. This is my next door neighbor who has said that broomlady is crazy and that she, my next door neighbor, has never heard anything coming from my apartment. Our apartments share a wall over the entire length of the apartment. It should also be noted that on my floor are two apartments full of college students whose studies seem to be focused on drinking five or more nights a week (screaming at 3am as only drunk college women can, having loud arguments outside my door, getting locked out and pounding on doors for 30 minutes starting at 5am, trash in the hallway, and so on). I wish she lived underneath them.

I finally lost patience with Broomlady. The broom was louder and more persistent than any noise I was making. To demonstrate what real noise was like, I jumped up and down on the floor as hard as I could. She hit the ceiling more, I jumped some more. She stopped, I stopped. I haven't heard much since.

My hopes had been that she'd call the police at 9pm to complain about the noise. They'd tell her that they had better things to do and call if it were actually late and actually loud. I ran into the super in the hallway a while ago and we commiserated about her.

General noise suggestions: if you talk to people who have kids, they're going to suggest being quiet after 8pm, if your people don't have kids, then 10pm seems reasonable. Rugs and carpets do make a difference, as do felt pads on furniture. Removing shoes can also help. Since there are two of them, if you want, invite one upstairs and have the other person downstairs - perform whatever activities are causing the yelling and brooming and show them that you're not doing anything unreasonable.

Evil thought: relocate the dog poop to a circle around their parked car when they took up two spaces. Which is not to say that they don't have the right to park their car any way they want in their spaces.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:07 AM on March 10, 2009

I'm one of those people who has to get up stupid early and frets a lot about getting a good night sleep. I'm okay with "general living" noise like talking, watching TV, listening to music, etc after 9pm but will totally flip out if buzzers, stomping, and other surprising noises are involved.

I had a neighbor who would do his laundry in the basement and crank up the volume on the dryer' buzzer so that he could hear it several floors up. When he did this at night, it created what was essentially an alarm buzzing every 5 minutes right when I was trying to fall asleep. This would stress me out about sleeping which is all it really takes to lead me into insomnia land. I spoke with him about it, explaining that I have to be up stupid early, and he was cool with changing his laundry time.

But if he was just talking or watching a game or something? No problem on my end.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:33 AM on March 10, 2009

10pm is a reasonable hour to expect people upstairs to be quiet. Heavy activity/exercise is not something that should be done in an upper-level apartment at those hours.

You mention they are cops. You would know their schedule better than I would, but a lot of cops I've known have to work really odd shifts-- their day can start at 5am or so, which means going to bed around 9-10pm at the latest. And the police don't take weekends off. So if the noise is really as bad as they make it out to be (I doubt it) then they'd have plenty of reason to be pissed.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 9:28 AM on March 10, 2009

Rugs are incredibly helpful at reducing noise. Rug pads help more.

You sound reasonable; your neighbors do not. But if you want to reduce the noise, try some rugs.
posted by theora55 at 9:41 AM on March 10, 2009

i would just like to add that i once lived in a converted school, and for some reason those floors were never insulated *at all*--it was like everything guy downstairs did was *in the room* with us. (like we could hear conversations almost clearly.)

so it might be that schoolhouses are especially prone to bad sound movement. keep that in mind.

also: 10-10:30 weeknights, midnight weekends.

(god, i'll never forget the night the guy downstairs passed out drunk while *cranking* the folk show on the radio, which changed to House music... it went on and on for hours until i basically broke his door in to find out if he'd killed himself or what. it was "what." )
posted by RedEmma at 2:06 PM on March 10, 2009

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