We are trying as hard as possible not to be noisy
November 8, 2009 1:53 PM   Subscribe

How best to handle noise complaints against us, when I feel we are being reasonable? Since the first complaints we have been dialing down the noise in every way we can think of, but apparently it's not enough and we don't even know which neighbor is complaining, so we can't speak to them directly.

Several months ago, we got a formal written noise complaint from the landlord. We couldn't figure out what we were doing to cause it, and there were no specifics. It made a reference to stuff being done after 10:00 pm. I can't tell from the wording if it's *just* whatever they heard after 10:00 pm, or if we were being admonished for stuff prior to that hour or not.

We do not have parties or anything like that, we don't play loud music, and we live on the ground floor. We play videogames and watch tv and movies, and at a volume such that no one has complained until recently. (I have lived here for four years now).

Then a couple months ago we're playing SingStar, and a knock at the door reveals a policeman. They called the cops on us. For singing. Sigh. Really? The police? Anyway, I was pleasant and polite to the cop but I felt rather bewildered by the whole situation. I admit we do tend to turn up the sound on the tv when we play that game, because neither one of us likes how our voice sounds so we can drown it out with the actual artists singing. Okay, well, I guess it was too loud even though we never had trouble with it before. We haven't even touched that game since that encounter with the cop. It saddens me greatly, we used to have a great time playing it, but I can't figure out if the problem was that it was after 10 or just that we were playing it at all.

Overall we made an effort to make sure things were quieter, especially after 10. I'm talking things like headphones used for playing games and music, a quieter volume on the tv, and just plain going to bed earlier.

But then we got *another* formal written noise complaint from the landlord, on Wednesday.

What the hell? I am really frustrated with this. I don't know what to do. I don't know how many complaints before they try to evict us. I feel really powerless and upset. I honestly don't want to offend anyone with noise, but I think this person is being hypersensitive and at this point they may just be making bogus complaints to fuck with us (maybe they want us to be evicted so they can have the ground floor apartment? my mind is reeling). It's not like they have to provide proof. The landlord doesn't even have anyone on the property to corroborate a noise complaint past like 3pm, and we are at work til 5. So they can complain as much as they want, and they will be believed even if we are in bed at the time.

Our apartment is in a small block of eight. We have no idea which neighbor lodged the complaints, so we can't try to talk to them about exactly what they heard and when, and try to work with them to make sure we don't bother them. We are not assholes, we just want to be able to enjoy our entertainment.

This whole thing is making us paranoid. We watched Desperado last night, the last 40 minutes of which were after 10. I thought we shouldn't because I don't want any chance of them hearing anything, even on a weekend night. But we watched it so quietly that we could barely hear the dialogue, and turned it way down for every gunfight.

This is crazy. I hate living in fear like this, feeling so uncomfortable in my own home. If this person really is out to get us evicted, then there's nothing I can do anyway.

I thought about maybe writing a formal letter to the landlord explaining that we are surprised that our noise level has bothered anyone, but we are genuinely making a sincere effort not to offend (since the very first complaint), and would appreciate it if they could tell us when they actually hear noise so that we could figure out which thing it is that is causing the problem.

I'd like to talk to the neighbor directly, but I have this fear that the person is going to construe me even talking to them as harassment or something, and I'm rather pissed off at this point and am not sure if I could keep a lid on my obvious resentment coming through in tone of voice and facial expression. Also, I hate confrontation. I'd much rather write a letter if I could. But this is all moot since I don't even know which neighbor it is and the landlord likely won't tell me.

The landlord's latest note referenced paragraph 20 of my lease, and I think the part they refer to is (excerpted): "You and your occupants or guests may not engage in the following activities: [...] behaving in a loud or obnoxious manner; disturbing or threatening the rights, comfort, health, safety, or convenience of others (including our agents and employees) in or near the apartment community [...]". This is a standard Texas Apartment Association lease, and I live in Austin.

I'd really like to communicate in writing as calmly and reasonably as I can, but I'm scared even that will blow up in my face somehow. I'm supposed to sign my new lease soon but I haven't talked to the landlord since the last complaint so I'm not sure how pissed off they might be at me right now, or if they consider the complaints minor. I'm scared to even bring up the lease with them. New lease would be starting January 1st.

Anyway, I'm looking for advice as to how to approach this. I'd like to be able to enjoy my usual activities at home without feeling like I'm going to be evicted for it. And we have already gotten two levels quieter and it hasn't helped. Argh!
posted by marble to Home & Garden (49 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Are you making noise after 10 on weeknights? If so, you're in the wrong and whoever's complaining has every right to. They might have little kids who go to bed really early, and you might be keeping your neighbors up when they need to get to work early in the morning. I had next-door neighbors who pulled this sort of shit my senior year of college when I had very early, very important classes, and it really was a problem.

If you're getting complaints on the weekend, THEN you can, I think, reasonably write off your complaining neighbor as super-sensitive, and you might just want to find a louder neighborhood.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:00 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why don't you call the landlord up and ask them to be more specific.

If they refuse ask them how you are expected to comply with a noise complaint when you don't know what it pertains to?

If you don't get any satisfactory answer likely there isn't anything you can do. You can't read minds, after all.
posted by dfriedman at 2:06 PM on November 8, 2009

You may well be dealing with a malicious person. But as someone who's been on the other side of this it's worth pointing out that the sources of the loudest noise often go completely unrecognized by the noisemakers. You're on a ground floor, so the issue of footfalls (always far louder for people beneath the floor than in the apartment) isn't an issue. But is your TV placed right against a wall? Are there ventilation systems or piping that might be carrying noise? I'm not suggesting that you are blameworthy in this situation, but just that it's worth remembering that some noises are much louder — not just perceived to be louder, but just literally louder — for people in other apartments than for the people creating them.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:08 PM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]

Has someone new moved in recently? That would be my guess as to who is complaining, if you have lived there for four years with no complaints until recently.
posted by amro at 2:08 PM on November 8, 2009

It sounds like the first infraction is exactly as you originally guessed. Their problem was the noise just after 10pm.

Why did you get a second infraction from the landlord?

Keep it down before 10, as the law allows. You are already trying not to be obnoxious to your neighbors, so keep stuff down slightly after 9. Assume the neighbor is hypersensitive otherwise.
posted by beingresourceful at 2:09 PM on November 8, 2009

2nding dfriedman. Try to get specifics from the landlord and explain what you've already done. That should help you figure out if you are accidentally doing something loud, or if you live next to/below a nutter.
posted by grapesaresour at 2:12 PM on November 8, 2009

I would send the landlord back a note saying the following:

1/ You have lived without any incident for X number of years prior to the first complaint;

2/ After the 1st complaint, you made every effort to minimise evening noise (low volume, headphones for TV and music, etc.) and that you subsequently do not believe the source of the noise in the current complaint could possibly be from your apartment.

3/ Of course, if the noise was coming was coming from you, you'd be happy to take additional steps to eliminate it but at this point there is no way to reduce non-existant noise.

4/ At this juncture, it might be advisable to investigate other possible sources for the noise bothering this particular neighbour, or perhaps look into structural defects or anomolies on the building.

Basically, reject the complaint and put the ball back in his court. The nose very well may not be coming from you, for the record; buildings are weird.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:20 PM on November 8, 2009 [13 favorites]

I would be looking at moving. Not to hand the landlord a victory but in the because given all the above, life is short and you're living in an apartment that's putting the screws to you. Chances are you've got a hypersensitive neighbor and a borderline psycho landlord, and I'd bet they're going to remain there for the long haul. There's no way I'd renew that lease and if it bothered me enough I'd break it.
posted by crapmatic at 2:21 PM on November 8, 2009

Why are you not communicating with the landord? DarlingBri's points are the best way to go.

Consider moving your TV to an external wall and moving when the lease is up.
posted by spaltavian at 2:25 PM on November 8, 2009

Honestly, I can't believe you haven't asked the landlord. This is the obvious solution. And no, asking the neighbors will not be construed as harassment.
posted by ishotjr at 2:30 PM on November 8, 2009

You may well be dealing with a malicious person. But as someone who's been on the other side of this it's worth pointing out that the sources of the loudest noise often go completely unrecognized by the noisemakers.

As someone who lives under a person who assembles furniture at 2am, regularly, I say amen to this!
posted by jgirl at 2:37 PM on November 8, 2009

Wait, you got a complaint a few months ago, and now another this past weel? I'm thinking it wasn't ok before. Maybe your landlord had previously not said much to you, thinking that the complainer was a kook, but now more than one person is complaining.

I admit we do tend to turn up the sound on the tv when we play that game, because neither one of us likes how our voice sounds so we can drown it out with the actual artists singing. Okay, well, I guess it was too loud even though we never had trouble with it before.

You admit you have the volume up loud. There is a good chance that you really are disturbing people more than you may think. Sound travels in odd ways sometimes.
posted by kellyblah at 2:48 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Contact the landlord in writing, asking for dates/times that it was claimed that noise was heard from your apartment. Say also that without such documentation, it cannot be established that you were the source of the noise at all.

You really should respond to the complaint in writing. My guess is that the notification is some kind of essential step in potential eviction proceedings, so you want your objections on the record.

I have to say, though, that cranking up a TV so loud that it drowns out your own singing voices is, um, really freaking loud.
posted by palliser at 3:03 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, don't just roll over. I hate that noise complaints seem to have this presumption of truth and reason. Some people are obnoxiously loud, yes, but some people are obnoxiously unrealistic about apartment living.

I'm talking things like headphones used for playing games and music, a quieter volume on the tv, and just plain going to bed earlier... I hate living in fear like this, feeling so uncomfortable in my own home...

Something's wrong here. Call the landlord, tell him this.

I was once the target of complaints from my downstairs neighbors. I accommodated them as far as I thought was reasonable, then, when the complaints continued, asked my landlord to make them stop. He did. We actually became friends later. It turned out that this was their first apartment ever, and in their innocence had thought that their being able to hear me at all meant I was too loud. Many people who should know better seem to have this belief. Don't indulge them.
posted by Methylviolet at 3:07 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just ask your landlord (in writing if you prefer). Find out what is too loud and when it is too loud. You can't really do anything without that information.
posted by ssg at 3:08 PM on November 8, 2009

We had a psycho downstairs neighbor who would routinely pound on our floor (his ceiling) with a broom handle if he felt we were making too much noise. This apparently included times when we were reading on the couch with no music, because pipes in between the floor make growling noises. Luckily our apartment manager went to bat for us, and one time when he actually came to the door, we discussed the generic apartment sounds with him. Thank god he moved out last December.

I've always been paranoid about making floor-noises as an upstairs neighbor, to the point that we no longer use our foosball table or DDR game.

It's sometimes hard to know what specifically is making noises. You may have an un- or under-insulated wall somewhere. In ours, the wall between the bedroom and the kitchen is uninsulated, so opening/closing the microwave door sounds (in the bedroom) like something huge just fell or is falling through the wall.

You really need more details. If they're going to make a noise complaint, they need to specify what specifically is making noises. Generic noise complaints are useless, as you can modify behaviors that are completely unrelated to whatever is making noise while leaving the original one alone. Until then, there is nothing you can do if the obvious steps aren't working.

Also, this is, at this point, interfering with your enjoyment of your home. If your landlord acts as a delivery-man instead of a mediator, then move to a different complex. I'd go up to him with your best "I don't know what is wrong here but I'm doing my best to help" face on and get to the bottom of this - or, indeed, if it's you at all.

PS: Singstar has balance controls to turn your voice down / the real voice up, so you can do that without turning the volume up so high. On PS2, it's L2 or R2.
posted by bookdragoness at 3:09 PM on November 8, 2009

Nthing the "some people are way too sensitive" comments of others, so if you include your landlord in the discussion, they can put their foot down to protect you, too.
posted by bookdragoness at 3:09 PM on November 8, 2009

Just a tip: if you have to turn down the TV to watch after 10:00 and want to minimize missing conversations, using the closed captions can help. That is, if they don't drive you crazy and are available on the network.
posted by amicamentis at 3:13 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Even if you could speak with the neighbor, you'll probably make better headway with the landlord anyway. Detail all the changes you've made and ask what else you should do. Establish that you really have been trying to deal with this problem so the landlord will be more inclined to work with you on it. If it turns out your neighbor is crazy, you win points for trying to be accommodating, and if it turns out you are making the noise the landlord will understand you're not being malicious. Neighbor complaints can escalate very easily, especially about something this nebulous, so staying cheery and not-defensive will go a long way.
posted by lilac girl at 3:24 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not sure if this has been mentioned directly, but maybe try figuring out just loud you're actually being: During the day, turn on/up whatever potential noise makers you have then go around your unit and outside in different places to hear what decibel levels you're actually producing.

Maybe the walls in your building are thin/cheap. Try going into a room in your unit next to the noise and one furtherest away. That should give a sense of what the noise level might sound like in an adjacent unit (although there might be more insulation between units than within interior walls, this should help with the worse-case scenario).

Do the same outside as well. Put on the noise then go stand outside by your exterior walls and listen. Same with on the upstairs landing, etc. The sound might travel more easily through the floor to your upstairs neighbor, but if you can hear stuff in an upstairs hallway, then it's definitely too loud.

None of this is exact science, but it's amazing how different apartment buildings can be as far as design, materials, use of insulation or not, all of which can make a huge difference in terms of what level of sound comes across as noisy elsewhere in the building. Before you decide how to deal with the people involved, be confident about what in fact you're doing (or not doing) noise-wise.
posted by 5Q7 at 3:27 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had an upstairs neighbor who played videogames until 2 or 3 a.m. on weeknights. The bleeps and squeaks and little electronic trills really carried through the ceiling and made it hard for me to sleep.

You may just have oversensitive neighbors, but do also bear in mind that as the city settles down for the evening and traffic/outside noise drops, other noises seem to be amplified in the night silence. Maybe the building is just really poorly insulated for sound?

In any case, do try to speak to the landlord and find out if you have a neighbor who gets up early and is passively-aggressively seething about the noise.
posted by vickyverky at 3:32 PM on November 8, 2009

You need to write out exactly as you have here all the things you have done to comply with these complaints. Also, you need to find out exaclty WHAT noises are being complained about. I agree, sometimes buildings make noise, and apartment living involves noise of other people nearby.

Merely watching tv after 10 is NOT grounds for eviction!! Either there is a problem with the noiseproofing in your place, or there is a neighbor who is hypersensitive or grumpy.

Talk to your landlord. TELL THEM the things you have done to comply, and point out that you have lived in the building for years without any complaints. If they don't want to talk, then write them a letter with a certified delivery receipt. You may want to cc the local Housing Department or Legal Aid.

YOU PAY RENT THERE, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE A DECENT LIFE! Having to squelch yourself BEFORE 10pm for fear of complaints, when you are making a "normal" amount of noise (tv, conversation, etc) is a violation of YOUR rights as tenants. After 10, yes, be "quiet". Quiet means no noise can be heard outside your apartment. You should still be able to watch tv at a regular level, hold conversations, listen to music at a low level, walk from room to room, etc.

In California, the law is if you go outside into your common area or hallway and cannot hear the noise, then it is NOT a violation. If the complainer continues to call the cops and when they arrive the cops cannot hear the noise before they open your door, they will eventually stop responding to those complaints!

Ask a good friend to help you check, they will listen with "new ears" and may be able to detect sounds that you have grown used to.

All it takes is one time for the complainer to complain about a day when you aren't even home to disprove them... Or to prove that what they are hearing is an appliance or ac or heater going off, nothing you can control.

If these things don't help, you may want to talk to Legal Aid, or ask the landlord if you can have a tenant meeting, or ask the landlord what THEY think is "too much noise". Point out again that you haven't had these complaints in all the years you lived there, and have greatly modified your habits since the first complaint, to the point that YOU are now the one being put out by the complainer!

If none of this helps, face it, your manager wants to evict you so they can raise your rent! (Prove it, and you might be able to live there rent free lol!) You seem to have gone above and beyond to comply. Make sure every one knows this.

You might leave notes or write a form letter to each tenant, stating that you have received complaints about noise from your unit, and you aren't sure what that means. You may get a response that answers your question, and you will probably get some support from other tenants who don't have a problem with YOU, or who HAVE been complained against as well!

Written documentation goes a long way to help your case. Make lists, write letters, ask for clarification. You DO have the right, this IS still America!

Moving the tv and speakers away from the walls may help...

LOL, I lived upstairs. The person below me turned on some crappy disco music LOUD one day. I put on my favorite bagpipe music and turned the speaker to face the floor! The disco stopped quite abruptly, and they never turned their music up THAT loud ever again! LOL! The tenants were all pretty young or had kids, so a moderate level of noise was actually a comfort! I just don't like disco....

Good luck to you!
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 3:41 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

"I admit we do tend to turn up the sound on the tv when we play that game"

You live in an apartment, there is a thin rug and a 3/4 inch piece of plywood between you and your neighbor... people are not complaining just for something to do... there's a problem, address it.
posted by HuronBob at 3:49 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Hang a sign up on the common door that says: "Hi, this is x from apartment y! We've recieved a few noise complaints and we're really sorry about that, but we also think we're pretty quiet people! Obviously, we must share a common wall! If you could just knock on our door anytime after z, we'd be happy to see how loud it is and how we can help you sleep better :)

-x from apartment y".

I'm sure they'll step forward and you'll look like a good neighbor.
posted by GilloD at 3:50 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

Nthing that sometimes noise travels in weird ways. We have weird acoustics in our townhome in which it is almost impossible to hear our across-the-courtyard neighbor's parties from outside downstairs (which is physically closer to and with fewer barriers between us and the noise) but the parties are loud as hell in our bedroom. So if they were to go outside and check their noise level they would hear very little, but it is actually loud enough *in the room we sleep in* to disturb us. We don't understand it but there it is.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:57 PM on November 8, 2009

1. I have a crazy downstairs neighbor. She stands around with a broom waiting for things to happen. Starts banging the ceiling at any time after 9pm when there's noise. For example, my boyfriend accidentally dropped a piece of tupperware from waist height to the floor at 9:06pm, the ceiling percussion show was instantaneous - impressively instantaneous as if she had been standing there waiting for something to happen so she could start hitting the ceiling. She doesn't have a small child, but we do know that we were "scaring [her] cat." I knew she was nuts when we moved in - the previous tenants let me know and the super rolls his eyes about her. I feel you.

2. Do you slam doors? Are you loud in the hallway? Check for heating vents near speakers or other noise generating objects.

3. Talk to your landlord. Acknowledge that you were at fault for the first complaint but that you've been making a good faith effort since and need to know what kind of noise your anonymous neighbor is complaining about. Remind the landlord that the noise could be coming from another tenant.

4. Find out what decibels are acceptable at what times during the day according to your lease and to local laws.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:10 PM on November 8, 2009

Check you bass also. I had a roommate and I could hear his bass clear as day as we had adjoining rooms. I went into his room to yell at him, and his music was on a perfectly acceptable level for someone listening to music alone. I would have gotten on his case, but he wouldn't have able to do anything short of rearranging his whole room around. So check any sources of bass you have and turn them off.
posted by ruwan at 4:13 PM on November 8, 2009

People are jumping down the OP's throat for the last time they were playing the game loudly, which, read carefully, WAS MONTHS AGO. Not this past Wednesday, when they got the most recent noise complaint. For goodness sake. I've lived in nothing but apartments, and I know the noise issues that can come from it, but this is obviously unrelated.
posted by dithmer at 4:19 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

It has been a while since I rented, but whenever I had an issue, the Austin Tenants Council was always incredibly helpful in pointing me in the right direction. Give your landlord a ring, but it can't hurt to give the ATC a call tomorrow as well to find out what their take on the situation is. They can let you know if the written warning is, indeed, a step in the eviction process (for example), and what other rights you have/suggestions for peaceful resolution they might have.
posted by Addlepated at 4:41 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, as ruwan said, check the bass. I had an issue with a subwoofer in a condo 6 doors down from mine. The people had no idea they could be heard so far away. Once the bass was turned off, I had no further problems with noise.
posted by philokalia at 5:02 PM on November 8, 2009

Seconding calling the tenants council. If you make an appointment they will probably go over your lease with you and give you some suggestions.
posted by pintapicasso at 5:24 PM on November 8, 2009

Do not worry about being kicked out by your landlord for noise complaints. It's impossible. The only way anything could happen would be if you were making more than the legal amount of noise (truly, a lot of noise) as measured by the police on several occasions. Even if this were to happen you would simply get a ticket of some kind. Just to be clear, there's no legal way you can be kicked out, and any concessions you are making are all you be a good person.

You sound like a good person who's sincerely trying to be quieter after 10 PM. I would not stop watching television, etc. after that time though. As long as you're being reasonable, you shouldn't have to re-organize your life for your neighbor.

I would write exactly what DarlingBri suggests you write above to your landlord. Reiterate you've done all you can on your end, and at this point it's either the building or you're being harassed. In fact, I would write at the end of your letter that you'll consider continuing complaints harassment, and that if it happens again needlessly you will make a formal complaint with the police.
posted by xammerboy at 5:36 PM on November 8, 2009

xammerboy, that sounds like legal advice. Are you sure that everything you have said applies to the OP, the jurisdiction they live in and the lease they signed?
posted by soelo at 5:54 PM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

Ugh, I feel for you. I was in your situation a few years back.

I lived in an apartment complex with four units in each building - 2 upstairs, 2 downstairs. I lived downstairs. Everything was hunky-dory until a new tenant moved in upstairs. 24 hours later, she stopped by to introduce herself and mention that she heard my TV, music and talking after 10pm. Strange, I thought, since I rarely watched TV, typically listened to music with headphones, and hadn't recently entertained guests. She brought up the noise a week later after an early evening hanging out with a friend, chatting quietly on the couch.

The next week, I was in New York on business. When I returned, the landlord called me and her into the office for a chat. She had submitted a formal noise complaint against me -- this time for unreasonable noise every night of the previous week. In the meeting, I explained I was in NY all week and brought my airline tix and hotel bill as proof. She accused me of lying (huh?) and/or letting someone stay in my apartment for the week (uh, no). When asked about the nature of the noise, she described a hum or vibration every few hours, as well as loud talking. I determined that she was hearing my (new, super-quiet) refrigerator kicking in, as well as...well, who knows what.

The landlord's solution was to insist that I either keep as quiet as a mouse or for one of us to move. She refused to leave. I volunteered to leave the complex.

Naturally, having effectively evicting me, she negotiated with the landlord to move to an adjacent building. As I packed my final load in the car, enroute to a new life in a wonderfully-private apartment, she stopped a couple as they exited the building, introduced herself as a new tenant, and added "...by the way, do you mind keeping it down in the evenings? I heard quite a bit of laughing and loud talking last evening."

The moral of my long-winded account is that the only solution is to change your lifestyle (which sounds as unreasonable as my landlord's demands) or to kick off the new year in a space that's a better fit. Go with the latter - you'll be much happier for it.
posted by prinado at 6:20 PM on November 8, 2009

You need to request more information from your landlord. Darling Bri nails it -- I can't imagine why you are you making yourselves crazy and paranoid without requesting more information and refuting the second claim.
posted by desuetude at 6:33 PM on November 8, 2009

Do not worry about being kicked out by your landlord for noise complaints. It's impossible. The only way anything could happen would be if you were making more than the legal amount of noise (truly, a lot of noise) as measured by the police on several occasions. Even if this were to happen you would simply get a ticket of some kind. Just to be clear, there's no legal way you can be kicked out, and any concessions you are making are all you be a good person.

This is categorically untrue. Leases being a binding contract aside, I personally know a couple who were evicted for nothing more that being loud (and granted, they were - excessively so). If it wasn't possible to evict someone because of noise, apartment buildings would be an unbearably noisy place for even the most tolerant residents.

Having said that, having lived in a condo with paper-thin walls and ceilings, I know how easily sounds can be transmitted / amplified / annoying. I once mistakenly left the second alarm on my bedroom alarm clock on, so for a couple days it would go off after I had gone to work. After the third day, I got a visit from a neighbor who said she could hear it plainly from her bedroom, and asked me to check into it because it was a bit bothersome. We shared no more than about 8 feet of dining room wall space and nothing more... and our bedrooms were both on the opposite end of our units from the dining room, and yet she could still plainly hear my alarm clock to the point of annoyance.

Nthing everyone else... talk to the landlord. Get some specifics. It might turn out to be something specific that you weren't aware of or didn't consider, and could take easy measures to curb whatever it is without having to tone down everything else it is you're doing and live in constant fear of pissing someone off.
posted by SquidLips at 6:48 PM on November 8, 2009

My family once were accussed of making excessive noise, while everyone in the house was sleeping. Our neighbour was schizophrenic, and her husband was in denial about it. Eventually, our (actually really nice, reasonable) landlord figured out that her accusations had no connection to reality, but by that time we'd already been served with possible eviction and had to go to a tribunal to dispute it.

This may not be your problem. But ask the landlord to give you specifics of both exact time/date of alledged noise offenses, and descriptions of said noise, and document your own activities. If you find that people are complaining about singing past 10pm at night when you were, in fact, singing past 10pm at night, your walls are just really thin and you probably should avoid it. But if you find that people are complaining about hearing stereos playing in the room next to their bedroom, when there are are no stereos or even clock radios on that side of the house (yeah, we got that too), then you know that they are a) malicious or b) insane.
posted by jb at 7:41 PM on November 8, 2009

I thought about maybe writing a formal letter to the landlord explaining that we are surprised that our noise level has bothered anyone

That worked for me. Unless more than one tenant is complaining, landlords can understand both sides. If you've been a reasonable tenant for four years the landlord will like to keep you.

Lots of good advice above about what to write - do it asap.
posted by anadem at 8:42 PM on November 8, 2009

Having heard about these types of issues from multiple renters for the past few months, I've wondered why the following is not standard practice:

Once a noise complaint is made, an appt is set up for complainer, loud tenant and landlord. Each party brings an advocate. At appt time, each tenant stays in their apartment, each advocate goes to the other apartment, landlord goes to complainer's apartment. Loud tenant moves around apartment, turns on TV, drops tupperware, tiptoes to bathroom, etc, behaving as they normally do. Using a cell phone, call each other. "We're watching TV on volume level 3 - can you hear me now?" etc.

It would identify EXACTLY what Loud Tenant is doing and what Complainer can hear. Landlord can help resolve which items are too loud and which ones Complainer is just complaining about, and which ones are just building noises.

I just don't get how these types of issues escalate into long feuds when each party is making assumptions about the raucous activities/mental health of the other party.

Disclaimer: I live in a house, so I'm not involved in any of this. Just trying to apply logic to the situation.
posted by CathyG at 10:02 PM on November 8, 2009

But we watched it so quietly that we could barely hear the dialogue, and turned it way down for every gunfight.

Welcome to apartment life! That is pretty much how everyone who lives in an apartment lives. Please allow me to point out to you the "subtitles" button on your DVD player's remote control.

That is why apartment life sucks, and also why it is cheaper than buying or renting a house. Because when it starts to get late, you have to turn down the volume, if you don't want to be a dick.

I can't figure out if the problem was that it was after 10 or just that we were playing it at all.

Really? You can't? Dude. The answer is "Both."

We have a group of people singing - by their own admission - singing BADLY. After 10PM. Loudly. And they have turned up the volume on the TV, so as to drown out THEIR BAD SINGING. Hell, I want to call the cops on you from here.

It sounds like you were lucky in the past to have neighbors who didn't care what you did. Now you have a neighbor who apparently has a job, and needs to get to bed at a decent hour. And who evidently has precious little appreciation for your late night vocal stylings.

You are not the only person whose feelings matter. Be considerate, and keep it down. You did not receive a noise complaint after Desperado night, which tells you that you were on the right track.

Go forth, with your new and better knowledge of the world, and be ye not so self-centered in the future.
posted by ErikaB at 10:02 PM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]

Some people are too sensitive. This is true.
Some people are clueless about the impact they make on others. Mother effing clueless!!!! And there's no denying that this is also true. Someone on the floor I live on apparently bought (as I was told) "a $7,000 dance machine." I don't know what the hell the thing is, but this idiot isn't my next door neighbor, yet my floor vibrates.

I'm not saying this is you... but... there are people in this world who seem to have no ability to see things from someone else's point of view. Or maybe they're so cold and uncaring that they don't give a rats ass. Again, I'm not saying this is you... but the fact that someone called the police on you... the police... this leads me to wonder if you're really aware of how loud you actually are.

- You got a formal written noise complaint from the landlord.
- You were visited by the police.

Here's the one that leads me to believe you're clueless - and I apologize for putting it that way, but come on. Read your own words: "I admit we do tend to turn up the sound on the tv when we play that game, because neither one of us likes how our voice sounds so we can drown it out with the actual artists singing."

So, you turn the sound up so loud that it drowns out your own loud voice? And you don't see how that's a problem for your neighbors?

"I can't figure out if the problem was that it was after 10 or..."

OR? You were making that much noise in an apartment after 10PM AFTER having received a formal notice about noise from your landlord? No wonder they called the cops. They'd already contacted the landlord, and that didn't solve the problem.

I hate to say it but, you're probably going to be evicted, even if you don't do much more that's wrong since you've already proven to be a problem neighbor.

My advice: start looking for a new apartment. Tomorrow. Seriously, do it before it's too late.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:50 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I live next to noisy neighbors. They play ping pong at 2 AM. I am sure they are just having fun. They also play video games and watch TV at a loud volume. Again, I am sure they are just having fun. We are pretty reasonablet. We rarely complain. But there is nothing worse than living next to a noisy neighbor, and you sound like one.
posted by fifilaru at 12:01 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Unless you're in a freshman dorm, 10pm is quiet time, except for the occasional (like, 2 - 4x/year) party, and for those, you invite your neighbors.

Assume your neighbors have to get up at 6am, because some do.
posted by zippy at 1:56 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you use the shower/bath/sink/toilet after 10pm? I know its pretty impossible *not* to use the bathroom, but my upstairs neighbour takes a bath in his en suite every night at midnight - I could hear everything from water running to him somehow squeaking against the plastic bath/sloshing water around. It drove me crazy for a couple of weeks before I just moved my bed into another room. Basically, it might not be tv, footstep etc noise that's the problem!
posted by cardamine at 4:24 AM on November 9, 2009

Some people are very noise sensitive - to the nth degree - could be a symptom of PTSD where sudden noises trigger them. They actually are hypervigilent to all extraneous movement - where a thump can send them right back in time to a war zone. In light of this, I think the suggestion made to reach out to them by putting up a sign letting them know that you're willing to cut down the noise levels - just please let you know when and how this is filtering through to them. I'd go the extra mile, if possible and offer to put down some kind of extra thick carpeting that would muffle the sound even more.
posted by watercarrier at 5:16 AM on November 9, 2009

If you have a subwoofer attached to your tv/entertainment systerm, kill it. These things are pure evil as far as apartment dwelling goes. Turning it down won't help, you need to turn it off or just get rid of it. By design, the sound travels through the wall and doesn't stop at your apartment.
posted by clark at 5:41 AM on November 9, 2009

2oh1, I think you have the timeline off -- the visit from the cops in response to the singing game was the thing that happened first, and they haven't played it since then, but have gotten a further noise complaint and don't know why.

That said, I do think the singing-video-game thing is relevant in that I think it reveals an unusual level of cluelessness about reasonable apartment living -- even before the noise complaint, who could possibly think that would be OK after 10 p.m.? -- which leads me to wonder whether you're really being as quiet as you think you are, OP.
posted by palliser at 6:38 AM on November 9, 2009

How many nights of loud singing video games did you play before you received the first complaint? It's likely that your neighbors didn't file a complaint on the first occasion, and now you are the "noisy neighbor." This means that they now have zero tolerance for any noise coming out of your apartment after 10 - they are hyper sensitive and angry. I recommend that you comply with the request to turn down the tv, don't play video games or music after 10:00. I live in an old apartment building, and you would be amazed what comes through the walls/ceilings. I can here the guy upstairs every time he turns over in bed - if I had to listen to him playing karaoke games while I was trying to get to sleep, I might just set fire to the apartment.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:39 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

errrr. I can hear.... no coffee yet...
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:40 AM on November 9, 2009

« Older Help me choose a host   |   Why can I use PING but not HTTP on a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.