How do we get a message across to our neighbors, The Leadfoots?
December 19, 2009 7:44 AM   Subscribe

Feeling abused by noisy upstairs neighbors. Looking for some strategies to let them know we are not doormats.

We've lived in our charming, poorly soundproofed, hardwood-floored apartment for almost four years. From the beginning, our upstairs neighbors, The Leadfoots, have been noisy; the situation went into a freefall when they had a baby. Leadfoot Junior, now two and a half, hits the ground running at 6:30am, and pretty much continues at that pace as long as he's home. I work late and need to sleep another hour or two in the morning, but it's impossible, even on my day off. The incessant running at all hours is often coupled with the parents shouting at Junior, Junior falling, Junior throwing things.

We have gone the whole route trying to communicate with these people:

Polite conversation in passing: they changed the topic and continued on their way.

More insistent face-to-face requests, suggestions of slippers, carpets, etc.: they responded that it's their right to do what they want in their own home; Mrs. L is allergic to carpeting; and how dare we infringe on their liberty by suggesting what they should put on their feet.

Letter-writing: a printout of the permitted decibel levels and 'noise-allowed' hours was shoved under our door.

Complaining to the landlord: he replied that Mr. Leadfoot was a pain in the ass, but otherwise just shrugged and said we should work it out ourselves.

And, out of complete frustration, ceiling banging, yelling and some very loud electronic music/Chili Peppers: this actually seemed to work a bit, so we know it's possible for them to make less noise.

The last time I went up on a Sunday morning to (very calmly) tell them that Junior's running the length of the apartment and jumping directly over our heads in our bedroom was disturbing us, I was treated to some dripping sarcasm from Mr. Leadfoot (who was holding a shoe-clad Junior on his hip), and then Mrs. Leadfoot went nutty, screamed like a banshee and slammed the door in my face. The next day, she went to the police and filed a complaint against us for harassment. We filed a counter-complaint, but the whole thing is fairly meaningless.

We are looking for another apartment and hope to move out within the next two to three months. In the meantime, the Leadfoots, smug in the aftermath of their visit to the police station, have let all hell break loose and make as much noise as they want.

I think my SO and I are pretty reasonable people. Over the years we've been here, we've let a lot go unchallenged. We hate the fact that we could not work this out reasonably and maturely. We're moving. But we've probably got another 90 days of living under what sounds like a bowling alley. And it makes us furious to just sit here and take it.
Confronting them is out of the question now. What suggestions can you make for ways to let them know that we're down here, they're disturbing us, and it's not ok?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (57 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
At this point, I think anything you do will just make things worse.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:57 AM on December 19, 2009

If you live in an apartment there will be noise. If you live in an apartment with hardwood floors, it will be doubly so.

Frankly even though I'm only hearing your side of this dispute you seem like the one being unreasonable here. My suggestion is that you don't further antagonize them. They already know that you are down there, that they are disturbing you and that you don't think it's ok so what do you hope to gain?
posted by Bonzai at 7:59 AM on December 19, 2009 [8 favorites]

Move out. It sucks, but if you read through the history of Ask MeFi, you'll find that there are lots of stories like this; in the long run, the amount of effort that you can expend on this kind of thing is unlikely to change the situation, and very likely to do little more than make everyone involved miserable and vindictive.

I'm sympathetic to the feeling of fury, and of unfairly imposed impotence, but the best advice I think anyone can give you is to do everything you can to take the higher ground, practice as much patience as you can, and then move and laugh at the whole damned thing, right down to the competing police filings.
posted by ellF at 7:59 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think they realize you are down there. That is not the problem. Unless you are looking for ways to seek revenge..

Moving seems the right idea - which stinks but is a part of renting, living in an apartment, etc. In the mean time, ear plugs work wonders.
posted by quodlibet at 8:03 AM on December 19, 2009

Your neighbors: walking around in their home, having a baby.
You: yell at ceiling, bang on ceiling, play loud music in revenge.

They know you're down there.
posted by whiskeyspider at 8:03 AM on December 19, 2009 [8 favorites]

I'm pretty sure your landlord is supposed to say something to your neighbors. I'd explore that a little bit.
posted by marimeko at 8:03 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

They KNOW they're disturbing you, and they think it's just fine. You can suck it up for the next 90 days, or you can fume and try to play stupid games by playing loud electronic music as late as the noise regulations allow you to -- which will make them presumably be louder, complain more about you, and also bother them a lot less than their noise bothers you because of the way sound travels.

Suck it up and look for a new place that is on the top floor.
posted by jeather at 8:06 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Make sure that your landlord knows that the reason you are moving is because of the noise these people are making. He needs to realize that he's losing long term renters (and money) because of this nutty family.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 8:09 AM on December 19, 2009 [30 favorites]

They sound like horrible people. Enjoy your new place, and now you know to check out your prospective neighbors, and to make sure the lease has regulations for carpeting x% of wooden floors and not wearing shoes indoors, ie common sense.

I'd also make it clear to current landlord that you're moving due to unreasonable noise levels/tenants.
posted by cestmoi15 at 8:10 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I live in a similar setup. My apartment building has hardwood floors and I live on the first floor. Our lease has a clause in it that states 75% of the floors must be covered with rugs, presumably for this very reason. I'm fortunate in that my upstairs neighbor lives alone and doesn't make very much noise. The only time I can ever hear him is when he first arrives home from work, before he takes his shoes off. While some noise like this is to be expected when living in an apartment, it does seem unreasonable for your neighbors to refuse to put down any rugs, or wear slippers, or at least not wear shoes indoors... I wish there was something I could tell you, but unless your lease has a similar clause about carpeting, it sounds like there's not much you can do at this point but endure it until you move out.
posted by Nothlit at 8:11 AM on December 19, 2009

Throw a series of going away parties, ask everyone to bring a boombox, start-time around Junior's bedtime? Purchase some Buttkickers, affix to ceiling, hook up to TV and watch Apocalypse Now repeatedly? Crank up the stereo volume with Merzbow on repeat every night while you go out for dinner? Give the ceiling 101 raps with a broom handle every time you come home from work late, preferably the ceiling under Junior's bedroom?

Or y'know, just suck it up for 90 days like a mature adult.
posted by theCroft at 8:12 AM on December 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Plus, children making noise is basically to be expected (not that it isn't possible to reduce it somewhat). Playing loud music in revenge is just obnoxious.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:13 AM on December 19, 2009

posted by HuronBob at 8:14 AM on December 19, 2009

They sound like assholes. You could start making noise when they are sleeping, but ultimately this is a no win for you and you should focus on moving. They know you're there and clearly don't care.
posted by Mavri at 8:16 AM on December 19, 2009

Another thought: I'd tell the landlord that you're moving unless he addresses the noise issue wtih them and see how he takes (and give concrete examples about carpeting and no wearing shoes indoors), but yeah, start/continue looking for a new place.
posted by cestmoi15 at 8:17 AM on December 19, 2009

Noise is one of the things that come with apartment living. Next time move into an upstairs apartment. Your neighbors have every right to walk around their apartment. I'm sure they are taking what they assume to be appropriate noise reduction measures, and if you can still hear it, well ... that's your problem. Really. I once lived in an apartment directly underneath a pair of college football linebackers. It sucked, but they had just as much of a right to nail their girlfriends and tapdance across the floor as I did.

Things you shouldn't do: whine to the landlord, call the cops, or retaliate with noise of your own.

Things you should do: Get over it, get earplugs, or get out of there.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:21 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

We have a similar problem. When I lived in Europe I was annoyed by having to take my shoes off indoors, but now I finally understand it.
posted by melissam at 8:23 AM on December 19, 2009

I once had a horrible experience living on the middle floor of a non-sound proof apartment- the boys that lived above us would practice their electric guitar (badly) LOUDLY and we could hear them peeing into the toliet, as well as every single step they was that transparent.

I now live in the top of a house with two other people living below in two different apartments...and would probably never move into a place that wasn't on the top because of my past experiences.

Since the horrible incident I have been very conscientious of my noise level and work really hard to not be too squeeky, not do aerobics when they are home and to only put my heels on when I am heading out the door. But I don't know...what do you want them to do? Tell the kid (with energy) not to run around? To just sit there so it can be quiet for you? I know it sucks but kids are loud and if junior wasn't running around he would probably just be screaming. Sounds like you need to move to a top level.
posted by janelikes at 8:25 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with Bonzai. Footfalls are part of life in a city apartment, especially a charming old hardwood-floored one. Your neighbors have the right to walk around their apartment at any hour. Toddlers will be toddlers. I suggest your relocate to a nice boring single family house in the suburbs.
posted by monstrouspudding at 8:28 AM on December 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

The situation went into a "freefall" when they had a baby and the baby is now TWO AND A HALF. The fact that you're just now (after TWO AND A HALF YEARS) asking gee, what can we do is totally baffling to me. What you can do is move out two years ago; failing that, move out in ninety days. There's no magical solution to make the L.Foot Family quiet down or become aware of you. The magical solution is to move out -- any last-ditch noisemaking efforts on your part would just be asking for trouble.
posted by kate blank at 8:28 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Move out as soon as you can if you can, even if it means paying for two places for a few months, unless you simply can't afford that.

These people are horribly rude and filled with entitlement. The cops aren't going to get you anywhere. Retaliatory noise will only get you into a shit flinging contest. The landlord doesn't care so long as he's getting paid (so make it clear that you are moving because of the noise). And don't listen to the kid apologists. Yes, apartment living means living with other people's noises. Yes, kids can be noisy. But these people clearly care nothing about discipline and teaching proper behavior. Ugh.
posted by 6550 at 8:40 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

We have had neighbors who were inconsiderate with their music before. "Oklahoma" worked well for bringing the problem to their attention. My father had similar success with bagpipe music. (He had a neighbor who insisted that it was his right to play music at any volume he liked. Dad looped the music, pointed the speaker out the wind at top volume and left for the weekend. End of problem)

You neighbors, however, have already had the problem pointed out in a much more mature fashion than mine. And discussed in a more mature fashion than my father's. If you were planning to stay, it would be reasonable to try a tit for tat music/stomping battle. But otherwise, probably best not to have a 3-4 month fight that you might not win.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:40 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

By the way, I agree with others they have the right to walk around, and that toddlers make noise.. But the behavior that you describe is well past that and is over the top inconsiderate.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:42 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

The solution is to move, and then grumble at dinner parties about how new parents should be forced with a cattle-prod to move to the suburbs. You might then have kids one day and be described on the internet as a banshee by your otherwise anonymous downstairs neighbors.

The solution (to move) is within your grasp: 90 days and counting!
posted by chrillsicka at 8:48 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

(have dealt with noise issues before)

The bottom line is that your neighbors are complete assholes, and you can't change their behavior. I am guessing you are in the U.S., and noise is not really a law enforcement priority unless we're talking boomboxes and after-hours noise. Effectively, there's nothing you can really do about this except move.

However when you're dealing with boneheads like them I fully endorse the idea of reciprocating the noise to demonstrate your point, as long as you figure out how to pull it off without bothering your other neighbors. Making noise during their falling-sleeping time (midnight to 1 am) might be good... like 5 to 10 minutes so that it's gone by the time a cop or landlord shows up. Maybe a speaker up to the floor will direct it better.

But yes, absolutely, move... and if it intrudes on your health or work quality, break the damn lease.
posted by crapmatic at 8:56 AM on December 19, 2009

e're moving. But we've probably got another 90 days of living under what sounds like a bowling alley. And it makes us furious to just sit here and take it.
Confronting them is out of the question now. What suggestions can you make for ways to let them know that we're down here, they're disturbing us, and it's not ok?

You've already done pretty much everything that metafilter might possibly suggest. I understand your anger (and the frustration of the situation, at both ends--I've both been plagued by noisy neighbors and unknowingly been a noisy neighbor myself), but really, th best thing to do is to suck it up for 90 more days and then move to either a single-family home or a top-floor apartment. You cannot win with people this rude or this insistent.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:59 AM on December 19, 2009

My blood pressure is spiking just reading through this thread. Ten years ago I lived above a guy who would often play music so loud my floor literally shook; morning, noon, day and night. Complaining to the building superintendent didn't do any good. Politely asking him to be more considerate of others (I reminded him there was a family with young children living directly below him) didn't do any good. Pounding on the floor and yelling didn't do any (long-term) good. Blasting my own music at ear-splitting levels when I was pretty sure he was asleep brought a certain momentary satisfaction but ultimately I started feeling like an asshole because I knew I was bothering innocent bystanders. He almost completely ruined the experience of living there, because even when he wasn't home I was sitting there on pins and needles waiting for him to return and turn on the stereo. Luckily I had a girlfriend whose apartment I could escape to, but holy Christ...I've never hated anyone so much as an adult as I did that guy. In the end, it didn't seem like there was much I could do aside from move (I called the cops twice, but they never showed up), which I did as soon as I could.

> If you live in an apartment there will be noise.

I've always thought that when you move into an apartment building you sign a sort of unwritten social contract; you have to expect a certain level of noise, and you should be able to make a certain amount of noise, but be reasonable. The guy living beside me liked to watch action movies at high volumes, but it never really bothered me because he always turned them down or off by 11:00, maybe a bit later on weekends. So he was obviously considerate of his neighbours, unlike the asshat living below me.

> I'd also make it clear to current landlord that you're moving due to unreasonable noise levels/tenants.

This can't hurt. Also, when I finally moved out of my place I went out of my way to tell both of the people who toured the apartment that there was a noisy jerk living below.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:59 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Agreed with everyone who says "that's the deal you get for living in an apartment". I've luckily always lived top floor (and I know why, heh), but I've done some "tests" with my current downstairs neighbour). Our (converted Victorian, UK) house is badly insulated, but I have thick carpet and got the best undercarpet soundproofing I could when I moved in. Nevertheless, she can pretty much hear every step I take. Not bowling-alley level, but I can imagine if it was hardwood, it would be.

Earplugs are your friends. I wore them every night when I lived in a noisier place (still top floor, but lots of doorslamming etc), and I still do now when I want to sleep in.

Having said all of the above, the Leadfoots do seem like unreasonable smug twits so I'd be very tempted to go tit for tat for the whatever many weeks you remain living there. Be just as inconsiderate as they are, and if they complain make sure to write passive aggressive notes and post them to

Bear in mind that their 2.5yr old needs a lot of sleep. It would be really annoying if he were sleep-deprived and became very cranky. Not suggesting you make him so, but it might help to point out to them that you could, lest they show some consideration.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 9:02 AM on December 19, 2009

Moving is your only solution. everything else will only escalate and make things worse. 90 days really isn't too bad in the grand scheme of things (after all, you've tolerated 2 1/2 years with a noisy baby upstairs).
posted by Happydaz at 9:11 AM on December 19, 2009

Nothlit writes "it does seem unreasonable for your neighbors to refuse to put down any rugs,"

This doesn't seem unreasonable to me at all. One of the attractions of my house is the hardwood floors which are easy to clean, look good, provide good traction, are environmental friendly, don't trap whatever it is that aggravates my wife's alergeries and are easy to clean(ya that's in there twice). Covering 75% of the floor with rugs would essentially negate all the desirable qualities of hardwood flooring.
posted by Mitheral at 9:12 AM on December 19, 2009 [7 favorites]

Nthing the futility of doing anything you haven't tried already. Either they are making a reasonable amount of noise and will not let you bully them, or they are assholes and will continue to be assholes. You'll have to move.

Tell the landlord why you're moving like everyone upthread says, and additionally, don't be shy about telling people why you're leaving when the landlord shows the apartment. Oh, and make sure you mention that the landlord said there's nothing he can do about it, so you had no choice but to move out. If he doesn't like that, tough shit for him.
posted by ctmf at 9:16 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Making noise during their falling-sleeping time (midnight to 1 am) might be good... like 5 to 10 minutes so that it's gone by the time a cop or landlord shows up.

I'm sorry, but there is a two year old in the apartment. It is not the child's fault his parents are inconsiderate.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:22 AM on December 19, 2009

Their "right" to stomp around ends where your sleep begins. You talked about sending them noise regulations -- why don't you call the police and keep calling until those regulations are enforced?

Apartment living is a two-way obligation street, not an "I'll act as if I lived in a house and everybody else can suck it up" cul-de-sac. If they are harming their neighbours, they need to alter their behaviour, stat.

(The sheer volume of literally anti-social responses here surprises me. It's another insight into why America is the way it is. To deal with this problem here wouldn't even take the cops: a call to the council out-of-hours noise enforcement unit and my problem would become theirs. And they have warrants, and courts)
posted by bonaldi at 9:27 AM on December 19, 2009 [11 favorites]

It would be really annoying if he were sleep-deprived and became very cranky. Not suggesting you make him so, but it might help to point out to them that you could, lest they show some consideration.

Please don't make the child miserable to spite his parents. Sleepy child = miserable child = cranky child = parents yelling even more at the child = more miserable child.

I don't see how there's anything more that can be done. You haven't reached doormat status. You've reached impasse.
posted by moira at 9:37 AM on December 19, 2009

From the beginning, our upstairs neighbors, The Leadfoots, have been noisy; the situation went into a freefall when they had a baby.

So it isn't as if you've lived with quiet upstairs neighbors. You have no good way of knowing the extent to which the noise level is within the family's control.

My previous apartment was a third floor unit in an old building with hardwood floors. The downstairs neighbors complained when my 200lb hockey-player roommate tromped around our place--they asked "politely" (while seething with rage), they yelled, they banged on their ceiling, they suggested carpets (can't, sorry: allergies), they demanded we refrain from wearing shoes indoors, they demonstrated how we should walk on the balls of our feet. I figured it must suck to live below a hockey player. Then he moved out, and it was just my fiance and me--we were mindful of the noise, tiptoed around, never ran or stomped or danced or anything, we invested in thick socks and slippers. And still, the yelling, the banging on the ceiling, the utter rage that we might walk through our home (and God forbid I drop something by accident). For me, the highlight of the whole situation was when one of our neighbors banged on our door one evening and yelled "Walk on your BALLS!" after I'd knocked a container off the kitchen counter. None of my efforts to keep the noise down were a match for the physical reality of our old building.

I mean, your neighbors might still be assholes, but I know I'm not one.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:38 AM on December 19, 2009 [18 favorites]

People who live in an apartment building absolutely have a responsibility to consider others who live in the building with them. Do you exist in a freaking bubble? Just because the other people are outside (directly outside, but outside nonetheless) your four walls does not mean they do not exist.
Of course, we all know that there is residual noise when multiple households share the same building, but there is also a reasonable expectation of peaceful habitation. In this case, the upstairs neighbors are violating this social contract.
If they want to let their kid run around on hardwood floors, wearing shoes, and not have carpeting, THEY are the ones that should move to a single family house. It doesn't sound like the poster is being unreasonable at all. He doesn't expect complete peace and quiet, just that the disturbances stay within reason.
Check your lease, many standard lease forms have in them a clause stating that the tenant has a right to peaceful habitation, and that it is the landlords responsibility to make this so. If it's not in the lease, it may still be a right that a tenant in your state has. The landlord has been unwilling to do anything thus far, but maybe if he learns that he has a legal obligation to do something, it might get some action. I think that the best revenge is to force the inconsiderate noise makers to move, or at the very least be on notice from the landlord that they can be forced out if the noise continues.
I say check your lease, check the local laws, send certified letters informing the landlord of the noise issues (you'll want proof that you've notified the landlord) and of your desired outcome and stay put. Don't do anything or make any noise that they could potentially use against you, since they have already shown that they are not afraid to take the initiative in bringing in outside authorities.
posted by newpotato at 9:56 AM on December 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

The sheer volume of literally anti-social responses here surprises me.

I couldn't agree more. If you have never lived with really noisy upstairs neighbors you have no idea what kind of tortuous hell they can inflict. You can never relax at home, even when they aren't there you're always waiting for the other shoe to drop (literally). Most buildings with hardwood floors have minimum carpeting requirements written into the leases for a reason, footsteps on hardwood in a poorly soundproofed building can shake a room and cut through any kind of sound dampening you might try to put up on your own end. My counter to those that say that if you can't stand noise you shouldn't live in an apartment (yeah, ok) would be if you can't put down rugs you shouldn't live above the bottom floor of a building with hardwood floors.

OP this sounds like hell and it is good you are moving out. You should absolutely tell your landlord about the noise situation before you move out. I had a problem with upstairs neighbors and never told my landlord until close to the time they moved out, and my LL was surprised and I think might have actually done something about it if I had told them sooner. They should be aware that the building doesn't have great soundproofing, and at least they could write a minimum floor covering clause into the lease.
posted by ch1x0r at 10:06 AM on December 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

None of my efforts to keep the noise down were a match for the physical reality of our old building.

It sounds to me like both you and your neighbours were mistaken in thinking that behaviour was the answer to this problem. It's like they were saying "hey, when you use the toilet it floods our bathroom, could you maybe pee less?" and you were saying "well, even after our linebacker roommate who peed like a horse left, they were still complaining when lil ol' me had a pee." The answer was a plumber, not dehydration.

If the building is transmitting noise as minor as that, it needs repaired. If it wasn't your apartment, it was your landlord's responsibility to fix it, and pressure should have come from both you and your neighbours. Expecting perfect silence from other humans is unreasonable. Expecting to not hear their every movement is reasonable, and all sides should try to achieve that.
posted by bonaldi at 10:18 AM on December 19, 2009

when you use the toilet it floods our bathroom, [...] The answer was a plumber, not dehydration.

Ha! Our next door neighbors in the building had that exact problem... it was an awful building that should have been torn down.

But that reminds me, actually--the way those neighbors and their downstairs flooding victims solved the problem was by getting together and showing each other what was going on, and then they all went to the landlord. My fiance and I offered to do something similar with our cranky downstairs neighbors--split up into two pairs, one person from each apartment in each unit, and go through some normal activities (walking in socks, walking in shoes) so we could all be on the same page and go from there. Our neighbors wouldn't go for it and just yelled some more. But, OP, maybe that's an option for you--you and Mr. L stay in your unit, your SO and Mrs. L go up to the L unit with L Jr., and you find out how much of the problem is the physical building and how much is bad neighbor behavior.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:31 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're now getting stressed by your own stress; happens a lot in noise annoyance situations. If you have to sit out 90 days, there is appropriate medication. (And that doesn't mean Ritalin candies pushed under Leadfoot Jr.'s door.)

Once your lease is up, it becomes the landlord's problem. Can you register a complaint with the local tenants' rights group that Landlord X is not responsive to noise complaints? I'm sure you wouldn't want another tenant to go through what you have experienced, and a vacant apartment might concentrate the owner's mind somewhat.
posted by scruss at 10:37 AM on December 19, 2009

It sounds like an impasse is reached and you're moving out anyway, so a lot of the advice above is useless.

You may not be able to do anything about the amount of noise being made upstairs. But you can do something about how you hear it. And I don't mean earplugs. A few people upthread have commented on anxiously waiting and anticipating their upstairs neighbours coming home. This suggests a state of heightened awareness in which noises will seem much, much louder than they really are. I accept your neighbours are unreasonable, but you can control how you hear, to some extent. And for this reason I suggest looking into meditation, or mindfulness, or some other calming techniques such that your response to noise is not rage but a serene acceptance. This might be some effort on your part, but will make the next 90 days go by more peacefully and who knows, might have some benefits elsewhere in life as well.

Stop listening, stop hearing, start living your own life. Hard, but do-able.
posted by Rumple at 10:47 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Maybe they want you to move out so they can get the downstairs unit.
posted by ishotjr at 10:50 AM on December 19, 2009

Also, you HAVE to tell the landlord that you are moving out because of the noise. Also, if your LL shows the place and people ask you about it, TELL them that the upstairs neighbors are noisy and that's why you're leaving. You have to obligation to make the place sound awesome. I had horrible property management once and told all of the potential tenants as much when it was being shown. The horrible property management was fired by the (absentee) condo owner because they couldn't get the place rented.
posted by ishotjr at 10:52 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

*that should say "you have NO obligation... "
posted by ishotjr at 10:53 AM on December 19, 2009

There is nothing you can do now that isn't purely punitive. There's nothing you can say or threaten that will make them be quieter, aside from making so much noise yourselves that you are able to broker some sort of uneasy truce, but since that will be at least as painful for you as for them... probably not such a great idea.

For the future, my advice for anyone who moves somewhere with nearby (especially sharing walls or floors/ceilings) neighbors is to work your social engineering, especially in the beginning, when either you or they are just moving in.

1) You have skills/knowledge/connections... you have something that could be useful to your neighbors, something that will make them want to stay on your good side. Among other things, my husband can fix any of your malfunctioning mechanical or electronic devices, fix your home network, introduce you to important people... and I can make you a web site, design your logo, or edit your manuscript. Or perhaps we can help you with a trustworthy connection in a different country, or help you break into a difficult industry. We aren't here to be at your beck and call, but sometimes a little help from neighbors like us at important moments can be really helpful and save you a lot of bucks, spare you some psychic pain, or help you with an opportunity that wouldn't materialize otherwise. It's good for your neighbors to understand your value to them - so while you may value your privacy, in some things you should be slightly more forthcoming. Enough to establish your worth as a neighbor to keep on one's good side.

2) You don't suffer fools (or inappropriate requests or expectations) gladly. Sometimes you have to be a bit of a bitch/bastard in the beginning to draw your lines in the sand. I'm the person who handles this in our household. In the first few forays of new neighbors trying to pull rank/be bossy/explore boundaries, etc., they get my rock solid dose of Scary, Scary Ice Queen, and everyone has always been pretty much super-happy not to invoke her again. Hard cases sometimes need bi- or tri-annual freshening, but it's not usual. It's important to be clear from the jump that you are not to be trifled with, which means as soon as the trifling starts, you kick hard, in whatever style works for you. But...

3) otherwise, be really, really nice! I make carrot bread (it's delicious!)... Often, I make one for us, and one for our neighbors. I find something nice at the market for a good price (let's say raw honey, or Romanesco broccoli, or beautiful organic figs)? I buy some for us, and some for the neighbors. Are the neighbors pretty cool? Did you just make an awesome mix tape for your brother's birthday? Burn a CD or send a download link to your neighbor. I happily cat-sit when my neighbors go out of town (I offered), and they gave me a key to their place so I've often let them in when they've locked themselves out, let in repair people when they couldn't be there, taken something out of the freezer when they forgot, and etc... Yet...

4) keep your distance. You don't need best-friend or romance (licit or illicit) drama with the freaking neighbors. My neighbors know that I am completely dependable to help them deal with any regular neighbor issue, helpful when they have a need or problem, totally friendly for a little chat and the odd bit of slight socializing, always good for borrowing a cup of sugar, a lemon or an onion... and completely unresponsive as a best friend/confidant type.

So far this balancing act has worked well for us. We've never examined or quantified it like this, but I'm deconstructing it now, and shorthanding it this way. We're also just really naturally nice, so this is from a point of view of someone who is not going to be an asshole, toward people whom we don't expect to be assholes - but establishing a little bit of rudder and tiller can't go wrong. We've always been very much loved by our neighbors, for 20 years and counting.
posted by taz at 10:59 AM on December 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

Really, maybe you want to ask to be let out ofy our lease instead. The landlord is obviously a pushover, take advantage of it.
posted by cellphone at 12:04 PM on December 19, 2009

Letter-writing: a printout of the permitted decibel levels and 'noise-allowed' hours was shoved under our door.

Where I live, "noise allowed" hours start quite a bit later than 6:30am. If they don't respond to the words of their own letter in this regard, then make with the techno on repeat while you're at work.

I do have to wonder if the split in this thread between "suck it up" and "do X" people have some correlation to parenthood.
posted by rhizome at 12:46 PM on December 19, 2009

Noise is one of the things that come with apartment living. Next time move into an upstairs apartment. Your neighbors have every right to walk around their apartment. I'm sure they are taking what they assume to be appropriate noise reduction measures, and if you can still hear it, well ... that's your problem.

What? How is walking around with your shoes on all the time "taking appropriate measures"? You sound as if you think that any apartment dweller anywhere has to put up with any kind of noise at any hour. If what you're saying is truly the case, then the OP is perfectly entitled to blast loud music after the toddler's bedtime and then tell his upstairs neighbors to lump it, because "noise is one of the things that come with apartment living".

I would really lean on the landlord at this point, but as others have pointed out, you've pretty much left it too long. I think the only person who may learn a lesson from all of this is your landlord, especially if you make sure to tell everyone how noisy the neighbors are when people come visit the apartment.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:06 PM on December 19, 2009

I've been the downstairs neighbor below a loud family before. We're even good friends and it was maddening at times. My family tends to be quieter and more suited to being upstairs. It was actually more convenient for them to be downstairs. A trade was worked out, and everyone was much happier in the long run. Moving weekend was a nuisance, sure, but we ended up transforming it into a fairly fun time.

But, we're friends and everyone just wanted to live in peace. Doesn't sound like an option with these folks, unfortunately.
posted by lilywing13 at 2:24 PM on December 19, 2009

I do have to wonder if the split in this thread between "suck it up" and "do X" people have some correlation to parenthood.

I wonder if it's more of a "I've never lived in an apartment/experienced the hell of loud, uncooperative neighbors," vs. "I've been there, done that." I have two kids and we lived in various apartments with my son until we bought our house when he was 3. I would have never, ever let him run around WEARING SHOES indoors if we had downstairs neighbors. That's just rude. Kids are loud enough in their bare feet; give 'em shoes and they're like horses.

This summer we rented a flat in London for 12 weeks and I made damn sure my kids weren't a noise nuisance (they're 12 and 9 now). I can't say the people downstairs were as considerate as we were, though. The noise wasn't the problem, it was the smoking on the balcony - the one right below us so the smoke drifted up and into my flat - that irked me no end.

I think the OP's only solution at this point is to leave, and make very sure that you tell the landlord exactly why you're leaving - because of the noise.
posted by cooker girl at 3:16 PM on December 19, 2009

OP I really feel for you, as I have a very rude and inconsiderate upstairs neighbor as well. It's great you're moving out in a few months. Others have mentioned earplugs, but those only got me so far. I use an iphone app called Ambiance when I am trying to concentrate, or relax in my apt when the neighbor is home trudging back and forth. If you don't have an iphone, I know of a program called White Noise for Mac, and I'm sure there's a Windows alternative. Good luck, you're almost of there!
posted by helios410 at 3:32 PM on December 19, 2009

Must add: There is normal noise in apartments (with or without kids) that is a result of hardwood floors, old buildings and life as lived by real people.

Which is mostly considered (by this long time apartment dweller) background noise that one doesn't actually "hear" after a while. That is, it's totally acceptable.

Then there is noise (children or not, and, I have to say mostly NOT) that is the result of people that have:

a) never lived in an apartment buildings ever before

b) never lived on their own away from mommy and daddy ever before

c) are very young (see a and b) and are in a band

d) feel, out of desperation, the need to draw attantion to themselves


e) are angry at life (for one of a million reasons) have somehow always gotten away with having an attitude, and this noise is (just) one of their ways of expressing their hostility.

Something about this post tells me that these people e (somehow informed by b). And that they were like this way before they had a child. Because I have lived in such building with children were present and it was never the problem that the poster has presented here.

This is why you have to get your landlord involved. Even if you are moving.
posted by marimeko at 3:52 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Having lived with a somewhat similar situation, I suggest just dealing with it since you are only 90 days away. White noise CDs can help, especially at night. If, like me, you were stuck there longer, I found that recordings of humpback whales get anyone's attention, especially when played at very high volumes through speakers pointed at the ceilings. Unlike rhythmic music, you never know when the next one is coming.
posted by centerweight at 4:58 PM on December 19, 2009

Sorry, but you are the unreasonable ones, and you HAVE been harassing them. It's not like they've been blasting loud rock music at all hours. People have a right to walk around their own homes at any hour of the day or night. If you are that sensitive to noise you should have never moved into an apartment with another apartment above it, and you should have moved out long ago.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:44 PM on December 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Ahhh. marimeko FTW!!!!

"...e) are angry at life (for one of a million reasons) have somehow always gotten away with having an attitude, and this noise is (just) one of their ways of expressing their hostility."

When we choose to live in old charming structures, we all accommodate each other - it's what you do. If a neighbor doesn't do this, marimeko's reasons above are usually true. In this case, I think "e" is right on track.

I prescribe not being home as much as possible. After you move, work on forgiving this situation and clearing the resentment out of your life. Trust me on this, you want to appreciate this lesson and leave it behind.

In the meantime, recognize this was the universe's way of telling you it is time to move on. You'll land in a better place.

Good Luck!
posted by jbenben at 12:45 PM on December 21, 2009

Don't try to get back at them. It won't improve anything, and later, you'll feel like a jackass. Your landlord should have helped more. It's reasonable to ask people to use rugs, wear slippers, and generally respect some quiet hours. But the landlord has to be part of the problem-solving equation. At this point, move as soon as possible, breaking the lease, if you must. The landlord has not assisted you in making the space livable. In the meantime, play white noise, wear ear plugs, etc.
posted by theora55 at 3:53 PM on December 21, 2009

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