I just want to go to sleep, dammit!
February 4, 2011 9:57 AM   Subscribe

How can I make the best out of an upcoming meeting between myself, my landlord, and my noisy downstairs neighbors?

Some background: I live on the top floor of a three story building. In September, some new tenants moved into the unit directly below me. Since then, I have been woken by music coming from their apartment once or twice a week between the hours of 11:00PM and 6:00AM. In fact, they've hit every hour of the night at some point in the last four months.

Anyway, I started off by knocking on their door back when it first started. Guy answered the door (there's a guy and a girl), said he was sorry, and the music stopped. That time. The third time, I called maintenance, which I have continued to do. Well, that's stopped working, as if the maintenance guy can't hear it outside the door of the apartment--which he usually can't, because my bedroom and the offending stereo are on the other side of the building from the door--he won't do anything.

Then, last Sunday, I'm awoken at midnight. I call maintenance like usual, and they say they'll check into it. Thirty minutes later, the music still playing, I call back, and they say there's basically nothing they can do anymore. So I go down there and knock on the door. I can see through the peephole that the lights are on, but no one comes to the door and the lights go out. So I leave. Come 1:30AM, the music is still going, so I go down there again. I hear someone talking on the phone, and when I knock on the door, he knocks back, but doesn't answer. The music finally quits around 2:00AM.

So on Monday I call the manager, who says he's aware of the dispute. I point out that my neighbors are violating the terms of their lease, which prohibits playing music that can be heard outside the premises. He 1) misinterprets the lease to say that offending music must be audible outside the front door rather than simply outside the apartment, and 2) offers to schedule a meeting with the three of us. I decide to let the legal wrangling go and took him up on that, and our meeting was just scheduled for tomorrow morning. He's said that if we can't come to some kind of resolution that one or the other of us will be asked to move.

At this point it's probably a bit late to ask whether I'm being oversensitive--I don't think I am, but it's occurred to me--but I would like people's advice for how to handle this in a way that gets the best outcome for me. Note: I am a lawyer, I know how to read leases, and if they try to evict me they're really going to wish they hadn't. Not worried about my legal rights. I'm just asking about how the human relations side of this thing can be best finessed.

posted by valkyryn to Human Relations (40 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and another thing: It isn't just at night that they're playing the music, but night time is the only time I have chosen to complain about. I don't actually mind the rest of the time, as I'm not home much during the day, and hey, this is an apartment: it's not going to be silent. I like to listen to music too, you know? I can occasionally hear my next-door neighbors as they move around and talk, even after hours, but it's never woken me up and I've never complained. All I'm really upset about is the loud music between 11:00PM and 6:00AM, especially on weeknights. I get up at 5:00AM to get ready for work, so getting a good night's sleep means turning in on the early side.
posted by valkyryn at 9:57 AM on February 4, 2011

Ugh, I used to have a downstairs neighbor who played loud music with a huge subwoofer to cover up the sound of all the sex he was having (which didn't work at all, meaning I had to listen to both at the same time, in the middle of the night). He ended up moving out; I'm not sure why, but I suspect one reason was that every time it happened on a weeknight (2-3am was the usual time), I would get up and pound the floor with my fist as loudly as I could. While this did to some extent achieve the intended purpose--getting him to be aware of the noise he was making--I think it mostly annoyed him enough that staying there didn't seem so desirable anymore.

And yes, I tried to work it out with him as best I could, and he was accommodating up to a certain point, but when you own a subwoofer in a building with hardwood floors I think it's pretty much inevitable that you'll end up pissing someone off.
posted by nasreddin at 10:10 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Having been in this situation before, you want to be polite but firm, and do your best to avoid antagonizing the neighbor (which can lead to retaliation). Avoid using an accusatory tone, making threats (to call the cops, for example), banging on floors or doors, etc. So far it sounds like you're handling the situation very well.

In your meeting you should say all the things you said in your comment above: that you understand they can't be completely silent, that you like music too, and that you're really only looking for the music to be at a lower volume between the hours of 11PM and 6AM Sunday through Thursday. That sounds like a very reasonable request to me. Be prepared for them to ask you to use ear plugs or some other noise dampening techniques, and be prepared to voice any objections to that you may have.

FWIW, I don't think you're being oversensitive. Having your sleep constantly disrupted can really have a huge impact on your quality of life, and while they have a right to listen to music in their apartment, you also have a right to uninterrupted sleep in your apartment. Good luck. The only resolution to my situation was to move into a single family home.
posted by geeky at 10:15 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Where do you live? There are likely some local ordinances that cover this situation. Noise pollution is a huge quality of life issue that can be enforced legally.
posted by crickets at 10:18 AM on February 4, 2011

You should frame everything at the outset as, "I really don't want to have to involve my lawyer in this." (Yes, it might be worth paying the consult fee to find out what your rights are.) IANAL in your jurisdiction, anyway. First, review the relevant portions of your rental/lease agreement and any rules referenced by the agreement.

First, lay out your position that (1) the music violates the rules, (2) the tenant downstairs is obligated to follow the rules, and (3) the landlord is responsible to enforce the rules, and if they try to err on the side of doing nothing at your expense, they are violating the terms of their own agreement to you.

Then lay out possible consequences, in order of escalation: (1) I'll call the cops about the disturbance of the peace (if applicable in your jurisdiction) and to document that the noise is unreasonably loud in your apartment, as well as the source; then I'll talk to my lawyer who may suggest that (2) I can sue the neighbor for the diminished value of the lease, and (3) I may be able to withhold a portion of rent or sue the landlord, or both. Explain that playing nonsense games about the landlord's supposed restriction to (the front door) and pretending not to be home so you can do whatever the fuck you want are dick moves and not likely to be very persuasive if you have to ask a judge to help sort this out.

Stress that you don't want to do any of these things, and will work with the neighbor to stop the noise. Then suggest (1) neighbors use headphones after 11 p.m., (2) neighbors mark the dial on the stereo to indicate the 11 p.m. - 6 a.m. max volume after all of you test it, (3) landlord, at landlord's expense, adds additional insulation, thicker carpet/carpet-pad, foam injection, and other soundproofing, etc.

Good luck.
posted by Hylas at 10:20 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Having been in this situation before, you want to be polite but firm, and do your best to avoid antagonizing the neighbor (which can lead to retaliation). Avoid using an accusatory tone, making threats (to call the cops, for example), banging on floors or doors, etc.

Sure, but in many cases the neighbor will just stonewall you if they don't think you'll actually do anything. If they retaliate with anything more serious, then you have more leverage with the landlord. Obviously you want to avoid more radical solutions--in a building I lived in in Brooklyn the favored tactic was to pour a bucket of water on your own floor so as to cause a leak downstairs.
posted by nasreddin at 10:21 AM on February 4, 2011

It may help to think about what each side wants. Your neighbors want to keep doing their (annoying) thing. Your landlord just wants a resolution to the conflict because he's not getting paid to mediate, and he likely doesn't care about what your neighbors are doing so long as it doesn't prevent him from renting the unit out. From his point of view, everything was fine until you complained, so from his point of view you're the problem, not the neighbors.

You likely aren't going to convince the neighbors to stop. Obviously they aren't the most empathic bunch, and at this point they're probably ready to dig their heels in something fierce. Trying to show them the error of their ways is pointless. What's worse, it'll feel like a waste of time to the landlord and further predispose him against you.

Your best bet is to try to convince the landlord that if the neighbors don't stop, this problem is going to recur over and over again, which will lose him money and waste his time with meetings like this one. Focus on that.

In my experience, however, the best result is that you get to break your lease without penalty. I have never once had a landlord or manager intercede on my behalf unless literally forced to by, for example, a building code violation. So go in with cool emotions and very, very low expectations. And start looking at detached homes in the area.
posted by jedicus at 10:21 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I used to have upstairs neighbors like that. It's the worst going to sleep at night and wondering if you're going to get the whole night or just a few hours' worth...

I finally had to move. My landlord didn't want to get involved, despite it breaking the lease's rules about quiet hours being 10 pm - 8 am. Moving sucks, and it killed me to lose my awesome rent-controlled apartment, but being able to sleep through the night is SO WORTH IT. I had no idea how much it was screwing up my quality of life. My health improved, my mood improved...I should have done it years ago. People like this don't change, so unless your landlord is willing to evict, you're kind of screwed.

I know it feels like letting them win, but try to think of it as taking care of yourself instead.
posted by smirkette at 10:21 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

"[He] offers to schedule a meeting with the three of us"

I can't imagine anything coming of this, other than an entrenchment of the animosity that you and your neighbors might have toward each other.

That said, try to appear compromising and thus reasonable: mention the ungodly hours that you've been woken up (6 a.m.), mention that you're not an unreasonable and wouldn't expect quiet time at 9 p.m. every single night. Then suggest -- not demand -- something like 10 p.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends: a schedule that the vast majority of responsible, working people could agree to.

Conclude by asking, "Is that not a reasonable solution?" With this question, you're not declaring that it is reasonble -- you're implicitly challenging the other person to deny that it's reasonable. And, so, even though your suggestion is reasonable (and you and hopefully the landlord know it), you won't come off as presumptuous in declaring it to be so, and they'll come off as unreasonable if they deny it. (If they accept it, you're golden, at least for a while).
posted by astrochimp at 10:22 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

You would know better than I, but is there also a legal issue here with noise past a certain time? If so, you might suggest that the last thing you would want to do is have to call the police to have them stop by and investigate, so you would like to discuss it amicably. I have no problem letting people know that it is a legal issue also, without being a jerk about it. People often do not understand this and see it as a personal rights issue to play music whenever they want, as it's their space and they pay rent. I'm sure that your neighbors would dislike this idea, but I'm thinking that landlords like it even less, as it gives the impression that there's trouble in the area. We had to resort to this awhile back. Not so much for our immediate complex, but the surrounding neighborhood. It solved the problem. Personally, I have no problem escalating it to this level if other levels of discourse have not worked, or if it is so egregious as to be obvious. I would propose it as a last resort, but as a live option, as I do believe you are on the correct legal side of things by insisting that things are quiet enough that you can't hear the music. The laws in my area side with those who are looking for "peace and quiet" over the rights of people to play music whenever they would like.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:23 AM on February 4, 2011

Maybe it helps to be zen about the whole thing. I don't know how loud the music is, but have you tried getting a white noise machine (Amazon has them) or a loud fan? Would that drown out the noise?

Is there a way to befriend your neighbors, or strike up a conversation with them somehow? It sounds like things have gotten rather antagonistic -- to them, you're "that jerk who always knocks on our door." Maybe if they realize you're actually a good guy, they'll want to be more accommodating.

At any rate, I don't see how the landlord can ask you to move. It doesn't sound like you've done anything to violate the lease terms. And there's generally that whole "right to quiet enjoyment" thing.

Whatever happens, good luck.

(P.S. I just clicked on your profile and saw that you're the "Law and the Multiverse" guy. Awesome!)
posted by Tin Man at 10:38 AM on February 4, 2011

Response by poster: (P.S. I just clicked on your profile and saw that you're the "Law and the Multiverse" guy. Awesome!)

So's jedicus.

posted by valkyryn at 10:43 AM on February 4, 2011

Can you get the landlord and neighbor in your bedroom while the neighbor's music is on? Part of the problem might be that they just think you're being overly sensitive, but if you can show them how loud it really is that might help.
posted by grapesaresour at 10:50 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

One helpful strategy is to sum up the agreement at the end of the meeting and then politely lead the discussion to what the consequences will be if the terms are broken. I've found this takes an agreement to another level for all parties involved.
posted by raisingsand at 11:10 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know what you could say to your neighbors that would persuade them to stop: they know their music is loud, they know what time it is, they know they are disrupting your sleep, and they don't care. You might make some progress with your landlord (and maybe, maybe scare your neighbors into cooperating) by saying something to the effect of:

I pay my rent on time and in full every month, I don't damage the apartment, I don't make problems for my neighbors, and I've only complained to management about the noise issue after attempting to resolve it to the best of my own ability. I am a good tenant and a good neighbor. I've lived here for X years and had originally planned to stay for at least Y more years. However, my new neighbors are making the apartment unlivable by blasting music at midnight and later, which makes it very unlikely that I will renew my lease. If I am present when you show the unit, I will warn prospective tenants about the noise. If you are able to find new tenants for this unit, they will be unlikely to stay due to the noise, and you will have to go to the trouble of showing and renting the unit once again.

My neighbors know that their music is loud enough for me to hear in my apartment, they know that at midnight I am sleeping (or trying to), they know that I have asked them not to play loud music late at night. They don't care. You have one unit rented to a person who has a track record of being a good tenant, and another unit rented to a couple who have, since they moved in, shown that they do not make even the most basic effort to be considerate of the other tenants. Why would you make choices that guarantee you'll lose the good tenant, keep the bad ones, and drive future tenants away?
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:10 AM on February 4, 2011 [38 favorites]

I can't imagine anything coming of this, other than an entrenchment of the animosity that you and your neighbors might have toward each other.

Exactly. This is a major cop-out by the landlord. I would inform him that you want the noise stopped, or you're moving out -- it's pretty much the only leverage you have. If you've done that to no effect, you really have no choice but to leave. You will get no satisfaction from this meeting.
posted by dhartung at 11:39 AM on February 4, 2011

The meeting is a really bad idea. I'm thinking the landlord is trying to set it up as, "I don't want to kick you out, but ..." and while I have fairly thick skin, I wouldn't want to live as a tenant with a landlord who doesn't have a spine.

I would go so far as to propose telling the landlord you're busy, that you think the meeting is unnecessary and ask him to make a decision as the current situation is untenable. What's going to come of the meeting?

"You're music is loud."
"No it is not."

See, there's nothing to meet about. But I'm guessing you already know this. Sorry, there's no good way to go about this, just ways that are less bad than others.
posted by geoff. at 11:46 AM on February 4, 2011

He's said that if we can't come to some kind of resolution that one or the other of us will be asked to move.

If this meeting is a final meeting that will result in either you or your neighbor being asked to leave, then I would make it clear that you are a lawyer at the outset. If I am choosing between the two of you absent an agreement, it will be you stay as the longer staying tenant and as the lawyer who can sue without much cost or hassle.

At the meeting, if they ask you to start, I would say simply, "I do not want a lot. I just want less than what is in the terms of the lease. I want the music to be at a reasonable level from 11:00 pm to 6:00am. I want and need nothing else."

I would stick to my talking points the entire time.

-not asking for a lot
-asking for less than the terms of the lease
-I understand the lease as I am an attorney
-just want peace and quite from 11:00pm to 6:00am
-no beef with neighbor or landlord at this point
-will have beef if he cannot abide by less than the terms of the lease.
posted by AugustWest at 12:22 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Since the noise is bothering you, it's very likely that it's bothering other adjacent tenants as well. Have you chatted with the tenant below them, or to the side(s)? It would be useful to go into the meeting armed with the fact that some other tenants are also annoyed.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 12:38 PM on February 4, 2011

The more I think about it, based on landlord's comment that He's said that if we can't come to some kind of resolution that one or the other of us will be asked to move. then he has changed the game from trying to come to an agreement to trying to win the landlord will kick the other guy out game.

If you think you win if landlord is kicking one of you out, then you have no incentive to come to an agreement. You need to work on convincing the landlord that his life would be much worse off if he tried to kick you out. I still think what I wrote above is what I would do at the meeting.
posted by AugustWest at 12:39 PM on February 4, 2011

I'm also thinking the meeting is a weasel way out. He's hoping everyone will take a liking to each other, shake hands, and drop the grudge. As you note, this has gone beyond that.

At a minimum, think about preparing a log sheet that lists, to the best of your memory, the times and days when you were disturbed by the music and what action, if any, you took, and their response, if any. Nothing like concrete data to make things look clear.

But I would also be considering cancelling the meeting and calling the landlord to deliver the speech Meg Murry has outlined, and then asking the landlord for his decision. It might mean he says "Ok then, just move" and you would have to be prepared for that.

As someone currently dealing with a noisy neighbor issue, you have my sympathy. But a positive resolution really depends on the landlord's take on the situation. Most tenants, in these situations, don't assert their rights too much - they just roll over and get used to it. So you are the squeaky wheel, and the landlord has to decide whether it's worth it to evict the noisy people and find new tenants, or evict you and count on future tenants not caring. It's too hard to predict what he, as an individual, will choose, but his proposing this meeting sounds like he's not a tenant-friendly, authoritative type with strong ideas about what kind of place he wants to run, but someone crossing his fingers and hoping this goes away.
posted by Miko at 12:42 PM on February 4, 2011

I hate to say this- but how big is this apartment that you can hear it in your room but can't hear it outside the front door? I'm thinking that it might be just audible, and not wall shaking.

You maybe completely in the right, but it's not going to make your building sound proof or your neighbors think you are less than a douche bag (not that you are, but if they don't believe it's too loud and you keep a'knockin'...). So how much does right mean to you? Cause meeting with them sounds like it's going to be completely a waste of time. You are calling your land lord in to babysit the conversation, and your land lord doesn't back you up. It'll be three against one.

You might need to try to get a fan or a white noise machine. or moving into a house.
posted by Blisterlips at 12:46 PM on February 4, 2011

I don't know what the odds are, but I agree with the suggestion of having the landlord hear the music from your apartment somehow if possible. Landlords deal with unreasonable cranks regularly, and he has no way to know if your complaint is reasonable or not, especially if he's only getting the noise complaint from one tenant.

Last year I moved from an apartment on the 4th floor of a walkup where I had the unpleasant experience of having a chronic noise-complainer living somewhere downstairs from us. I'd find printouts in the stairwell with pictures of cartoon elephants asking people to step softly and be quiet on the stairs (I'm 6'4 and 220lbs, there's only so much I can do). Others would ask that no one do laundry after 9pm, that were labelled "Building Rules" even though according to the landlady they were not. We lived just across a busy intersection from a hospital, with sirens at all hours and a bloody helicopter landing pad on it. Yet still we would get pounding on our floor for things like dropping the remote control or opening and closing the door to the balcony.

Your landlord might need a little help determining that the music is in fact pretty loud in your apartment.
posted by Hoopo at 12:47 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I hate to say this- but how big is this apartment that you can hear it in your room but can't hear it outside the front door? I'm thinking that it might be just audible, and not wall shaking.

It is hard to quantify this, but the quirks of house construction can lead to problems like this. Our noisy neighbors do not sound that noisy in the front hall or at the front door, but the room they party in shares a wall with our bedroom. Hence the problem. From outside you don't hear much, because of the many walls and air spaces that baffle and dissipate the noise, but on the other side of the wall or floor it can be loud enough to interfere with sleep. That's why the language is "outside the apartment" rather than "in the hallway" or "from the front of the building."
posted by Miko at 12:53 PM on February 4, 2011

No time before tomorrow's meeting, but I think it would be worth it to provide video evidence each time it occurs, by pointing a camera/phone at the clock, saying the date aloud, then a bit of the music.

They'll probably also want to know how you've been trying to mitigate it on your end, with carpets/white noise machines/earplugs, etc. Since they haven't been trying at all, they'll look bad in comparison.
posted by lhall at 1:51 PM on February 4, 2011

The tenant and the landlord are in violation of the law. I'd get a Sound Pressure Meter and then call the cops.

Fort Wayne Noise Bylaw

(A) It shall be a violation of this chapter for a person to make any loud, raucous, improper, unreasonable, offensive or unusual noise, disorder or tumult, which disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others within the city, or to permit such noise, disorder or tumult to be made in or about his/her house or premises, and the same is hereby declared to be a public nuisance.

(B) Further, it shall be the duty of every owner, occupant, manager, agent or operator of any property, structure, vehicle, or business in the city, to prevent persons using property under their control from violating this chapter.

The following acts, uses or noises, among others, subject to specific exemptions, are declared to be loud, raucous or disturbing noises in violation of this chapter. Such enumeration shall not be deemed to be exclusive:

(A) Using, operating or permitting to be played, used or operated any machine or device for the producing or reproducing of sound in such manner as to disturb the peace, quiet and comfort of the neighboring inhabitants or at any time with louder volume than is necessary for convenient hearing for the person who is in the room, vehicle or property in which such machine or device is operated and who is a voluntary listener.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:08 PM on February 4, 2011

The landlord is punting, there is no reason for the three of you to ever be in a room together. It's their job to resolve disputes, not stonewall. So what you've up against is he said/she said. The best way to win that is to be better prepared and come off better than the other guy.

1) Remain calm. Do not argue, rise to any bait, raise your voice, be sarcastic, or call names.

2) Bring your copy of the lease with the relevant areas about noise highlighted.

3) Bring a copy of the local regulations about apartment noise with the appropriate parts highlighted.

4) Explain the facts as you have above. If you have specific dates and times recorded somewhere, bring that list and read it.

5) Bring a list of concrete actions you expect to be taken for this to go away.

6) Bring a list of things you'll do if it's not immediately met. These are pretty well covered up thread.

Present these things in this order.

Do you have a live-in landlord? If so demand they come to your apartment next time the music starts up so they can see how loud it is.

If it was me I'd go out of my way to make it the landlord's problem. Don't bang on your neighbor's door, bang on your landlord's. (Or call them every single time it happens while it's happening.) Spread your misery to the one person who can make it go away.
posted by Ookseer at 3:02 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

My housemate and I are sometimes your neighbor (sorry). What worked between us and our upstairs neighbor was the following:

1. He explained to us exactly what kind and the intensity/clarity of sound he can hear coming up through our living room ceiling into his bedroom (which is directly over our living room.) We really had no idea that there is essentially nothing except for some boards and plaster between us: he can clearly hear every word of our normal-volume conversations, so music that's played at all loudly is just ... loud for him.

2. Altogether we agreed that we would keep it very quiet in our living room (respectful conversation volumes, very low-volume music if it's played at all) on Sunday through Thursday evenings after 10pm.

3. Friday and Saturday we can do whatever we want, whenever we want. As a point of courtesy we always call and let him know if we're having some sort of bash, what time it will start and what time we expect it to end.

Since we made these agreements we've had no problems at all. Good luck!
posted by hapax_legomenon at 4:06 PM on February 4, 2011

A sledge hammer did wonders for a situation that I had with a neighbor downstairs with an incredible stereo hooked to his VCR. I'd asked him and asked him, then told him and told him, and then I took my six pound sledge hammer and commenced to wailing away; I have no doubt whatsoever that it seemed like the end of time down there. The stereo went down pretty fast. He did it again and so did I, I'm like "Screw this" and just kept on if he kept on, it didn't take too long; he eventually moved, but in the time before he did, the stereo was very manageable, civil.

I'm in a condo though, and I do own it, thus no one could come and give me grief, same as I really had no recourse with him aside from blunt force; the people who owned the condo just ignored my asking them for help. If your landlord is not willing to help you, it might be you'll be forced to go this route; you'll not make friends with your neighbor but he's not your friend anyway, he's a jerk, and needs a house, case could be made you're helping him advance in life and stuff.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:27 PM on February 4, 2011

Response by poster: Lots of good responses here. I was already leaning towards the "If someone's getting kicked out, make sure it isn't you" angle. I don't really like the idea of trying to intimidate people with the fact that I'm a lawyer, but I'm not about to walk away from my legal rights if there's any way to avoid it. I'm going to try and come across as reasonable and level headed and see where that gets me. If that doesn't work, well, there are other options.

Some additional info:

I live in a reasonably sized apartment complex, with almost three hundred units across eleven buildings. I'm meeting with the manager more than the actual landlord, which is technically a corporate entity of some sort. I've no idea where the manager lives, but he gets paid a salary just like any other working stiff.

As to why I can hear it in my bedroom but they can't at the front door: the units are pretty long and narrow, and the bedroom is a good 35-40 feet and two walls (including the kitchen), from the front door. But the offending stereo is in that back bedroom, so it's only like ten feet from my head.

I really wish I had kept logs of this stuff--the sound pressure gauge is a really great idea--but as I'm generally asleep when this shit goes down, I'm not at my most alert. But I've called maintenance about two dozen times since this all started, and there will be logs of that. I actually spoke with management last fall, and they apparently sent a letter to my neighbors. Things got better for a while, but now they're worse again.

Finally, yeah, I could move, and I can make a really great case for breaking the lease without penalty, but that still means I have to 1) pay to move, and 2) find someplace else to live. Unfortunately, the housing and apartment stock in this town blows. I've been looking since this all started.

But again, lots of great feedback. Thanks guys.
posted by valkyryn at 5:01 PM on February 4, 2011

The SPL is to provide a measurable noise level, they're digital and incredibly simple to operate, so even a lawyer could work one. BA DA BOOM.

Kidding aside, I was surprised to not see a designated acceptable SPL in a city noise-bylaw as there are broadly-accepted, recognized standards for acceptable noise-levels in various types of environments. Demonstrably, in a residential apartment building, after 11 pm, this is being exceeded.

Good for you for not being a dick, BTW, but I would argue that you are leaning too far in the other direction, and being far too accommodating. Truly the at-fault parties here are the on-site manager and the property owner, . They are both failing in doing an even average job of managing this situation. They are all remiss in the execution of their responsibilities.

Your concern for the inconsiderate neighbor who failed to recognize a good thing when he had it is misplaced. Dipsticks like that will inevitably degrade everyone's experience.Let him sink to some other leve, l away from you and your reasonable neighbours, who are smart enough to cooperate with each other.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:38 PM on February 4, 2011

Finally, yeah, I could move, and I can make a really great case for breaking the lease without penalty, but that still means I have to 1) pay to move, and 2) find someplace else to live. Unfortunately, the housing and apartment stock in this town blows. I've been looking since this all started.

Fair enough. Maybe as a potential, extreme, last-ditch solution, you could offer to exchange your unit for another in the same complex - maybe with any moving expenses covered by them?
posted by Miko at 8:34 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

He's said that if we can't come to some kind of resolution that one or the other of us will be asked to move.

Ohh, fuck that noise (pun very intended.) You know very well that you have the legal upper hand, so you can afford to decide where you spend your generosity of spirit. I would suggest using it deviously.

Go bond with your neighbors right now over the landlord's weak-ass dodge. They don't know what what the heck they're supposed to do with this awkwardness any more than you do. And if your landlord is the sort of person to pull this "you kids work it out or someone's outta here" stunt, I bet your neighbors have some other sort of totally reasonable complaint that's getting ignored.

Find common ground and compromise on the music thing.

Then, go into that meeting united against the landlord.
posted by desuetude at 9:13 PM on February 4, 2011

Here's my experience renting, and also living in situations where the "landlord's" theoretical authority to "do something" was essentially unlimited (military).

Noise is inherently a he said/she said situation. You need maintenance, or preferably the landlord himself, to go, not to their apartment, but to yours and hear the noise. Then at least someone can corroborate your story as more than a "OMG, I heard signs of life from elsewhere in the building what an OUTRAGE" pain in the ass complaint.

Still, if the neighbors do not say to themselves at the meeting (they may say it out loud, but you'll have to judge whether they mean it or if they're just saying that), "oh wow, if everyone says it's loud, MAYBE IT'S TRUE! We should be more careful," then you know everything you need to know. The only resolution is for someone to move. If the meeting goes well, but then after a day or so of good effort, the noise starts up again, same thing. You can be sure that this is how it will be for the entire duration of your respective tenancies there.

The reason is, as hard as you try, you can't legislate "don't be a dick." They're either dicks, or they aren't. Dicks cannot be counted on to go against their nature for long, even when threatened. Move or get them thrown out. Moving feels like a defeat, but it sure is easier and quicker.

Based on the (and contrary to other commenters' opinions,) I would do the exact same thing your landlord is doing in his shoes. If the meeting does not work, nothing else will either, and someone is going to have to move. Might as well cut to the chase now and not hassle with months of phone calls, letters, police visits, citations, etc.
posted by ctmf at 10:46 PM on February 4, 2011

What NOT to do when they get in the car and leave home, with the stereo still blasting through the walls: go in the back sliding door they left ajar (apparently to share the music with the entire neighborhood as well), unplug the stereo, and leave a note saying "If I have to turn this off again, I'm keeping it."

It was a very nice police station, though. Many high-fives from the amused cops. They also happened to know where the common power distribution breaker box for all the units in the building was (but "I didn't hear it from them".) So I learned two things that day.
posted by ctmf at 10:59 PM on February 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: maybe with any moving expenses covered by them?

Oh, if I'm moving, they're paying for it. Make no mistake about that.
posted by valkyryn at 4:03 AM on February 5, 2011

What's going on with the neighbors below them? Do they have any complaints? That might bolster your case. When we lodged our complaint, the landlord actually called the other two units in our building to check on it, and everyone said the same thing.
posted by Miko at 7:47 AM on February 5, 2011

Milo is right -- organize. Casually talk to the neighbors below them or on either side.
posted by salvia at 9:54 AM on February 5, 2011

I can't help you with your dispute but I wanted to repeat this, times a million:

Moving sucks, and it killed me to lose my awesome rent-controlled apartment, but being able to sleep through the night is SO WORTH IT. I had no idea how much it was screwing up my quality of life. My health improved, my mood improved...I should have done it
years ago.

In my case, I ended up with a much better place, but it was the ability to relax that made the difference. I had no idea how much my own noise dispute had taken over my life until it was gone.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:03 AM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: As a followup: I had that sit-down with the manager and my neighbors.

Things seemed to go pretty well. What's apparently happening is that the guy below me likes to watch movies in bed just before he goes to sleep, but his laptop is all the way across the room from the head of his bed, so he turns the volume up a bit. He's agreed to find some speakers and a longer cord so he can move them closer.

Haven't heard a thing all week. We'll see how it goes.
posted by valkyryn at 5:39 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

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