Playing Well With Neighbors
March 17, 2011 7:13 PM   Subscribe

How much neighbor noise must we find ways to tolerate and how much quiet must naturally noisy neighbors learn to preserve when we all signed up to live in a complex with the motto, "A Quiet Place to Live?"

We need the measured perspective of the MeFi hive. The apartment complex where we live is in a nature preserve and, for four decades, was the nicest place to live in our area for those of us who thrive in nature and quiet. Now the buildings are aging beyond repairability, rents are dropping, and people who are not yet as interested in a contemplative perspective are arriving. Our building faces a small lake with trees so close to the balcony we can almost touch them. We've always thrilled to sit outside with the breeze through the leaves and the birds... Until last week when a new family arrived with a young child, about three.

The adults are out on their balcony or just inside for very loud phone conversations, deeply personal and intimate and sometimes loud and angry. The little girl practices yelling as loudly as she can as she plays and is encouraged to bang things on the metal guards. They do this every day, from about 9:00 a.m. 'til long after dark. Even with our windows closed the noise is very disruptive as we're inside watching TV or reading, never mind when warm weather requires open windows. We feel that closing windows on mild days and turning on the air just to block out noise is not a good solution.

One of us is disabled and we're both still recovering from our move here. It would be a real ordeal and hardship for us to move now, and we doubt we could find anything so near nature. The complex strongly urges residents to let the office deal with complaints, yet we've heard that the new manager is insensitive to noise issues and that the owners don't want to be bothered. We believe everything is an opportunity and want to befriend the new family, but we need to get a sense of how much noise is okay when we so love the quiet. The complex's motto, "A Quiet Place to Live," appears on a large sign at the entrance. There are also many condos and some single family homes in the complex and all of these residents strongly embrace the quiet sensibility. They have association meetings to discuss the deterioration of the rental properties but are powerless to make any improvements. It's from these residents that we heard of the attitudes of the management and owners.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is this you? It seems like you have ongoing issues with your place. Did you try any of the suggestions for dealing with the landlords in the last thread?
posted by peachfuzz at 7:22 PM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is this the same complex as this previous question? That poster has a long Ask history of neighbour issues and no follow-up to any suggestions that I can see.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:24 PM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

peachfuzz, you beat me to it. It seems pretty likely that you're the same person.

What concerns me the most is that lots of people had a myriad of suggestions for you and I find it hard to imagine that you've really tried to implement them. Also, your description of this situation has changed pretty drastically from your last question.

Honestly, it sounds like you really don't want to have neighbors at all, which is entirely reasonable. Have you considered moving to a house, rather than a complex?
posted by zug at 7:27 PM on March 17, 2011 [12 favorites]

I'm quite sure you've posted on this issue before, so let me say - I, too, am very noise-sensitive. I hate it. It makes me insane. I totally get it.

However - I also understand that living in proximity with other humans = noise. You can't avoid it.

You can either move to some place with nothing near you, employ white noise machines like a maniac, or live with it.

I don't see what else to do. You cannot, CANNOT control your neighbors. Ever. Don't bother trying.

I seriously feel for you, I hate this shit. But I can't change it, so I have found other ways to deal with it. I'm sorry you're having a tough time.
posted by tristeza at 7:40 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

A motto to the effect that your apartment complex will be a quiet place to live doesn't mean that ownership/management can (or is promising to) guarantee enough silence to satisfy every tenant. I'm sorry that you're having a rough go and that moving would be a difficulty, but, well, tough.

What are you really asking for here? I don't think it's being unreasonably noisy (and your unwillingness to directly confront the issue probably gives you less ground from which to complain). People make noise -- that's what happens when you live around other people.

But more importantly, how people on this site feel about whether you deserve more quiet can't make a difference. Are you asking if it's loud enough that you can pursue legal action because the landlord is breaking your lease? Are you asking if it's loud enough that you can force the landlord to force people to be more quiet? Are you asking for solutions?
posted by J. Wilson at 7:47 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would go out of my way to befriend my new neighbors. Have them over for drinks. Bake the kid some cookies. Talk with them frequently. Eat dinner with them. Get on a first-name basis with them.

Then when they're being unusually loud, stand on your balcony and yell JESUS FUCKING CHRIST WOULD Y'ALL PLEASE SHUT THE HELL UP.

This won't work, of course. It may result in a lull in the noise and they might feel a bit guilty about ticking off their nice neighbor.

But in the end I think you may have to adjust your expectations. Sorry. People make noise.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:57 PM on March 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

I hate to say it, but run-down, dirt cheap apartments are likely to attract crappy management and noise.

Having perused through (what are likely) your previous questions, why not rent a house out in the sticks somewhere? Anytime you have an apartment situation you're going to have to deal with some interference from neighbors.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:58 PM on March 17, 2011

It's entirely situational, and it depends a lot on who you're living around: city living requires higher tolerance than apartment complexes, and apartment complexes more than residential SFH environments.

If, as you've suggested, the complex is moving towards a point in its existence where the residents who want quiet are outweighed by a management more concerned about keeping the rent coming it -- then I'm afraid there's not much to be done, particularly because you seem (perhaps with good reason) to be too intimidated to engage with the problem directly. So, absent actually talking to your neighbours, or complaining to management, or calling law enforcement if you feel that local noise ordinances are being violated, the only alternative is to move.
posted by holgate at 8:01 PM on March 17, 2011

To be specific about your main questions:

Q: "How much neighbor noise must we find ways to tolerate..."
A: As much as is legal within your jurisdiction. Contact your local city hall if you need a copy of your local residential noise ordinance.

Q. "...and how much quiet must naturally noisy neighbors learn to preserve when we all signed up to live in a complex with the motto, "A Quiet Place to Live?""
A: Only as much as is required by law, because a motto is not a contract.

Your neighbors who own condos and single family homes are bound by association rules, and so are more obligated to preserve the quiet. If you are urged to complain to management, complain to management. If they are unresponsive, ask them what your options are. One may be that they will move you to another unit in the complex.

If you are the user linked in the above answers, you are 55+ in age, and I feel bad that perhaps you were mislead into moving into this complex because of some perceived guarantee of quiet. Those places, as far as multi-unit dwellings go, don't exist. Living around other people can be noisy. If you want to live somewhere quiet, you need to move somewhere with no neighbors.

To be very clear: in a multi-unit living situation, there is zero expectation of quiet unless you are in a monastic community. As I type that, maybe that's the kind of place you and your partner may want to look into - monastic communities. They are not all religious, and many are in the woods or in rural places.
posted by juniperesque at 8:03 PM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

However - I also understand that living in proximity with other humans = noise. You can't avoid it.

Yes, living in proximity to other people equals occasional sound. Sound is, like, you hear footsteps outside because your neighbor is taking the garbage out or catching a cab or whatever. It SHOULD NOT equal someone's toddler banging on metal bars, outside, and yelling all day long. That's not sound; that is an uncontrolled child who has parents that sadly do not care what the child does. I hate to say this, but your idyllic neighborhood has just gone to shit. It will not improve, because it now contains at least one family with uncontrolled children and no one has said word one to that family about not letting your kid be a pain in the ass. Word gets around, and before you know it...

Move. I agree with the commenter upthread who recommended a house of your don't say much about your financial situation, but I have to recommend it as the best option. Move, before there is more than one kid banging on the rails.

BTW, you are under NO obligation to have to "befriend" the neighbors before they teach their child that there are other human beings in the world. That's not your job, dude. If you want to make friends with them, then go ahead, but people who live in apartment/condo complexes should get that their kid(s) need to respect others' space regardless of whether you are their "friend."
posted by deep thought sunstar at 8:24 PM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

we need to get a sense of how much noise is okay when we so love the quiet.

I've lived in the same apartment for two years. It has a quiet policy from 10pm to 8am, but it is not strictly enforced. I would consider my upstairs neighbors to make noise at an acceptable level. This includes regular exercises with a rowing machine or some sort of equipment, which sounded kind of, uh ... suggestive when it first started. Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! I'm not a fan of listening to what sounds like someone violating an inflatable couch for ~30 minutes every other night, but they are entitled to exercise. They like to vacuum on Saturday mornings, but never before 9am. I'm a night owl and it wakes me up, but I understand that waiting until 9am is courteous for early risers. They also have a daughter who has had a slumber party or two, and sometimes they play music. These are normal living noises. Most of their noises can be covered with music at a normal volume, or headphones. The slumber parties are noisy but hey, a girl should have a giggly friendly slumber party now and then. Some minor stomping and banging, but everybody drops something now and then. Sometimes they have friends over. Normal stuff.

The neighbors came down once and asked me to turn down the volume on a movie because the wife had a headache, which is completely understandable. Otherwise, no real noise problems.

If you would like to be friends with your neighbors, make friends. But judging them beforehand and going in with an agenda is probably not going to work out.
posted by griselda at 8:25 PM on March 17, 2011

The complex's motto, "A Quiet Place to Live," appears on a large sign at the entrance.

Dude, I've seen estates called "Shady Brook", too. They had neither shade, nor brook. A sign is just a sign.

I hate to say it, but this sounds like pretty reasonable noise to me. Toddlers are noisy, super noisy. If you think it's bad, imagine what the poor parents think of it. Phone conversations and stuff, I mean this is day to day stuff, dude.

Noise complaints are: parties after 12, domestic disputes, ceaselessly barking dogs, mowing or yardwork before 8. If you think that - if you called the police, and they wouldn't respond to your complaint, then it's not really a noise complaint. Best of luck.
posted by smoke at 8:37 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Strength in numbers; anyone else in your complex also annoyed by these new noisy neighbours?

Recruit everyone to "befriend" these new neigbours and make it known that their (lack of) behaviour is not acceptable.

Alternate/complementary route - befriend the noisy little brat and parent them it into understanding that while being playful is fine; being a noisy, spoiled, attention-poor (in both all three+ senses) little noise booger, is not.
posted by porpoise at 9:33 PM on March 17, 2011

Just chiming in to add that we're in the sticks in a house and have a terminally noisy neighbor dog that drives us up a wall...we're spending serious money next week to screen it, though I expect it won't make much difference noise-wise.

In other words, moving to the sticks doesn't necessarily mean no noise unless you are in the middle of considerable (+20) acreage.
posted by maxwelton at 9:56 PM on March 17, 2011

I have lived in upscale rural areas most of my entire adult life. Where I live now has 2 or 4 acre lots. And damn, people are noisy. Right now I am enjoying the nightly bass practice from two houses away. On the other side I have the toddlers. Across the street there are the hard of hearing (my assumption) late-night barbecuers. Next door is the professional athlete, with his hangers on, who hoot loudly like lunatics when ever something exciting happens. They are easily impressed, since the hoot frequently. I miss not having winter (I live in the tropics) when people would go inside and close the doors and windows. Everywhere I have lived, people have been noisy.

Only thing I can suggest is to do what my husband does, go over to the noisy neighbor, be friendly and mention that they are kind of noisy. Most of the time people donʻt give a crap.
posted by fifilaru at 10:49 PM on March 17, 2011

If you are that poster, you are in the Midwest. Near me is a (now, wait until I finish) nudist colony. It's in the middle of 120 acres of woods. I've been inside and at no point did I see any naked people nor was I required to disrobe. They indicate that nudity is only required in their lake, pool, and sauna. If you can deal with naked neighbors, maybe this would be an appropriate place to live? Their website says it's mostly retired folks. It's gated and you have to have the electronic gate number to get in, and IIRC it changes monthly. If you want the website address, Memail me.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:18 AM on March 18, 2011

I really think that given your previous questions on the topic that you need to move somewhere 55+. Your sensitivity to sounds precludes you living anywhere near children, who are loud even at the best of times. My husband and I live in a 55+ community at the moment, and it is extremely quiet at night. I'm from a more urban area, so the stillness actually creeps me out, but that sounds just about right for you guys.
posted by crankylex at 6:52 AM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

I am going to assume that you are the same poster as before...the "Quiet place to live" motto referenced in both questions seem too much of a coincidence.

You have posted many times about your unhappiness with this complex...particularly the noise. If you can't move, get earplugs. Other than that, I am not sure what you are trying to elicit from us (this time "anonymously") that hasn't been offered before.
posted by murrey at 11:17 AM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

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