Just moved in, took 5 days for the loud neighbor-hammer to drop.
August 14, 2012 9:41 AM   Subscribe

We moved in 4 days ago to a downstairs corner apartment. It's been quiet, until last night (Monday) at 1 am when the neighbor decided to play some combination of thrash metal and 90s technopop. This lasted for about 5 songs, before I went up, and in the politest way possible introduced myself, and asked if the guy could turn down the music because we couldn't sleep. And also not to hesitate to let us know any time we were too loud. He was nice enough, introduced himself, and immediately turned it down to maybe 15% of the volume it was before. Too bad that even this was too loud;

we lasted til 230 am with bass thumping from the ceiling and treble frequencies leaking in from the windows before I went back up there.

This time, I said hey it's the same guy as before, thanks for turning the volume down but it's still loud enough that we are not able to sleep. Cue rapid downturn of conversation. The guy thought I was being ridiculous and 'whining' when I've only been here a few days, and how he has been here for 5 years and has not had any noise complaints, and how he only 'does this' occasionally. I said it's a weeknight, and if I was not on vacation during this week, I'd be screwed if I had to get up in 2 hours and go to work. He said it's a weeknight for him as well. I said he was choosing to stay up, but we were not. Nothing got through, he was over the top and told me to take it up with the manager, and angrily slammed the door after sarcastically rating me a 'great neighbor'. No profanity, no threats, but still ridiculously angry and entitled. I was polite but firm through the whole thing.

So he doesn't turn it down and I end up calling the non-emergency police line just before 4am make sure it's okay that I'm asking them to come by, and just as they are getting the address the music turns off. (I don't think he heard me calling, it's just anti-serendipity). So they told me to just call back any time if it started back up again. It didn't, but by this time it's 4am, we're tired and angry, and because I know this topic has come up multiple times on MeFi, I won't go into how anxiety provoking it is to deal with noise issues in the space of your own home.

The way he worded taking it up with the manager made it sound like nothing was going to happen. I emailed the manager after I visited him the second time, and I'm going to call him now, but I'm wary about exactly that happening. I can always contact the police the next time this happens, but things like this are never a simple long-term solution to an unreasonable neighbor problem. We just moved in, spent a not inconsiderable amount of time and money planning and switching over utilities and buying furniture and cleaning up the place, and now the ONE thing that I was most afraid of is a reality. I feel like moving out, although it may be premature because I can't quite gauge how frequent of a noise problem this may be.

My most specific question is, what would be the best way to handle leaving, if it were to come to that, given that we just paid the deposit and rent ~10 days ago?
posted by legospaceman to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Couple other points:
-we're a married couple
-neighbor is ~late 20s/early 30s
-music was initially loud enough that I was surprised no one else asked him to knock it off, and if the cops had been called then it would be quite clear-cut
-music after he turned it down was still loud enough to hear from our windows, and audible on my pocket camera when I went outside (I recorded a video at that time)
posted by legospaceman at 9:44 AM on August 14, 2012

Email (not phone) the apartment manager immediately and tell him what happened. If the building doesn't have mandated quiet hours, lobby to get some. If the manager doesn't satisfy your concerns and this happens again*, go to the owners of the building.

* -- This happening again is the big thing. It's entirely possible that the neighbor, in the light of day, realized that he was being a dick and won't do it again, but doesn't want to lose face by apologizing. Or that the manager will promise to do something and then actually do it but not do it publicly or tell you that it was done.
posted by Etrigan at 9:47 AM on August 14, 2012

Well, you are very unlikely to be let out of the lease without first finding another tenant that your landlord approves or paying a huge fee. Even if you move, you risk this happening to you in your new location.

I'd see what the manager says, and then next time it happens, if the manager seems disinterested, call the police. In the past, I've had the police called on me without even the kind of chat you had in your neighbor. (I would have gladly switched to headphones if someone had just let me know.) So, you did your best there.

Also, get yourself some earplugs so you can get some sleep if the next time it happens, just in case you don't have the energy to call the police.
posted by ignignokt at 9:48 AM on August 14, 2012

I'm noise sensitive too.

Don't move. If everything else is good about your situation, noise can be abated.

1. Get and use a white noise machine. This has saved my sanity. In a pinch the bathroom fan will work.

2. Suggest that the tenant get good quality headphones. This is how polite people listen to bass heavy music in the wee hours of the morning.

3. Discuss with manager, say that you'll meet half-way by doing the white noise thing, but the tenant must be made to understand that any noise after 10PM is unacceptable.

4. If it bothers you, call the cops.

You have the right to "Quiet Enjoyment" of your space. And who's to say that if you move, you won't have the same issue at the new place.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:48 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The way he worded taking it up with the manager made it sound like nothing was going to happen.

Maybe he would just prefer to deal with the manager rather than you.
posted by grouse at 9:50 AM on August 14, 2012

I would wait it out. It's entirely possible that this really is something that he doesn't do very often. I have had neighbors who I've happily lived next to for months and never heard anything from, and then one day/night, they just totally blast their music (not even for a party or anything, maybe they were having a bad day and needed the distraction) for hours on end. And then back to nary a peep.

So try to just leave it be for now. If you pass him in the building, be friendly and pretend this never happened.

But if he does it again any time within, say, the next month, then feel free to unleash the fury. (Cops, landlord, etc.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:51 AM on August 14, 2012 [12 favorites]

Some people consider this a jerk move, but I honestly think it's okay to get authority involved when others are breaking noise ordinances (which your neighbor may be doing) and noisemakers don't respond reasonably. I'd wait it out a bit, though, to see if this is something that happens regularly, or only occasionally, and thus worth sticking out. We have a neighbor who practices drums, and we've decided to just let it go occassionally. As our six year old says, "Just let the boy practice his drums. He needs to practice sometime!" You know your tolerance level.

It sounds like your local PD is willing to help. My general rule of thumb is that it's not okay to make noise in a way that disturbs neighbors, full-stop, especially during sleeping time. Some people think it's a "my right to make noise vs. your right for quiet" and so is simply a social difference of opinion, but it's really not. Check your local noise ordinances and see what the guidelines are. Your neighbor is (almost definitely) in the wrong here, especially if he keeps it up. I guarantee if it's a problem for you, it's probably a problem for others, as well, they just haven't said anything about it.

We had a similar problem in our condo complex, but more with excessive parties/music/noise to all hours. Multiple calls to the police over time, and it eventually stopped (people were kicked out, actually, due to the number of complaints. Owners don't like multiple police visits to their place). We had an option to file a complaint, but it didn't come to that. And to be honest, you aren't going to turn into the jerk in the neighborhood for taking a stand on this. You might actually be something of a hero, as it's probably been going on for awhile.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:52 AM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Definitely reach out to the manager and the police. If you're lucky, you live in a place where the police actually come out to respond to noise complaints (we live in NYC and they say it's a "civil matter", but I hear in other areas they'll come right out). Try that before you think about moving. Even someone with a strong asshole streak will probably be chastened when they get a letter from the management or visit from the cops.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:54 AM on August 14, 2012

I have had this with a neighbour (in the UK). I'm going to leave the question about leaving and instead focus on what to do if you decide to stay and the problem persists:

- Get trigger happy: my neighbour would regularly play very loud music for 1-2 hours at a time, at 11-12 o'clock. It drove me up the wall that with a 1-2 hour delay responding the enforcement officers would miss it. My mistake was not calling enforcement immediately and thinking that I was being a bit precious at calling immediately. The enforcement guys actually specifically said that I shouldn't wait.
- Don't assume your neighbours are immune to noise: My noisy neighbours ended up having their kit confiscated after a two strikes and out policy. But it was a third neighbour who made the complaint that triggered the visit from the enforcement officers. Not me.*
- Don't get het up about noise that is yet to happen: This is a hard one, but it bears repeating because feeling annoyed, shrugged off and impotent about it is more than half the toll.
- Don't deal with him direct: he's an inconsiderate asshole. You've given him his chances. don't give him the satisfaction of continuing to be an asshole to your face.
- Make his noise as many people's problem as you can: your landlord, his landlord, the management of the building as well as the enforcement officers all get to know about this. You aren't the problem here, being some sensitive flake. Just be polite when you communicate.
- Don't respond: life becomes a whole lot easier if you can totally hold the moral high ground.

Good luck.

* In an amusing fashion: my noisy neighbour eventually clocked on that I went to work before 8am. So at 8.01 the music would kick off. I didn't realise. But my other neighbour was a nurse working night shifts. The enforcement notice didn't make reference to when the noise was unacceptable but defined it by how easy it was to hear within adjoining properties. Result: noisy neighbour loses his stereo.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:00 AM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, finally: keep a noise diary.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:04 AM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

It may have been a one-time thing - maybe a celebration or they had a few to drink.

If you do plan on moving because a neighbor upstairs had his music too loud, try looking for a house to rent.
Living in an apartment - you'll always have to deal with noise (everything from babies crying, dogs barking, people walking around) along with a lot of other things. That's how life is in an apartment. Our townhouse is actually staggered so that we don't share any full walls with our neighbors - we don't hear a thing. Which is great, because we are night owls.

I had a DJ in the bedroom below me in Boston. He blasted music from 11pm until 3am about twice a month. I was usually up, so I didn't bother me. If I had to work the next day, I just put on my good headphones. I also had a huge rug in my room. Some people say that helps.

The advice of asking the neighbor to use headphones is great, as well.
posted by KogeLiz at 10:16 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that you have a legal right to quiet enjoyment of your apartment; this is the kind of thing you can call a lawyer in on if the management refuses to cooperate (this is besides police enforcement of local noise ordinances.)
posted by endless_forms at 10:28 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, I called the manager, who is a reasonable person. He was rather surprised that this neighbor had acted like this and did say that 'he is a nice man' and there really have been no complaints before; however he made it a point to say he wasn't discrediting my story. I mentioned that I had videoed the noise from outside, and that I had been at the point of calling the police.

Manager of course agrees that there needs to be quiet time and reasonable noise levels, and is going to call neighbor and talk to him. We'll see what comes of it; I'm most concerned that the definition of what is 'reasonable noise' is going to be sticky.

endless_forms: Thanks for the quiet enjoyment link, I looked at my lease and it has a similarly worded passage (disturb, annoy, endanger or inconvenience).

MuffinMan: "Don't get het up about noise that is yet to happen" -- no kidding, the last time I was in a similar situation (and even now), it's like I'm constantly tensed up waiting for the noise to start again.

As far as noise mitigation goes, I do have some yellow foam earbuds and we had a fan on, but these things did not significantly dampen the bass. Next time this happens I'll try all this but if it's not working, it's time to call the cops.
posted by legospaceman at 10:49 AM on August 14, 2012

Had a similar situation where it was Playstation and Gangsta rap from 1:00 AM to 4:30 AM on a weeknight either the first or second night we moved in. We were in an old (1920's era) building with ZERO sound insulation, single-pane windows and a six-inch gap in the air conditioner's window tray. I literally could hear footsteps in the alley beneath us, and every word from the apartment below. The next day, we were debating what to do when the knock down, drag out, screaming, racist, obscenity-laden fight started. That decided it for us and we moved. In our case, we didn't unpack anything at all.

You likely don't have justification to move based on one incident, so you're stuck at least until it happens another time or two. If I were you (and I was you) I would contact the landlord right away and then live out of boxes for the first week. If it happens again, start thinking hard about moving. If it happens a third time, move.

If you're going to stay, buy earplugs. They don't help much with bass, but they do help with higher-pitched noise.
posted by cnc at 10:56 AM on August 14, 2012

This is an issue for your landlord. Even though you just moved in, let them know in no uncertain terms that you will not be renewing your lease if this continues. The landlord will shut him right up.

This worries me. If, in fact, the guy has reliably paid his rent for the last five years and been a good tenant who generated no complaints, the landlord may well care a lot more about keeping him than about keeping a new tenant who's threatening to call the police on the fifth day. I'm NOT saying you're wrong. I'm saying that assuming the landlord will shut him up at the moment you threaten not to renew your lease because you make that threat is risky, I think.

It sounds from your update like the landlord is reasonable, but also likes the five-year tenant. Perhaps it won't happen again. If it does, you certainly will have given adequate warning that you will call the cops, but again, you're then in a really tricky situation given that the landlord clearly thinks of this guy as a good tenant and may not be a lot of help to you. And the fact that you can hear the bass doesn't guarantee the police are going to cite the guy, I don't think. (I can often hear muffled sounds of my upstairs neighbor's TV when I'm trying to get to sleep, and I seriously doubt the cops would cite my neighbor for violating a noise ordinance.) Unfortunately, my guess is that either (1) you will reach a sort of peaceful compromise, or (2) you will be happier moving out. I fear that it's not all that likely that the other guy will successfully be muscled into being quieter if he's lived peacefully in the building for five years, even though it might be the just outcome.

If this really is the most important thing to you and noise is really your biggest fear when you move into a new place, it really probably would be a good idea to find a place with quiet hours. Lots of places have them, and it would eliminate a lot of hassle in your life that you don't need.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:04 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would emphasize, if ever you speak to the neighbor about this again, that the time for nice polite asking-to-turn-it-down-please is done and from now on the police will be called.

I've never understood why some people don't see that civil interactions with your co-tenants/neighbors are far easier and nicer than having the police/landlord called out. It's always pissed me off (the very few times it's happened) when the neighbor calls the cops or landlord without simply asking me to turn it down. On the flip side, I've never understood why someone wouldn't, in the interest of a smooth living situation, try to accommodate a neighbor that was cool enough to NOT call the cops/landlord and simply asked to turn the music down.
posted by dozo at 11:09 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I guess it depends where you live, but in my understanding, if music can be heard outside the home/unit in question after a certain time of night (I feel like 11 or midnight is a good cutoff time, not sure what the laws actually are), that's a noise violation. Period.

At this point, the thing to do is to call the non-emergency number whenever this is a problem. Let the police come over and explain it to the dude. The first time he is written a noise violation ticket, that will probably be the end of the late night thumping bass.

If the noise is more "hey I'm a person living my life" type noise due to tight quarters in an old building (footsteps, plumbing noises, voices carrying at a reasonable volume), I'd let it be. This is really really irritating, but there's really not much to be done aside from maybe getting a white noise machine or something.
posted by Sara C. at 11:24 AM on August 14, 2012

Also consider that there are minimum building code standards for sound transmission between units. If the noise doesn't stop and the landlord doesn't do anything, call the building inspector and have them check it out.
posted by rhizome at 11:41 AM on August 14, 2012

Ultimately, you'll have to compromise. You're in an apartment. Some reasonable level of noise is a fact of life. Neighbor also needs to realize he's in an apartment; there's a type of housing for people like him who don't want to consider the needs of the people downstairs--it's called a "house."

You sound reasonable to me. But you might ask a friend to come by for a listen to double-check, perhaps without letting them know your issue so they can be objective.

Next, carefully review your lease agreement and any published or posted property rules. Then, talk to the landlord. Unless your landlord is an idiot, they will realize that the issue needs to be resolved before you go to a lawyer to find out whether and how you can move early and make the landlord pay your expenses. A jerktastic tenant also makes it hard to keep other renters and no matter how good he is at paying for his one unit, a renter who doesn't make up the lost rent from the vacancies he creates isn't such a great tenant after all.

Offer whatever flexibility you can provide to the landlord or management, including cooperation to help your neighbor pre-mark his volume levels that would be acceptable after certain hours (e.g., 10:00 p.m.). You could even offer to shell out a few bucks to contribute to neighbor's purchase of high-quality headphones. Ask the landlord for other suggestions, which might include some modifications to one or both units for noise abatement.
posted by Hylas at 12:19 PM on August 14, 2012

Be grateful you are a renter and can move if necessary, even if it costs you some money.

I've been in that position and 'was an owner.

A million times worse. 'Had to sell and lost money and it took a year of fighting and misery to do so.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 12:51 PM on August 14, 2012

« Older Small liberal arts in Portland: What say you?   |   Helping, selfless, yet jealous? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.