Loud neighbor help
February 5, 2013 10:37 PM   Subscribe

I have a loud neighbor with a TV who lives below me. I've tried multiple things (try to ask them, tell the manager, bang on the wall) to no avail. Any other options?

I live in an apartment complex, and yes I am aware that the cost of living in an apartment complex is having to deal with noise issues and loud neighbors.

I tend to try to sleep early and wake up early given my sleep schedule. I have a neighbor downstairs who watches TV most of the day late into the nights. I live directly upstairs. The TV is loud enough that I know what show they are watching. I first discussed the issue with the manager and he said he would talk to the neighbor. That failed. I then tried to go down to speak with my neighbor, but for whatever reason, they ignore all my attempts to communicate with them, to the point where they will turn the TV even louder. I stood outside after knocking and heard the TV volume go up. I've made at least five attempts and they never once answered the door. The manager suggested I bang and stomp on the floor (which I did not do first because I feel it's rude). I also tried that and they either ignore it or turn the volume up some more to ignore me.

I don't ask for her to keep quiet all day. It seems that the television is her primary form of entertainment. What I only ask is to turn down the television after 10pm so I may sleep. She is not absurdly loud, it's just at night I can still hear the mumblings of the TV despite having a white noise machine on the whole night in my room.

I would be buying a house and living in my peace and quiet if my income can afford it, but not for at least three more years. What are remaining options (besides moving)?
posted by eliluong to Human Relations (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I used to call security on the guy who used to do loud business calls right below my bedroom window at 2 am
posted by raw sugar at 10:41 PM on February 5, 2013

Get some good ear plugs and run a fan or white noise generator at night. That worked for my husband and me. We have some darn noisy neighbors.
posted by fifilaru at 10:43 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

you can check your bylaws, it's 11pm here when you can make a noise complaint to the city for something like that. I don't know if that counts as a time that would be going to sleep early, so the point might be moot. I'd just keep complaining to the landlord if you can, he might kick her out eventually. either that or try to ambush her somewhere. hear the tv go off, try to track her down in the hallway?
posted by euphoria066 at 10:44 PM on February 5, 2013

The manager suggested I bang and stomp on the floor

Translation (manager to you): I don't care about solving this situation even though I have the means to do so and you do not.

Push back on your manager. Landlords hate neighbor-to-neighbor disputes but the only way to get action is to complain, loudly, consistently, and in writing if necessary to the most senior person. If they will do anything, it will be easier for them to do so with a paper trail of complaints and unresolved interventions.
posted by dhartung at 10:45 PM on February 5, 2013 [23 favorites]

Your building management should be dealing with this on your behalf, as part of your rent surely pays for their staff to manage the building. That said, I had friends that had noisy and unresponsive downstairs neighbors. They bought a used bowling ball and would drop it on their floor when things got too loud. Repeatedly. It was not subtle, but it worked.
posted by mosk at 10:54 PM on February 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Call the police with a noise complaint. I had this kind of situation and the person doing this ignored my banging on the door and repeated requests from management to turn the noise down. Yes, I hated calling the police on my neighbors. But they had been extraordinarily inconsiderate for a very long time and paid no attention to the building management.
posted by citron at 10:57 PM on February 5, 2013 [12 favorites]

Wear earplugs. Call the cops. If those don't do it, you might have to move, unless you want to get all psycho on the neighbor. I don't have the stamina, myself. I'm so respectable middle-class looking I have to go WAY over to start seeming scary. If you're not as "respectable", or if you have some scary friends/family, you might get results without extreme behavior.

Occasionally I regret that my male relatives went respectable.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:03 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could also try complaining on the various apartment review sites about noise problems and unresponsive management.
posted by empath at 11:15 PM on February 5, 2013

Send them a letter, politely saying that you don't typically mind the TV, but after 10:00 it is loud enough that it prevents you from sleeping, and you'd appreciate it if they would turn it down. If that doesn't solve it within a few days, send another letter informing them that you will be taking it up with building management, and if needed you will file a noise complaint with the police department. If the noise doesn't stop, call your landlord every single day until they do something about it. Follow up relentlessly.

Alternatively, find a new place to live.
posted by markblasco at 12:04 AM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

I had an upstairs neighbor like this and he compromised by getting headphones that pair up with the TV. He ended up liking it more because it helped him hear, hearing problems being the reason for the blaring TV in the first place.
posted by dottiechang at 12:49 AM on February 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

I had such a neighbor who used to watch insanely loud porn right under my bedroom and never answered the door or phone, not even when the landlord tried. It turned out that guy was nearly deaf and often fell asleep in front of the noisy TV. Calling the police to forcefully open the door was the only solution, until the porn fan moved out.
Call the police, best find other neighbors who also hear the TV, and hope your neighbor discovers her desire to move out.
posted by MinusCelsius at 2:20 AM on February 6, 2013

I agree with the suggestions that you push harder on your landlord followed by calling the police about noise complaints (after you look up your local noise ordinances).

Is it at all possible for you to move your sleeping location to a different room or a part of your bedroom that is marginally quieter? Would adding a carpet soften the noise at all?

Where I live, we've resorted to using a fairly loud window fan - even in the winter sometimes - to act as a white noise generator. I know you've mentioned using a white noise generator, but maybe a more exuberant one would still help.

I've also experienced having an extremely noise sensitive neighbor - who banged on our ceiling vigorously if we so much as dropped a piece of tupperware after 9pm (she eventually lost credence when she complained about our noise during a period of time we were out of town). You may be focusing on the noise and getting pissed off about it and unintentionally making it worse - the more you think about noise the more it bothers you (I know this is true for me, but may not be true for you).
posted by sciencegeek at 3:59 AM on February 6, 2013

You could, just once, try fighting fire with fire. I used to live in an apartment that had really thin walls, and I had a whole parade of people in and out of the apartment below me; usually people would respond well to my polite knocks on the door and "hi, I guess you didn't know how much noise carries in this place" and they would comply. But once in a blue moon they didn't.

Like the woman who played a lot of loud French disco with a lot of heavy bass, and ignored me knocking on the door. However - one day I finally snapped and pointed my loudest speakers at the floor, cranked my stereo up to eleven and blasted Man of Constant Sorrow twice, dancing and banging on the radiator pipes with a soup spoon as I did. That totally worked.

(Yes, this is immature, yes it is stooping to her level; but it did work, and MAN it was fun.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:23 AM on February 6, 2013 [8 favorites]

Gadgets to the rescue. See if this helps. But it would only be a temporary solution.

I concur that he may have a major hearing problem. But not all neighbors will be cooperative, as dottiechang's was.
posted by megatherium at 4:29 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

What city are you in, and how far are you legally willing to go to get her attention?
posted by Kruger5 at 5:09 AM on February 6, 2013

It's pretty apparent that you're going to have to ride your management company if you want them to take care of it. Calling every single night, as many others have suggested, is a good plan. Otherwise, you're going to have to take care of it from your end.

Quick fix: Get a cheap box fan from the thrift store (you don't want a new one, you want an old noisy one). Have it blow at the wall. That should muffle the sound enough that you can't distinguish noises, unless it's REALLY loud.

Other ideas: Find out where the sound is coming from. Is it coming up through the floor? The walls? A pipe? Can you hear it everywhere in your house or more/less in certain areas? Knowing these answers might give you some ideas. Example: if the floor is the problem, get a carpet remnant, or two, to provide some sound protection. If it's the walls, get a large heavy blanket and hang it over the wall. If it's worse in certain parts of the bedroom, adjust your bed.

Having to do this stuff is annoying and it can be ugly, but at least you'll be sleeping.
posted by zug at 5:26 AM on February 6, 2013

Unfortunately, there are apartments where you can hear that the TV is on in other people's apartments even if it's at a reasonable volume. I've lived in them. The neighbor may or may not be doing anything wrong, and I would be very surprised if what you've described is anything that (1) the police are going to do anything about or (2) the management company is going to evict someone over.

There are things that creep into your description -- about how the TV is her primary source of entertainment, particularly -- that make it sound to me like what's keeping you awake is that you're annoyed and don't approve of her habits as much as that it's actually so loud that you can't sleep. (I am like this myself; once I'm annoyed, it's the annoyance as much as the noise that keeps me from being able to sleep, because I'm lying there thinking, "SEE? I CAN STILL HEAR IT! STILL!") I know it's irritating, and as I said, I can be the same way, but remember that to the neighbor, you may be the problematic neighbor who, from their perspective, complains to the landlord whenever their TV is on after 10:00 at night.

Yes, you could enter into a long sequence of calling the police or the landlord, and you could decide to be at war with your neighbor over precisely how loud the TV is allowed to be, and you can run up and down the stairs and so forth and make yourself nuts, and maybe you'd eventually succeed and get the neighbor cited by the police or something. It's very hard to tell without hearing it whether you have much of a valid noise complaint. But what you're describing here -- that you can "hear the mumblings" of the TV -- is part of apartment life, to me, and you're better served to try earplugs than to go down a path that I would predict will wind up being a lot more unpleasant than being able to hear that the TV is on.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:00 AM on February 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Really the only outcomes in situations like these are: the behavior stops, you have your neighbor evicted, or you move. Getting people to change their behavior is the most difficult thing possible. Management groups don't want to evict tenants because it costs them money and time. It can sometimes take up to a year to get someone properly evicted and for the unit to become available for renting again.

I don't recommend calling the police unless your neighbor doesn't know it is you filing the complaint. This may make things worse for you. I did this once for a neighbor that blasted his music all day and all night despite my (what I considered to be very POLITE) requests not to do so and despite the clause in our building's lease that stated, very clearly, "no excessive noise after 9pm." The situation escalated into death threats and excessive harassment on their end.

The management group did nothing, even after the threats.

First, you should send a certified letter requesting that your management group handle the situation within 14 business days. Send a recording of the noise as you hear it through your walls, time stamped, etc. if possible. Highlight the clause in your lease that states tenants should refrain from excessive noise after a certain hour, if you have that.

Is your management group a member of the BBB? If so, file a complaint through them if your management group refuses to solve the problem.

After that, you may be able to negotiate either breaking your lease or moving to a different unit.
posted by Young Kullervo at 6:54 AM on February 6, 2013

Sadly, the only solution I have found for noisy neighbors is to move. (Mine were throwing loud parties and playing live music on weeknights. I lost an otherwise sweet, cheap apartment to them, but despite how disappointing it was, the quality of life quadrupled once I was able to sleep on my own schedule.)
posted by smirkette at 7:16 AM on February 6, 2013

I used to live in a duplex and my neighbors on all sides (including downstairs) had dogs. This white noise machine changed my life.
posted by wolfnote at 7:55 AM on February 6, 2013

Is it possible they are hard of hearing? If so, maybe they could get one of those devices where they can listen to the TV on a headset. You could ask and make the suggestion in a note to them.
posted by Dansaman at 8:19 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you should go the nice route and offer to purchase the headset for them, do this in person, and follow up with a note.

If that does not work and they rebuff you, I would call the police the next time she turned the TV up louder after 10pm.

Yes, the police come out for noise complaints. Usually one visit from the police will be enough.
posted by jbenben at 11:27 AM on February 6, 2013

I have experienced similar problems with my upstairs AND my next-door neighbours. In fact right now, I can hear loud banging coming from next door. God knows what they're doing. So, I really feel your pain.

Things that have helped:
- putting up wall hangings, putting down rugs, anything that will absorb sound better. I have put a lot of my stuff into storage lately, and have found the noise from the neighbours has gotten worse since taking all my books off my book shelves - it really made a big difference and I learned that the hard way. It's a bit of an elaborate option but it will help muffle noise.
- ear plugs. Invest in a good pair.
- fan or white noise machine.

Things that may help you:
- talking to them - in my case this helped with the next-door neighbours, who are friendly and just a bit oblivious, although it didn't stop them from doing it again. It didn't with the upstairs neighbours, who got aggressive.
posted by Ziggy500 at 11:41 AM on February 6, 2013

Gadgets to the rescue. See if this helps.

Pretty sure those require a line of sight to the actual device.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:48 PM on February 6, 2013

Gadgets to the rescue. See if this helps.

A device like this was something we tried first with our upstairs neighbor. He would often fall asleep with the TV blaring and knocking/calling didn't wake him up. It was a total waste of money, even though we were able to stand with a direct line of sight of the TV, it wasn't powerful enough to go through the glass of the window.
posted by dottiechang at 7:15 PM on February 6, 2013

The manager suggested I bang and stomp on the floor

Eugh, another crappy landlord. This is aggressive, borderline threatening, and just escalates what might be a very low level situation. I would be amazed that a manager actually suggested this if i hadn't had so many crappy landlords.

That said, I've been on both sides of this situation in multiple apartments/rental houses/etc. The only thing that ever worked in any way was when there was a mutual understanding either that it's a give and take, or it's not worth engaging on.

Basically, what worked was understanding that they might annoy me sometimes, but i would forgive them since i would probably annoy them sometimes. Unless you truly sit with headphones on silently reading or browsing the net on your laptop with a cup of tea 100% of the time you're home, you've probably done something that while it might not annoy them, would annoy someone else.

There really needs to be a moment of consideration here as to whether they really have the tv turned up beyond normal sitting on the couch levels. i realize that can vary from person to person, but i mean loud enough that you can clearly hear everything and it isn't on the edge of being an unintelligible whisper. Basically, conversation between two people volume.

I live in a place right now where i can hear my neighbor watching tv. I can usually tell what show he's watching, and often go "oh hey, that's the theme song from the office" or something. It's just how the place is put together.

Pretty much, you have to think, would anyone else think this is unreasonably loud? If i call the cops are they going to agree it is? noise just travels in some places. I've definitely groaned and thrown the pillow over my head more than a couple times in various apartments both from roommates and neighbors because it's just kinda part of apartment life unless they're blasting the tv or having drum practice at 11pm.

I admit my opinion on the give and take might be biased though, since i'm currently living above someone who has complained at 9pm on a friday night about me walking around my house.
posted by emptythought at 4:33 AM on February 7, 2013

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