Keep it down up there.
February 25, 2013 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Is there anything to be done about (probably unintentionally) loud neighbors?

My boyfriend and I live in an older (1920s), 20-some unit brownstone. We moved in last September and our current upstairs neighbors moved in sometime in November.

Since they moved in, the neighbors (a couple) have been somewhat noisy: stomp-walking at late hours and early hours (2am, 6am) is the main issue. They seem to move furniture around at those odd hours and they have come home at 2am yelling/crying a few times. Their walking in the morning with shoes on wakes up both myself and my boyfriend (we both wear earplugs). This is the main concern as it happens almost every day.

Some weeks after they moved in, I wrote them a very polite note asking if they wouldn't mind not wearing shoes in the early morning hours. I blamed the building for being so un-soundproof and said to please let us know if we were ever too noisy. I didn't hear anything back but think they may have made an effort to be quieter for a week or two. Maybe writing notes is just a totally bad idea.

One interesting thing is that the previous upstairs neighbors had an infant and we hardly heard them, so I know that it's possible to be quieter. Now, I will understand if I'm being a huge wimp about this and this is a fact of apartment living. Just tell me. Writing a second note seems like overkill, as well as passive-aggressive. I just don't want to get so annoyed that I pull a broom-banging tactic or stomp upstairs in my pajamas angrily to yell at them. Any ideas?

(Part of the problem, too, is that I assume everyone is doing annoying things on purpose, when in reality the neighbors probably don't realize how loud they're being. I have a hard time being courteous [trying to be quiet for the people below us] and realizing that other people sometimes don't have the same level of courtesy. I am talking about this in therapy :)
posted by sucre to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
I didn't see it in your question anywhere, but have you talked to your landlord? That seems like a pretty obvious step you haven't covered yet.

For what it is worth, living in an apartment you can always expect some noise from neighbours. Unavoidable, but you seem to already understand that. The issue is the times of day that it happens and that it is so loud it wakes you and your boyfriend up despite wearing earplugs. I think that is your message to your landlord.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:37 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

You mention earplugs - have you tried the other usual things, like a white noise machine? I find that our sleepmate really helps drown out some of the noise that might otherwise wake me up.
posted by needlegrrl at 10:43 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wrote them a very polite note asking if they wouldn't mind not wearing shoes in the early morning hours.

Bad framing here. Nobody wants to be micro-directed like this in their own home. You need to focus on the problem that's affecting you-- the noise-- rather than on your specific ideas for fixing it.
posted by threeants at 10:48 AM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Talk to your building manager/landlord, this is part of their job.

Most apartments require a certain minimum percentage of the apartment floor to be carpeted, for just this noise-abatement reason..... how much, if any, carpeting do they have? It's really very unlikely that they actually ARE moving furniture or purposely stomping around late at night. And if my own downstairs neighbors wrote me a note telling me not to wear shoes in my own home, without ever actually TALKING to me? It would not go down well.
posted by easily confused at 10:51 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think your concerns are reasonable. It's one thing to hear some noise from other units (unavoidable), but another for people to make loud noise late at night/early in the morning. I would try talking to them in person, and offer to have them come down to your apartment and hear how loud it is. We ended up doing this at a place I used to live (I was one of the offenders!) and I honestly had NO IDEA how much walking in shoes carried to our neighbor's bedroom until we went down to her unit and heard how loud it was...what seemed like normal, non-stomping walking to me was literally like a herd of elephants over her bed. Hearing it myself did way more for me remembering to take off shoes and walk carefully at night/early morning than any number of notes/requests would have done.

So, I would start with going up and having a polite conversation. Start from the assumption that they are doing nothing on purpose, and this is far more a problem of the sound mechanics of the house rather than intentionally annoying you. If this doesn't get anywhere, escalate to the landlord.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:57 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Our downstairs neighbors and us had a talk about this last year. We ended up getting more area rugs PLUS an additional layer of padding under the rugs, it seems to get rid of most of the walking around that they heard.

While I felt they were being a bit unreasonable (since we already had rugs and weren't stomping around (and never wore shoes, etc..) but we were willing to try to keep the peace - up to a point.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:08 AM on February 25, 2013

Your previous neighbors probably had enough rugs on the floor, and your current neighbors probably do not. I would talk to your landlord or building supervisor about that.

Are they coming home late only on the weekends? If so, suck it up.

My parents are both extremely light sleepers, and they've had a lot of luck with a white noise machine.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:08 AM on February 25, 2013

Can you open up diplomatic relations with the upstairs neighbors -- e.g. bring them something one of you baked, or invite them down for tea/supper, or let them know you'd be happy to catsit some weekend?

Both you and the neighbors may find it easier to handle complaints when they aren't your sole form of interaction.
posted by feral_goldfish at 11:25 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might be being unreasonable. It's hard to tell--if all your neighbors are doing is walking around and having the occasional loud night, these are things I'd just accept about apartment life. But they might be being overly inconsiderate and if you feel they are I think just going to their place and introducing yourself and saying you can hear them in the morning/night might work best. Don't say they're too loud or stomping around or put the onus on them, just say you can hear them and when. You don't need to explain why. Most people do not want their neighbors hearing them, particularly yelling/crying.

If you talk to your landlord first, as people are advising you to do, at best the landlord will communicate to your neighbors (maybe with a phone call but more likely with a letter, depending) that complaints have been made and that your neighbors need to keep the noise down.

I've been in this situation (landlord telling us neighbors thought we were noisy) and it is very annoying because:

1) We had no idea what noise we were making, when we were making it, what was unacceptable or who could hear us (neighbor was left anonymous). We lived on the ground floor, were rarely even home and were generally very quiet when we were home. The landlord telling us that neighbors complained did absolutely nothing to make us quieter because we didn't know what, exactly, our neighbors had a problem with. Just that they had some nebulous problem.

2) We kept being (what we thought was) quiet and got ANOTHER non-specific letter from the landlord saying anonymous neighbors had complained about noise. At this point I'm very annoyed that the neighbor won't just come talk to us about what their problem is. I still don't know what it is they could hear. At this point I'm thinking the neighbors expect us to tip-toe around in complete silence which is not reasonable.

3) Got ANOTHER letter from the landlord saying neighbors had complained. At this point I just ignore it, thinking neighbors must be unreasonable.

If you want specific behavior corrected, I'd just go talk to your neighbors. They are more likely to be accomodating if you go there in person and are nice to them and you can tell them specifically what the issue is. If they end up being jerks or aren't accomodating, then talk to your landlord. They may not even realise they're being noisy.
posted by Polychrome at 3:05 AM on February 26, 2013

Thanks for all the advice, everyone! After thinking it over, I definitely think that introducing myself and explaining that we can hear them and are woken by it (despite using earplugs and white noise machines) is the best thing to do next (and also apologizing for writing a note instead of talking in person). I wish I hadn't written that note some months ago, because now I see just how passive it is and how inappropriate it is to ask someone I don't know to do something so specific.

The main thing is that I'm often woken up 30-60 minutes before my alarm goes off because I hear them walking around (they also have an animal that runs back and forth. It's kind of funny and annoying at the same time). We haven't talked to the landlords because it felt too insignificant to bring to that level, especially without talking to the neighbors first.

Now, all I need is to get the courage to go up there and knock. I think they are nice people, I just can't manage confrontation (hence the note in the first place). Thanks again- it's good to know I'm not totally out of line and also good to realize that I can approach things differently. :)
posted by sucre at 2:55 PM on February 26, 2013

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