No more drama please: My neighbor says I'm too loud, is it revenge?
December 16, 2013 6:14 PM   Subscribe

I think my neighbor is complaining about my noise because I previously complained about him to our landlord who is his boss. Should I wait to talk to him in person, which with our schedules could be days, write him a letter, or email our landlord? All three?

So last week my neighbor from this previous askme, asked me to turn down my music. It was about 5 or 6pm and I was in fact playing this one song pretty loud, so I immediately apologized and turned it down.

Last night, Sunday around 8pm I had a friend over, we were talking and listening to music at a moderate level. (I was sitting next to the speakers and we were talking comfortably so I feel certain that it was objectively not very loud.) We decided to move out to the patio for a bit. I opened the door, walked toward the chairs outside and saw my upstairs neighbor standing in the middle of the stairs. He said "the music is loud, I already talked to you about it, I'm going to call the landlord"- then immediately ran back up the stairs as I called after him.

I can't help but suspect that he was just being vindictive. It was not late, the music was not that loud, etc. I mean he wouldn't even really talk to me or allow me to respond to him. I can't help but think, how long was he out there on the stairs? Why didn't he come down the rest of the way to talk to me? And then why did he run away!

Since the incident with my car, this guy rarely says hello back when I see him around the property and generally is cold to me. I understand I basically ratted on him to his boss, but have tried to be friendly. I know in the first incident I was playing music excessively loud, but it wasn't late at night and I immediately responded to his request to turn it down.


I am bothered by having an uneasy relationship with a neighbor. I don't want to make it worse, but I also don't want to give in to unreasonable demands.

[Then again for all I know he's been annoyed by my music for the entire 5 months I've lived here and just hasn't said anything, maybe he has to wake up everyday at 4 in the morning, so 8pm is really late for him- I have no idea. I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt but all our interactions have been so strange.]

I had hoped to speak with him in person, but he hasn't been home yet, or perhaps is not responding to the door. Should I leave a note? I can't really say that I feel i ought to be super quiet before 10pm, maybe 9. . . Should I inform the landlord? Am I overreacting to all this?
posted by abirdinthehand to Human Relations (23 answers total)
 
I don't think it is related, other than the fact that this guy seems like an oddball (in both his behavior in August and now). I would be civil to him and possibly begin making a log of the odd things he does. On the times that you think he has a reasonable beef, change your behavior. I'd ignore drive-thru complaints or any complaints that don't involve him actually coming to you to talk to you (e.g. yelling over bannisters).

I wouldn't bring it up with the landlord unless you hear from the landlord. I'd expect that if he DID call the landlord, the landlord is thinking, "Oh, man, this is the second time that GUY is annoying abirdinthehand, I hope they won't leave because of it."
posted by arnicae at 6:29 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think you should do anything. Did he actually even call the landlord?

I understand that you don't want to have problems with your neighbor but this being a two-way interaction, he has no obligation to be friendly (or less strange) to you. That being said, your lease/landlord/local ordinances determine what is "reasonable" in terms of your music volume -- not you, or your neighbor. Being "neighborly" is a different matter. They are not always the same thing.
posted by sm1tten at 6:31 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your first AskMe about this neighbor is from August 19th. Almost four months have passed since the first incident. I find it unlikely that Neighbor is complaining out of revenge, and I don't think it's productive to characterize him as vindictive when (as you admit) you could actually be annoying him with your noise.

I agree with Arnicae re: not bringing it up again. When you do see him, kill him with kindness. If his complaints continue try again to have an in-person chat or leave him a kind, polite note asking to talk. In the meantime, make a serious effort to not be disturbing or loud.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:32 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I think my neighbor is complaining about my noise because I previously complained about him to our landlord...

Sorry, your neighbor is complaining about your noise because you're making noise.

> I can't really say that I feel i ought to be super quiet before 10pm, maybe 9

Having spent 20 years renting next to, above, and below a variety of tenants both considerate and decidedly not, I can say that there's no good time to be bothered by neighbor noise. Certain times are worse, of course, but this isn't about the clock. Courtesy and consideration aren't reserved for certain hours of the day.

>I had hoped to speak with him in person

To what end? To explain to him why he shouldn't be bothered by the thing that's bothering him? If you want to improve relations with your neighbor, stop trying to paint him as vindictive and try being a good neighbor yourself.
posted by falldownpaul at 6:36 PM on December 16, 2013 [15 favorites]


All I can say is, the fact that the music is not late at night seems meaningless to me. There is absolutely no activity I could be engaged in in my apartment that would not be disrupted by hearing a neighbor's music, not just sleeping. Some would be worse than others, such as reading, writing, doing yoga, meditating, having a phone conversation with family I talk to once a year, enjoying a meal, serving a nice meal to company, napping, having an important conversation with someone about our relationship, studying, etc, etc. He probably ran away because he's weird. It doesn't mean he's not truly bothered by your music.
posted by Blitz at 6:40 PM on December 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Having spent 20 years renting next to, above, and below a variety of tenants both considerate and decidedly not, I can say that there's no good time to be bothered by neighbor noise. Certain times are worse, of course, but this isn't about the clock. Courtesy and consideration aren't reserved for certain hours of the day.

I think, actually, the norm is that one's normal sounds of socializing and general living are expected to be tolerated until 9 or 10 p.m. Otherwise, no one could play a piano in an apartment, or have a party, etc.

OP, I heartily concur with your suspicion that this weirdo is being vindictive. Yes, of course, try to keep your noise levels down, but don't overdo it, and if I were you, I'd only consider this a problem if the landlord contacts you himself about the alleged "noise problem."

You definitely have a weird and vindictive neighbor on your hands, but it's not clear from what's happened so far that he will actually contact the landlord about this.
posted by jayder at 6:43 PM on December 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


Oh, don't worry about it.

He's not saying hello and now possibly making a random complaint to the landlord after four months? This conflict is at such a slow burn that you both are going to be dead of old age before it actually comes to anything. Plus, I promise that, even if you're annoying this guy to pieces, the landlord could not care less about whether you're playing your music slightly too loud at dinnertime.

Engage him (and engage the landlord about him) as little as possible -- with this kind of person, no news is good news. Pus, you have nothing to gain with adding fuel to the fire (through defending yourself too actively), seeing as even his accusation is nowhere near an eviction-level offense. Your landlord is probably not going to want to deal with talking to you over something this dumb, let alone pay all kinds of money and go through all kinds of hassle to kick you out over it. So don't risk labeling yourself a troublemaker or crank in the landlord's eyes by getting yourself mired in some stupid back-and-forth conflict with this guy. Just let things sort themselves out.
posted by rue72 at 7:01 PM on December 16, 2013


It's unlikely he's complaining about something that doesn't bother him (i.e. that the noise isn't a problem for him but he's just saying it is due to your previous interactions). So let's figure it bugs him. Then there are a couple of questions:

--Does it bug him especially because he thinks you are a jerk?
--What would be reasonable accomodation (i.e. what should you do about it)?
--Is he going to get you in trouble with your landlord?

The first question is kind of irrelevant, and I suspect the answer to the third question is "no," if your description of your music-playing is accurate. So what remains is, if your music-playing bothers your neighbor, what do you think you should do about it?

My feeling about apartment living is that everyone has to compromise some. I had downstairs neighbors at my last place who were really bothered by our noise, though we rarely play music or speak loudly. I felt bad about it, bought a rug, and tried ever after to minimize footfalls etc -- and I figured if they still had problems with us, they really had issues with apartment living (or with the particular structure we were in -- it's possible there was too little insulation between our floors). If I were in your place, I would probably not play "loud" music anymore, and would probably try to keep the doors and windows closed when playing music period -- but it's hard to draw the particular compromise line. I wish you luck finding a solution that works acceptably for both of you.
posted by feets at 7:10 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


My thought was to talk to him in order to come to a compromise. I'm not just going to stop playing music in my own apartment. I think that's unfair to me. If he were willing, together we could figure out at what volume he can hear my music in his apartment and then I could have some standard to gauge when it may be disruptive to him. To my mind being neighborly goes both ways.
posted by abirdinthehand at 7:11 PM on December 16, 2013


p.s. The behavior with the waiting on the stairs and running around is weird, I agree, but it's also pretty awkward to knock on someone's door and ask them to turn it down. I used to live upstairs from a couple of DJs who would play music so loud it actually shook the glass in my windows, and who occasionally would play a turned-up electric drumset without headphones, and I always cringed when I went downstairs to ask them to ratchet the volume nobs a bit to the left.
posted by feets at 7:12 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Last night, Sunday around 8pm I had a friend over, we were talking and listening to music at a moderate level. (I was sitting next to the speakers and we were talking comfortably so I feel certain that it was objectively not very loud.)
It was loud enough that he could hear your bass through the walls. That's all that matters, right? Bass carries tremendously.
I'm not just going to stop playing music in my own apartment. I think that's unfair to me.
Nobody asked you to stop playing music, so don't be dramatic. What he does want you to do is to turn down the volume, and especially turn down the bass (the part that seeps through the walls easily and is impossible to block out).

Furthermore, you live in shared housing. While it's your neighbors' obligation to be a little more understanding on hearing incidental disturbances (hearing you close the door, run the shower, flush the toilet, walk around, vacuum every few days), it's your obligation to minimize the amount of voluntary disturbances you are creating (playing music, turning the TV way up). You just don't have some sort of inalienable right to play music in your apartment. If you want to play loud music every day, get a house.
If he were willing, together we could figure out at what volume he can hear my music in his apartment and then I could have some standard to gauge when it may be disruptive to him. To my mind being neighborly goes both ways.
Sorry, I don't think that's fair. You're the one being an annoyance here. It's entirely on you to fix the problem... he's already come to you to voice his opinion, now you're the one who needs to do something about it. Besides, didn't he just help you set that standard again? Now you know that the volume you were listening to with your friend is loud enough to be disruptive to him. Try to keep it below that from here on out.

Your request is akin to having a flatulence problem at your workplace, and then getting indignant that your coworker won't come and request a flatulence judging session to determine how loud and how smelly a fart has to be before he is annoyed by it. Jeez, just stop farting so loudly and stop stinking up the workspace.

If I sound crabby it's because for the last year I've had to live next to someone who insists his music is "not that loud." The arguments you're making to justify your noise are identical to what he argues, down to insisting that I come over and voluntarily talk to him every time there is a problem, rather than going to the office first (even though I have already talked to him about this at least a few times).

Bass carries through walls really easily. Even if you don't think it's that loud, neighbors can still hear it. I know you think your neighbor is a weirdo, but please, as a guy who is in your neighbor's shoes, just try to turn it down. Or, get some nice headphones... or, get a house.
posted by Old Man McKay at 5:46 AM on December 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'm with Old Man McKay; bass is super annoying even if you can't actually hear the music. I only have a neighbor on one wall, but it's the one that joins with my living room, and I can't concentrate or get anything done when he has his music on. I would focus on lessening the bass if you can/playing music lower.
posted by mlle valentine at 5:53 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


In my experience music may not sound that loud to the listener but still carry in a way that's very unpleasant. I like your idea of working with him to get a gauge of what "too loud" is. You may also be able to move your speakers (if they are against a shared wall, for example).

Also keep in mind that music does not have to be deafening to be too loud. Bass can make it very hard to concentrate.

And as someone who once was forced to take an phone interview outside because of a neighbor's loud music in the middle of the day ... Please don't assume that there's nothing going on before 10p that requires quiet.
posted by bunderful at 6:51 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mark your stereo volume knob with tape, or note the number if it has numbers, and limit your volume to that level. If he complains again, take it down a notch and relabel/renote the number. Repeat until he stops complaining, then that's your music limit. If you catch him at your door with his ear against it trying to hear if you are playing music, then and only then worry about vindictiveness.

Also: if you have a subwoofer, unplug it or turn the bass way down, and invest in good headphones for loud listening. Apartment living requires courteousness above and beyond, and most apartment buildings were built when subwoofers in the home were not yet a thing.
posted by davejay at 7:02 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Maybe it's years of living in NYC, but I feel like dealing with noises before 10pm on weekdays and 12am on weekends is just a factor of living in shared housing. If this guy wants peace and quiet he can get a house. I mean, he can ask you to turn it down, but I don't think you're under any obligation to do so. Absent noises that would make me concerned for human/animal life, I wouldn't dream of confronting a neighbor about pre-bedtime noises, I'd just adapt (earplugs, my own music, etc) and consider moving.

I'd just carry on living my life if I were you. If he's that peeved about it, he can tell the landlord, who can then tell you, if he thinks it is warranted. If you want to have your lease renewed, then listen to the landlord.

If anyone else complains, then maybe think of turning it down (the whole "you run into an asshole on the way to work, you ran into an asshole; you run into assholes all day, you're the asshole" thing).
posted by melissasaurus at 8:06 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Living in an apartment means compromising by everybody. You have a legal right to live and make 'ordinary use' type noise and derive enjoyment from living in the apartment - and that includes music. You don't have the right to deprive others of their rights, by for example excessively loud music at any hour.

The devil is of course in the details. What is too loud? Get ahold of your city noise ordinance and noise enforcement guidelines. Sometimes these are specific enough that you can get a clear idea just from reading (such as: can the noise/music be heard from 150 feet outside of the apartment by the human ear), sometimes you will need to call and find out if there is a specific measurable noise level which the PD uses (and they often have instruments they use to measure sound levels). There will also usually be a rule about quiet time (usually 10 pm to 7 am), when different rules apply.

If you play your music - or watch TV etc. - during the daytime at "ordinary enjoyment level", you should be fine, even if such activity can be clearly heard and found to be annoying by the neighboring apartment dwellers. They are welcome to call the cops. Now, there is a certain amount of flexibility and randomness in what cops will do or decide, but you should keep it at a level where you can invite the cop or landlord into your apartment and have them agree that it's not excessively loud. You don't want the noise to carry a big distance outside of your apartment. If you genuinely play music at a reasonable level, don't worry about cops and landlord - they'll come when called, and can witness for themselves the level of noise that was complained about. Should that happen, and you're cleared, the neighbor can go pound sand from then on.

Now, even if you have certain legal rights, it is the decent thing to do, to give up some of these voluntarily under some circumstances. For example, when I lived at an apartment a number of years ago, a couple moved into the neighboring apartment, and they had an infant. Not only did I stop playing music altogether, not to wake up the baby, but I was woken up at all hours by the crying and I didn't say a word, but was very friendly. They have enough on their hands without having to deal with an unfriendly or inconsiderate neighbor. The baby can't help it, and you should adjust, rights or no rights. Similarly, if somebody came up and said that they or someone living there were sick and needed peace, I'd also voluntarily relinquish any right to play music etc.. On the other hand, if confronted by an entitled asshole, I'd vigorously assert my rights.

Read the ordinances. Go ahead and even call the PD (not on an emergency number!), and ask what is considered noise and how loud you are allowed to play your music, and get the name of the person you spoke to. Then follow those guidelines and have the name handy should cops/landlord show up.

If someone doesn't want to hear a neighbors music at reasonable volume, they can go ahead and live in a house or a cabin in the woods. If they live in an apartment in a city with noise ordinances, they have to get used to reasonable noise.
posted by VikingSword at 9:59 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


This guy isn't going to be your friend, he doesn't want to pussy-foot around with you to find a compromise about your music. He doesn't want to hear it at all. I don't think that's asking too much. Why should he have to hear any part of your music?

If you want to abate the noise, mount your speakers on a non-shared wall. That should help a lot. If they're on the floor, the bass will travel through the ceiling below. If you don't have actual speakers (I know, it's a seventies construct) then turn it down so that he can't hear it.

Yes, some leniency can be granted before 10PM, but most communities have a noise abatement statute, so it should be very low after that time.

Are the walls of your place particularly thin? Can you hear ordinary noise coming from your neighbors? If so, that's the place you chose and you'll have to be quieter than you ordinarily would be in a better built place. If the walls aren't very thin, your music is simply too loud.

To me, there's nothing more annoying than having to hear loud stuff coming from the neighbors.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:34 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


This guy isn't going to be your friend, he doesn't want to pussy-foot around with you to find a compromise about your music. He doesn't want to hear it at all. I don't think that's asking too much. Why should he have to hear any part of your music?

Serious question. In every city where I've lived for extended periods, there has been music generated by bars and nightclubs that could be heard in residential areas. It was commonly understood to be unreasonable for residents to expect not to hear music from these venues. Is it different, in principle, when the music is coming from a residence?

Also, I remember reading a legal case relating to tenants rights that basically set out the principle that it is unreasonable to expect not to hear music from a neighboring apartment during reasonable hours. (This particular case related to playing a piano.) The resident could not be evicted for such piano practice because it was considered a reasonable use of a residence and it was considered unreasonable to expect not to hear such normal activities.

I'm just wondering what principle is in play here, for those of you who think OP's music should not be heard at all, ever, by anyone outside his apartment.
posted by jayder at 11:13 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, I remember reading a legal case relating to tenants rights that basically set out the principle that it is unreasonable to expect not to hear music from a neighboring apartment during reasonable hours. (This particular case related to playing a piano.) The resident could not be evicted for such piano practice because it was considered a reasonable use of a residence and it was considered unreasonable to expect not to hear such normal activities.

In Los Angeles, there are restrictions on playing an amplified instrument. The piano is not an amplified instrument, and therefore not subject to this restriction. However, this is not an absolute, you still cannot exceed certain sound levels - for example, if you have a band that rehearses, you cannot do that in your apartment, even if the instruments are not amplified, because that would exceed the sound limits.

Of course you can listen to music as long as the sound from your apartment does not exceed certain levels (that can be measured) at a certain distance. Depending on your municipal code and regulations.

Basically, the OP has the right to ordinary use of their apartment, and listening to music within noise ordinance, or playing instruments within these limits is fine, no matter what he neighbor thinks. A good neighbor will still be considerate and voluntarily restrict themselves on occasion ("I have an important exam I'm cramming for this week, could you keep the music down?" "Yes, of course!").
posted by VikingSword at 11:29 AM on December 17, 2013


I wouldn't engage this guy at all.

Yeah, I understand that hearing your neighbors be loud is annoying, I have lived in apartments for years. Hearing other people talking, music, babies crying, dogs, whatever, it's all part of living in an apartment. I don't think it's reasonable at all to expect to never hear these things, but I expect my neighbors to be courteous and reasonable.

This guy already has shown that he has serious boundary issues and is not courteous or reasonable at all. You didn't rat on him to his boss in the past.

Did he talk to you about the volume of the music that evening before you caught him on the stairs? The fact that he was standing on the stairs when you opened your door and ran away and wouldn't respond to you makes me think that he was listening to you and got caught.
posted by inertia at 11:43 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Serious question. In every city where I've lived for extended periods, there has been music generated by bars and nightclubs that could be heard in residential areas. It was commonly understood to be unreasonable for residents to expect not to hear music from these venues. Is it different, in principle, when the music is coming from a residence?

If you're living over a bar, then you know what you're in for. Ditto living close to an establishment that exists to play loud music. You're either in that neighborhood because that's your preference, or you're getting a cut on the rent because humans don't like noise like that.

I live in an apartment now, and I get that sometimes I'm going to hear the neighbor's washer, shower, toilet, etc. That's part of the deal. I wasn't so excited about the party that went on until 7AM, directly over MY bedroom.

Most walls and floors are constructed such that a device like a tv or music player played at a reasonable volume shouldn't be distinctly heard in the next room, let alone the next apartment.

It's only when these sounds are excessive that they become problematic. That whole, "I was having a conversation over the music, so it wasn't too loud" is a red herring. Once, my roommate was BLASTING a CD in the living room. I came in and screamed over it, "HI! What's up?" She jumped sky high because I startled her out of a nap. Personally, I can't imagine sleeping with that wattage, I mean the windows were bulging. But to her, it was just a little nap music.

I don't have the expectation that I should have to put up with noise, I live in an apartment community with the nearest bar/restaurant about 1/2 mile away. We have a noise ordinance that says no loud music after 10PM. So if I can hear your music, it's too damn loud.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:58 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had a neighbour that would regularly complain about music from a small battery powered radio in my kitchen (NO bass coming out of that thing) that I would use at level 2 or 3 out of ten while making dinner. They were completely out of line as far as I am concerned and the municipal sound ordinance backed me up as it was always before 10pm. I politely invited them to call the cops any time they had problems with the noise.. but, surprise, they never did.

Part of living in apartment buildings (especially newer construction with thinner walls) is putting up with the sounds of other people living in close proximity to you. That's just the way it is.

Parties that go all night are, of course, unreasonable themselves, and that's why there are usually ordinances (e.g. 10pm~8am) that give you leeway to call the cops and complain.
posted by mbatch at 2:42 PM on December 17, 2013


Thanks for all the great advice, I appreciate all the different perspectives.

I think you hit on the key here- bass. The music was bassy that night, which is somewhat out of the ordinary for me. This would explain why we would have differing perceptions of the disturbance level.

I like the idea of putting notches on the volume and seeing how it goes. I don't think I am going to contact him or the landlord regarding this.
posted by abirdinthehand at 12:26 PM on December 18, 2013


« Older Micro-run offset printing for CD inserts.   |   Gummy bears and scotch probably won't cut it. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.