Neighbor's bass is slowly rendering my innards to gelatin - advice?
April 21, 2014 2:20 PM   Subscribe

After searching, I see this has come up on Ask MeFi before in regards to apartment situations. The difference here is that we own, as do our neighbors. We live in Chicago, and naturally the police are less than responsive about these sorts of matters. I have spoken to the vibrating bass vehicle owner himself, twice, which helps for a week or so at most. I am a quiet person and a homebody - also a stay-at-home mom to a toddler and impending baby. There is literally nowhere in the house I can go to escape it when it's at max volume.

Additional background: we have a cordial but otherwise non-existent relationship with these neighbors. They are an older couple, perhaps in their upper 60s? He spends most days in his detached garage, adjacent to our backyard, with the music cranked from his car stereo. He's got a nice truck with fancy schmancy rims and a clearly advanced stereo system, in which he seems to take pride.

He's actually playing some music that I find pretty great - mostly Motown - but ultimately it doesn't matter as the volume ranges from loud to absolutely outrageous. Bass aside, it is difficult to enjoy our backyard when he is going strong, because it is just that loud. But if I retreat indoors, its back to nebulous thrumming and vibrating. It can be hard to concentrate.

I have hypothesized that he is somewhat hard of hearing, because I don't know how someone could sit in that garage right next to the car and not experience headaches. The most recent time I politely asked him to turn it down, in the midst of the Polar Vortex, he seemed somewhat flustered and perhaps offended, but kept it lower for a period of days till it drifted back up again. He also has a broken motorcycle that he will rev for hours straight in the summertime, creating both noise and exhaust issues, so I think it's safe to say that neither he nor his wife are disturbed by loud noise.

None of our other immediate neighbors are home during the weekdays, so I think this is primarily my dilemma to attempt to solve or learn to ignore. Any advice would be appreciated!
posted by sixtyten to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It took me three asks before my neighbors came up with a long-term solution to their noise (at least, it's worked so far, knock wood). I played up the disheveled, bathrobed, wow-that-woman-needs-to-stay-home-and-get-some-rest appearance and talked quietly, as if I were hoarse, so that they couldn't hear what I was even asking for until they reduced the noise.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 2:31 PM on April 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Bentobox Humperdinck has a good suggestion, and it's certainly worth more than one request to ensure that your neighbor understands that you weren't just complaining that one time because you were in a bad mood or whatever.

But if that doesn't work, keep calling the police. Cite the specific part of the noise ordinance that your neighbor is violating. This is what laws and police are for -- because sometimes people just don't agree on things and need a third party to determine who is violating community standards as codified by the law. Call them every day if you need to; eventually, someone will tire of taking your calls and dispatch someone to have a word with the neighbor. If that doesn't happen, talk to your local politicians about why the cops aren't enforcing the law on a routine basis.

Make them do their jobs.
posted by Etrigan at 2:35 PM on April 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

See if the Chicago PD has any sort of community liason/neighborhood officer type of program. I know the LAPD has officers that specifically deal with these types of issues and it's much more effective than trying to start from the law enforcement side of things.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:55 PM on April 21, 2014

I also live in Chicago and have had noise issues (mostly music with a ton of bass) with multiple people in my building, which often feels like a university dorm. The police have come almost every time I have called them. It gets your neighbors to stop that one time, but it's no guarantee you won't have to call many more times. Some people are unfazed by having the cops come to their door. It's a huge hassle but there is no reason you can't call the cops every time it happens. And yes, it's their job, they have to come if you call them. Usually if they haven't come in over half an hour I call in another "noise disturbance" and then they do.
posted by Blitz at 2:56 PM on April 21, 2014

You could also ask him to turn the bass down more than the volume. He probably isn't able to hear it anyway, and that’s mostly what’s leaking into your house.
posted by bongo_x at 3:06 PM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Try talking to them one more time, face to face (bring your babies). Spell out exactly how it's impacting you (as well as doing all the other things above).

These people aren't going to stop loving their music & Harley, but maybe you can come to an agreement around soundproofing your floor/their ceiling, and/or at least acceptable times for their brouhaha. (He probably does have hearing damage - his wife too, if she's lived with him forever - and I bet hearing aids would bring down his decibel sweet spot, but I doubt he'll want to hear the suggestion from you.. ) I wonder if mediation might be worth a try, before the police?
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:09 PM on April 21, 2014

Maybe you could gift him some nice wireless headphones? That way he's free to walk around while listening to his music but you don't have to hear it.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:22 PM on April 21, 2014

Video the inside of your house while he is playing his loudest. Then, very sweetly, play this for them, at high volume, making certain that they understand that this is inside your house, with all the doors and windows closed. And then smile sweetly and ask them if they have heard about ipods and ear buds.
posted by myselfasme at 5:40 PM on April 21, 2014

i think you explain the situation to your alderman's office. they may be able to help.
posted by lester at 7:34 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

You've tried twice. At this point, you are unable to have reasonably quiet enjoyment of your home. If there was construction making all this noise that'd be temporary.

This seems permanent. So contact the police, say you don't want them to knew it's you, and see what they say.
posted by McSockerson The Great at 7:47 PM on April 21, 2014

Best answer: Document the problem with a journal, keeping a record of dates and times. Also describe where in your house you hear the noise and what its efect is on you, especially if it is causing emotional problems -insominia, anxiety, etc. Keep a record of all your communications with the neighbor and the result.

Find out whether there is a noise control/nuisance control office and ask what the maximum allowable decibel levels are for your neighbor's noise as measured at your property line. See if you can file a noise complaint and if so, do so, keeping a record of it.

If you can't get a noise control person to come out, then consider buying a decibel meter to test the sound levels at the property line. If you find the readings are higher than the limit, keep track of the violations in your journal.

If the police and the city noise/nuisance control office don't respond or the neighbor doesn't stop making the noise, you should consider hiring a lawyer. The lawyer may be able to send a letter that carries more weight than the police or other bureucracies. Then you'll need to also ask for advice on whether to sue, what the benefits would be, what the risks are, and what it would cost you. Other questions are whether you are entitled to damages and, more to the point, your chances of recovering anything. One objective would be to obtain an enforceable court order that limits the noise to an acceptable level, ie, to where it isn't inside your home.
posted by ADave at 10:34 PM on April 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Keep going out there and asking him to lower the volume. "Dude, I get it, it's fun, but you woke the baby." Hopefully, he'll get tired of being asked and he'll quit doing it.

If not, call the cops.

I had to do this recently with my upstairs neighbor. One visit from the VERY displeased Brookhaven PD at 2:00 AM brought that nonsense to a halt. I live in an apartment community, so I also reported her there.

Don't mess with my sleep dude.

I can't believe that this yutz is disturbing the neighbors with this. Really? What are you? 18?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:38 AM on April 22, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I liked the reminder to talk with the neighbor again, and clarify that it is a continuing problem. While obvious, it's easy to forget that what is at the forefront of my mind ("Ugh...again?! TURN THAT CRAP OFF!") differs greatly from what most likely is at the forefront of his mind ("What a great day to be working in my garage and listening to some tunes!") I'm really non-confrontational so I'll work up the courage to go back for a more at-length problem-solving oriented discussion.

Being that neither party will be relocating any time soon, I really, really want to preserve a reasonably amicable relationship... so police stuff is definitely last resort. That said, it's really helpful to see the additional info about the noise ordinance and that some of you have actually gotten responses from CPD on that note. I've made a couple noise complaints to 311 before (4am parties, fireworks, etc.) and have never gotten a response... maybe third time will be a charm, but hopefully it won't come to that. Thanks again!
posted by sixtyten at 1:12 PM on April 24, 2014

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