How much noise is usual and/or acceptable in a shared house?
August 21, 2014 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I have been reflecting on my very recent experience in a house-share from which I am now, blessedly, removed. Specifically, I am doing some reflection on my issues with the noise level, and trying to figure out, for my own future reference, whether the noise levels in the house were reasonable or unreasonable. I would love the hive mind to weigh in about whether the following noise in a shared house is okay or not, as I am obviously not the most dispassionate judge at this point.

Exacerbating the noise situation were: first of all, my bedroom door did not shut properly due to the fact that a thick cable plugged from the living room into my room wall, so all common-area noise sounded louder than it should have in my room in particular; second, the house was small, so we were all rather close together; and third, from what I could gather the noise-blocking insulation in the house was general quite poor, so we all could hear more than would be ideal. With that in mind, I would be interested in the collective hive-mind's opinion on how reasonable or unreasonable the following are, in a shared house:

1. My housemate daily watching the TV on very loud volume in the living room (which adjoins my bedroom, and, as I mentioned above, my door didn't completely shut so all noise from the common areas filtered clearly into my room - plus, the house was small, so the TV was maybe 10 feet from my bed). This happened on various occasions - from, say, 5-7pm, 10pm-midnight, and 2-3am. On each of these occasions, he turned down the volume when I came out and asked, but it was definitely still very audible, even when I shut my bedroom door as much as possible (and my bedroom door was shut as much as possible for the following things too).

2. The same housemate (an aspiring musician) playing the guitar and singing loudly in the living room from 2-3am.

3. The same housemate (who is unemployed, so whose hours are very irregular) returning home drunk at 3am, slamming the door and talking loudly, and then passing out in the living room and snoring loudly all night.

4. The same housemate playing his guitar loudly in his own room with the door open for 11 hours on a Saturday - say, from 8am-6pm (he's claustrophobic so he never shuts his door, even to sleep). If it matters, he played the same set of 4 chords over and over again for 11 hours.

5. The same housemate listening to loud music in his own room (with the door open) for several hours in the evening.

6. The same housemate coming home loudly (door slamming, etc.) and then listening to loud music in the living room at 2.30 am. He turned it down but not off when I came out of my room to tell him he'd woken me up.

7. Another housemate masturbating loudly in his own room.

8. Another housemate screaming curses loudly from his own room at various intervals throughout the day and night (possibly over the phone at his estranged ex-partner, or possibly at a video-game).

Are all of these acceptable in a shared house? Is none of them acceptable? Are some of them acceptable - if so, which ones? For reference, when I am in a shared house, I only listen to music with headphones and I make phone calls either outside or in my room with my door shut (well, as fully as possible) and with a very low volume voice. The above situations all strike me to varying degrees as disrespectful of one's housemates (if one hasn't gotten the okay in advance), and unreasonable to foist upon people who have to get up at 6.30 am for work/school. It seems to me that the presumption should be that a house is more quiet than this, and a house this loud should be specified in the advertisement as a particularly loud place (rather than not mentioned at all, and something that a new housemate only realizes upon arrival after having paid deposit/rent). Am I wrong here?

Also, if I had stayed, what would have been a reasonable compromise to suggest to these housemates? It seemed to me that the living room noise was at least half of my broader problem with the noise, so I was thinking of asking the one housemate who consistently made noise in the living room (items 1-4 above) if he would swap rooms with me (our rooms were similar size and niceness, but mine adjoined the living room and his was in a quieter part of the house). Would this have been a fair request? What else should I have done here? I realize that this house-share is (thankfully!) over, but I travel a lot for research for about a month at a time, and usually stay in cheap houses which I can't see in advance (I have to arrange the housing before I arrive, so I have a place to stay), so I'm trying to ensure that this doesn't happen again to me in the future.
posted by ClaireBear to Human Relations (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
2. The same housemate (an aspiring musician) playing the guitar and singing loudly in the living room from 2-3am.

3. The same housemate (who is unemployed, so whose hours are very irregular) returning home drunk at 3am, slamming the door and talking loudly, and then passing out in the living room and snoring loudly all night.

Good gravy, 3 am?!?!?! It's entirely reasonable for you to expect that things will be quiet during normal sleeping hours (typically 11 pm - 8 am).
posted by jazzbaby at 2:41 PM on August 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

"Acceptable" anything in a shared housing situation is entirely personal. You seem like you aren't being unreasonable, but perhaps your room's location and that unclosed door were big culprits in your uncomfortableness.

I think that people coming home very late and being loud while others are sleeping or trying to sleep is unreasonable. I don't think having a TV on at any time is unreasonable, but "too loud" would be (and "too loud" varies).

Masturbation in your own room? That's something I would just try to ignore, because you should be able to do that in your own room.

Compromises would be to move rooms for sure, or to see if there was some way to make it so you could close your door. Also, a rule where you say that the house has "quiet hours" after a certain time (11? Midnight? Whatever works) where the common areas have to be quiet so that those who want to sleep can do so.
posted by xingcat at 2:42 PM on August 21, 2014

It depends on the situation.
In university, for example, I was in a shared house and the noise situation would sometimes get out of control.... but we were all on the same page as each other in terms of partying, being unemployed etc.

When I shared a house after I returned from travelling, we were all young professionals working Monday-Friday and therefore, we were respectful of each other's sleeping habits and aware that most of us had to be up early for work. We still had a LOT of fun at the weekends though.

What you describe above sounds like a combination of poorly designed shared-house living space (Door that doesn't close properly, bad soundproofing throughout) as well as an absolute NIGHTMARE of a housemate, who had no respect for his roommates and was oblivious to the common courtesies of house-sharing.

none of the examples you list above are necessarily wrong per se, but it totally depends on the context.
No matter which way you look at it, it's always hard sharing a house with others, but it's much easier if you aim to live with like-minded people. Thus, when you're travelling and find yourself in this situation again, don't share a house with unemployed musicians if you know you're going to be working at 8am in the morning!
posted by JenThePro at 2:42 PM on August 21, 2014

I could sleep through a war and your housemates' bullshit would piss me off. You are not unreasonable.
posted by rtha at 2:43 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

Really, there's no way anyone is going to answer that the noise you have described is reasonable in the situation you have described. To me, your housemates sound like big assholes, and you sound like the normal one.

However, in a house of compatible housemates, where they are all noisy and the noise doesn't bother any of them and they think it's all a lot of fun, it might all be just fine.

Housemates and roommates have to be compatible. If they are not, it's hell. Do your best to find compatible housemates in the future.
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:44 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nthing it wasn't reasonable. I'm glad you're out of there.

As you're searching for places in the future, look for somewhere without a TV. Lots of lovely people have TVs, of course, but if there's no TV there's one less source of noise.
posted by mochapickle at 2:48 PM on August 21, 2014

Most of things would be really irritating to me, and probably to most people. Notably enough that if I were noisy in those ways, and I were interviewing people to fill a room in my house, I'd mention that I tend to be up late and like to watch TV/play music/etc and that I'm looking for someone who is OK with that. Some people are heavy sleepers and might not care, or are looking for home environments where they can make noise at all hours too.

On the other side of that, as someone looking to rent a room in existing houses, I make a point of asking about the noise climate in the house, what's acceptable, etc, because I'm pretty sensitive to noise. In general I might assume that adults (not in college) aren't going to be making a lot of noise between, say, 11pm and 7am, but as someone sensitive to noise, I make an effort not to assume.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:52 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

C'mon now. You know that shit is insane. NO that's not a normal noise level.

Know yourself. I'm pretty sensitive to noise. I don't like it. I need sleep and it needs to happen exactly at 11:00 PM and it needs to be quiet until 7:00 AM when the cats wake me up.

I don't want to hear sex sounds, I don't want to hear you noodling around on your musical instrument, I don't want to hear your phone conversations or your fapping or any other nasty stuff.

So really think about what you want. It just may be that you're too mature for shared housing. A studio apartment may be the appropriate thing for you. You may still have noise issues, but they won't be with people you also have to share a bathroom with. Lots of folks have Mother-in-law suites that might be just the thing you're looking for.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:53 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

1. before midnight - pretty much fine; after midnight - unacceptable asshole behavior
2. asshole
3. one or two times? eh, that's life; frequently? asshole
4. should technically be a capital crime
5. really fucking annoying but not stabworthy
6. stabworthy
7. i regret that i must ask for more information before passing judgment
8. annoying

None of these are really acceptable in a shared house between adults. This is first year college dorm bullshit.

A room-swap request would have been 100% reasonable.
posted by elizardbits at 2:55 PM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

From my perspective, the only one of those that's acceptable is TV watching, and even then, only until 11pm or so and not super loud.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:55 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

5 and 7 are normal, as is 2 if it isn't every night. 4 is irritating but borderline because it's during the day, and the rest are fucking awful. 1, 7, and 8 sound more like terrible soundproofing in the house though.

I lived with crazy ridiculous unreasonable roommates for almost 4 years in several houses.

when I am in a shared house, I only listen to music with headphones and I make phone calls either outside or in my room with my door shut (well, as fully as possible) and with a very low volume voice.

I think overall, you are more uptight about this than the average person. Some of the late night stuff on here is ridiculous, but a lot of it is simply normal house stuff. The way you seem to have approached it is quieter/more uptight about noise that average. Listening to music in your room not on headphones is normal, unless it's loud and at 2am. Making phone calls and stuff is normal. Having your TV on is normal. It only really crossed the line at the crazy 2am stuff.

My opinion obviously, but i think you would be annoyed by most shared housing. Yea, you had a crappy roommate, but they really only took it from like 7/10 to 10/10 as far as what would seemingly get your goat.

I have lived in places that had one or two bedrooms that were just completely separated from everything else. Like in a converted garage down a long hallway from the rest or something. This might be the kind of thing you want.

I've also had roommates who were just very, very quiet 99% of the time. Those exist too.

Really though, i think you just had a 1-2 punch of a badly laid out/insulated house and an annoying as hell roommate here. Not all of this can be chalked up to either, but without those two it probably wouldn't have been super annoying.

And seriously, if you can hear your roommate jacking it and they're not making caveman noises, it's a problem with the house, not with your roommate.
posted by emptythought at 2:55 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also upon reflection of your description of the layout of the place, i had almost EXACTLY the same room in a tiny house, right off the living room. I am not a stickler about noise, and i complained constantly telling everyone to shut the fuck up and was woken up almost every morning by other people.

No one else in the house had a problem.

A big issue about this might have just been the positioning of your room, yea.
posted by emptythought at 2:57 PM on August 21, 2014

Items 1-8 are all unacceptable, unless as you say, the victim has given the okay in advance. I certainly would be angry if I was not warned before moving into such a situation.

And yes, although it's now over, you would have been justified in bringing up every one of these items with your roommates as things to be rectified.
posted by Blitz at 2:58 PM on August 21, 2014

1 - unacceptable during the 2-3am hour, debatable at 10pm-12am (depends on your sleeping habits), okay at 5-7pm

2 - un-fucking-acceptable

3 - not okay (I once got someone kicked out of a shared house for doing this, so...)

4 - not okay

5 - debatable - define "evening"

6 - not okay

7 - in my view this is ignore it/live and let live territory, unless it's actually and regularly disturbing your sleep

8 - not okay (I mean, once or twice is fine - everyone needs to blow off steam occasionally - but I'd feel uncomfortable living with someone like this)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 2:59 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Next time you have shared housing, ask about noise ahead of time. All that matters is that these events weren't reasonable *for you*. Best way is to have no assumptions you haven't talked about explicitly, and to have the sort of relationship with your housemates where you can bring up problems because you can't possibly think of everything beforehand.

FWIW for a year I shared a house with a friend who got mad when I shut my door (not slammed, just shut) past 10 pm. I am sure he heard it as "loud slamming" because otherwise he wouldn't have complained, but really it was an old house that required a certain force to shut the doors. Neither one of us was wrong, really; we just weren't compatible housemates (at least not with my door right next to his).

So, next time, ask. Ask if you can switch rooms, or if they can mitigate the noise especially at off hours, or whatever you think would help (carpets, soft shoes, etc). And if you can't work it out, somebody moves (guess it was you this time). But don't just sit there and stew; how are they supposed to know what noise is reasonable when that is so personal and culture dependent?
posted by nat at 3:11 PM on August 21, 2014

what constitutes "masturbating loudly"? is it a wet noise? a slapping sound? moaning?
posted by jayder at 3:12 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

1. 2-3 am: no fucking way. Negotiable at 10pm-midnight. Early evening is fair.

2. No fucking way.

3. No fucking way.

4. No fucking way.

5. Depends on time, loudness, etc. (middle of the night = no fucking way; middle of the day = OK)

6. No fucking way.

7. Ugh, but ignore unless it's interfering with your sleep, your ability to socialize in shared living spaces, etc.

8. Depends on time and target of the screaming ("during the day, at the videogame" = irritating but not entirely unacceptable; "middle of the night" or "at partner" = no fucking way).

You are lucky to be out of this situation, and you are not obligated to endure this type of noise/disrespect in any living situation in the future. For future shared housing situations, I would suggest looking for people with regular daytime employment, probably over the age of 30, and probably other women.
posted by scody at 3:14 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Roommates you're not having sex with or aren't family are to be avoided at all costs, if possible, you weren't unreasonable.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:21 PM on August 21, 2014

You absolutely don't need us to confirm whether or not this is unreasonable. If it's too loud and unreasonably so to you, then it is all you need to know. If I was living in a house of young men, like early 20s, possibly college students, these sorts of thing would not surprise me. I'd probably try to avoid that sort of situation, personally, and you sound like the type that should too. At the end of the day, we're talking about peoples' homes. People live in very different ways and are comfortable with all kinds of different things. You want to find a place to live that you can feel comfortable in, and that place clearly wasn't it.
posted by Hoopo at 3:21 PM on August 21, 2014

Was all of this spread out over 2 years or 2 weeks?
posted by amtho at 3:35 PM on August 21, 2014

Response by poster: All of this was spread over the course of a month, amtho.
posted by ClaireBear at 3:40 PM on August 21, 2014

The house sucked, but the people sucked much worse. Compromise would have included: no big cable preventing your door from closing, TV volume no higher than some-number after 10pm or midnight, no God Damn masturbating with the God Damn door fucking open (I mean really...gross), and certainly no loud carrying on at 2-3am. I would also suggest roommate get help for both their snoring and claustrophobia.
posted by rhizome at 3:52 PM on August 21, 2014

For me personally, watching TV and listening to loud music during the day are fine, watching TV at night should be quiet, loud phone conversations are fully deserving of a "hey, keep it down or take it outside" from roommates, and the music all day on a Saturday would be annoying but honestly depend what type of house it was (including how much you're paying for the room - if it's a cheap room you're frankly more likely to get stuff like this because your roommates are not working 9-5s and are still in the collegey-bum phase ).
posted by celtalitha at 3:58 PM on August 21, 2014

When looking for your living situation, consider not just the physical house, but also your roommates and their life styles. It is not unreasonable to ask what hours they keep.

For the TV, I suggest wireless headset.
posted by 724A at 5:16 PM on August 21, 2014

None of this is unreasonable in a shared house per se, but it's unreasonable for you. You now know what you find unreasonable, so you now know what you have to screen for in future. You have tested your boundaries, and now you know for sure what you can manage and what you can't. What your current flatmates can tolerate is irrelevant, you are now aware of your needs in this situation and so now you know these are your requirements in a shared house.

You have some limitations re your happiness in a shared house - you either have to start screening for these more than you currently are, or deal, or get your own place.
posted by goo at 6:21 PM on August 21, 2014

Exacerbating the noise situation were: first of all, my bedroom door did not shut properly due to the fact that a thick cable plugged from the living room into my room wall, so all common-area noise sounded louder than it should have in my room in particular;

I'm guessing this was 90% of your problem. Doors are great, when they actually shut.

Based on the fact that you say someone was masturbating loudly (like, moaning? seriously, what the hell is this?) I wonder if you might just be more noise sensitive than most. That's fine, but make sure that you move somewhere with a real door that shuts, and avoid living with musicians. Ask about potential roommates' lifestyles and noise preferences.

Also, get a white noise machine. They're pretty cheap, and very helpful.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:41 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

You (and I) are more noise sensitive than most people. I solved the problem by being REALLY anal about what people I'm willing to live with. I look for computer nerd bookish types, and that seems to have worked well. You need to find other quiet people to live with, although I will say that anytime roommates make noise past 11pm-ish on a weeknight, that's shitty, even if you're down with noise.
posted by zug at 9:56 PM on August 21, 2014

no God Damn masturbating with the God Damn door fucking open
Rhizome, I don't think this happened? It sounds like it was closed door.

Anyway, yeah. Sounds like you had a noisy room, and not enough agreement about acceptable noise levels.

Always ask people about a) what levels of noise they tolerate and b) what levels of noise they make.

So, my house, I'm pretty quiet, but I don't mind if people watch TV, or listen to music at night, I usually sleep right through it.
Some people completely don't care. At all, and wouldn't care about any of that list - but, that's unusual.

Another house, I wasn't allowed to enter the kitchen after 10pm (e.g. getting cereal or cold food from the fridge, not possible), because of the flatmate in the adjoining room. As I was working late shift and night shift, this was pretty terrible. :P

Another house, a flatmate insisted they couldn't sleep without the TV on. All night. Loudly. Either in their room, or falling asleep on the couch in the lounge, which was right next to my room. Mostly, I was pretty cool with it, but yes, it started to grate.
Mostly because I hate TV in anything but small doses.
posted by Elysum at 11:35 PM on August 21, 2014

I don't think the door would have had much to do with it. My partner's former housemates sound remarkably similar to yours (aspiring musicians who keep odd hours) and we could hear them merrily jamming at 2am loud and clear, downstairs and in an annexe away from the rest of the house.

To be honest I think it's not unreasonable to want quiet in the house after 11. Sleep is extremely important. You were not wrong. I hope your next housing has more amenable residents.
posted by mymbleth at 11:55 PM on August 21, 2014

Hah, apparently I got hung up on open doors, with bonus swears. My mistake, but that's still quite the social faux pas by any measure I've ever heard.
posted by rhizome at 3:34 AM on August 22, 2014

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