Downstairs neighbors complaining about child noise, what can we do?
October 3, 2014 6:40 PM   Subscribe

We are in the beginning of an ugly situation with our new neighbors, and would like to figure out what can we do to defend ourselves. They are complaining that our child is running and want him to stop.running completely which is unrealistic given he is two years old. I am walking on eggshells and having trouble sleeping because of this, so looking for support/suggestions.

We are renters and have been living in the same apartment for close to ten years. While we like it here, our landlord is a dysfunctional alcoholic and is known for his weird temper, so I can't say we have a close relationship with him. Little while ago new neighbors moved in and began complaining about the noise level from our two year old son running back and forth in the apartment. They have come up to talk to us and our landlord left a ranting message for us about "controlling your child" and that he will "take steps" if we don't do it.

Their complaint is that they can hear where he is in the apartment, not that he bangs on the floor or throws things, just that he runs. Since they complained we have been vigilant to redirect his running to jumping on top of the couch, making sure it is quiet before 7am, put foam pads in his room. I have spoken to them, and there did not seem space for compromise. One of the neighbors said it makes her crazy to hear these noises regardless of the time of day, their duration, etc. When I found out they knew there was a toddler above them when they moved in and asked her to "have a heart" she went over and slammed the door in my face.

I am pretty sure this will only escalate. Our son will never be completely quiet and these people will continue complaining to the landlord and being aggressive. The thing is, we are really trying and I am pretty sure the noise is not unreasonable. Children live everywhere, our previous neighbors never complained and the neighbor seems slightly unhinged. Is it reasonable to ask for no running ever in the apartment? What can we do to protect ourselves? Speak to a lawyer? Are there any protection agencies for renters? We are considering moving too, but it will take months and I don't want the landlord to try to evict us in the meanwhile because of demands we can never meet.
posted by Shusha to Law & Government (102 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Is your apartment carpeted?
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 6:44 PM on October 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

Sounds like horrible people.

Had this happen to us. Went out and got thick carpet pads and then put thick carpet on top of them.
This helped alot, as did making sure that all of their ceiling light fixtures were tightened up (just noise screwing in of glass shades, etc...)

This helped with our neighbor and we've had no complaints in over a year after doing this (as we'll as trying to limit the biggest jumping)

You can't fight crazy but you can deaden some of the noise.

At a certain part you just need to say "Sorry, we've done what we can"

As 10 year renters there may be a concern if you are paying a lot under market rate that the landlord might use this as an excuse to try to make your lives tough.

Good luck
posted by bottlebrushtree at 6:45 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We have hardwood floors and cannot put down rugs due to allergies. I have the child's room covered in foam padding wall to wall, and I have actually considered buying more of that and padding the areas where he is likely to run.
posted by Shusha at 6:48 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you need some affirmation from your friends here, rest assured that you are not doing anything wrong. Kids move, walls are thin, etc. This doesn't mean, of course, that anyone else is going to be understanding, and I understand how this would cause you stress.

One of the neighbors said it makes her crazy to hear these noises regardless of the time of day, their duration, etc.

The right answer is that your neighbors have the option of not living there if they don't like what amounts to reasonable environmental noise, based on the fact that they live in an apartment.

Perhaps just knowing that this is a temporary stage of life for your child and also that you made a reasonable effort to be accommodating will help you feel better about this. Again, this doesn't mean that anyone else is going to act reasonably, but knowing that you are on the right side of things can certainly be a helpful first step towards having potentially difficult conversations.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:59 PM on October 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

I live in an apartment, bottom floor. They are being unreasonable.

Having said that, if I were you I would start looking for somewhere else to live, on a bottom floor. Life is too short and your wee one too young to try to keep him still.

Next time the neighbors complain, tell them you have done all that is reasonable to do and that they need to remember they live in an apartment. And that any further contact will be construed as harassment.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:00 PM on October 3, 2014 [39 favorites]

And right now my neighbors are running across the floor, and none of them are children! ;-)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:01 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you should just ignore them. There's nothing they can do except complain. There's no grounds for eviction if you're taking reasonable steps to keep things quiet for them, which you are. If they want to move, they can move.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:06 PM on October 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

I think your neighbours are being unreasonable, but I also think that living below a toddler who runs on uncarpeted hardwood floors sounds a bit like hell. The building I live in requires that every apartment with hardwood floors cover at least 50% of the floor space with area rugs to mitigate noise complaints, and that's in a building with concrete structure, whereas it sounds like you live in a sub-divided house or a smaller building which will have much bigger problems with sound carrying.

The foam in places where your child typically runs would definitely be a good idea, and might well go a long way to mitigating the issues with your neighbours.

There is almost certainly a tenant bureau in your jurisdiction that helps with landlord tenant disputes, and you could call their advice line for their input on this issue. Most likely, it would likely be very difficult for your landlord to evict you on the basis of not very serious noise complaints but it depends on where you live and how strong the renter protections are there.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:08 PM on October 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

Are these people having their home life disturbed from hearing your child everyday, multiple times a day? If so, you realize they are being completely reasonable to complain and be "aggressive", as you called it, right? It doesn't seem like you are listening to how much of a problem it is, and feel secure in that "well, I've done all I can, too bad about kids". Certainly you don't seem very understanding, yourself. You're merely painting your landlord and neighbors as "unreasonable".
posted by Blitz at 7:08 PM on October 3, 2014 [40 favorites]

Do they complain about the noise when he's in his room?Does the padding help? A lot of apartment buildings with wood floors require that a majority of the floor be covered with rugs for exactly this problem. My building is one of those, and it does help a lot. I'm not saying your neighbors are correct (slamming the door in your face is not cool), only that even reasonable people expect some amount of noise deadening floor coverings. They sell padded mats for kitchen floors that are smoothish and easy to clean. If they complain about the noise even if he's in his room, there's nothing you can do. Evictions are fairly hard to push through, it usually takes longer than a few months to make them stick. So I suggest looking for a new place. You are in the right, but do you really want to put up with horrible people whenever you're home?
posted by bluefly at 7:10 PM on October 3, 2014

I am going to go against the grain here and say that yeah, you need to put some sort of hypoallergenic sound-absorbent covering down on the rest of your floors. In my city many buildings ask that you carpet 80% of your apartment. You might not realize just how bad the noise is for your neighbors.

I also think your time restrictions are unreasonable; 7am is way too early for that kind of noise. I would say that you should be aiming to restrict running to after 9am and before 9pm.
posted by posyblue at 7:12 PM on October 3, 2014 [48 favorites]

Certainly you don't seem very understanding, yourself. You're merely painting your landlord and neighbors as "unreasonable".

If her description of her attempt to problem solve is correct, then she is certainly being understanding. If her description of their response to attempted conversation is correct, then they are certainly being unreasonable.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:12 PM on October 3, 2014 [11 favorites]

Is this rude woman home 24/7? She sounds like she needs to get a life, or some earplugs. She is unreasonable, as is your landlord. I assume your child sleeps through the night? Where are you?

Is it possible that she works at night and needs quiet to sleep during the day? You'd think she might have told you if that were the case. She may just dislike children.

The normal noises made by a healthy child between 8 AM and 9 PM shouldn't bother anyone. But hey, as a mother and grandmother I'm biased.
posted by mareli at 7:13 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

You know you're both right, right? Toddlers _do_ need to run around, and wood floors overhead _do_ transmit a lot of noise to the floor below. This is not a situation where anybody needs to be evil for it to be really hard.
posted by amtho at 7:16 PM on October 3, 2014 [21 favorites]

Response by poster: OK, timetable for people who have asked:
8pm - 7am: quiet
7am - 8am: running/playing as parents prepare lunch/get ready to leave
8am - 6pm: no one home
6pm - 7pm: running/playing as parents make dinner/clean up
7pm - 8pm: mostly quiet play, except running to the bath

8pm - 7am: quiet (we will try to push this out to 8am)
7am - 9am: quiet play, but running is possible
9am - 12pm: no one home
12pm-1pm: possible running while parent prepare lunch
1pm - 4pm: nap, quiet
4pm - 5pm: possible running
5pm - 7pm: no one home
7pm - 8pm: possible running around dinner time
posted by Shusha at 7:23 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think it's irrelevant who's right or wrong, and telling you you're right doesn't help you at all. The neighbour is going to continue to complain, and your landlord is likely to become unpleasant about it.

Lay down rubber pads where your son runs. If that's everywhere, well... lay mats down everywhere. It doesn't matter if that's unfair or unreasonable, because... see above.

If you are genuinely worried about eviction, then find out about the eviction process where you live. The last place I lived in the US, it took 6 months minimum. It's not like you get served a notice on Monday and our family is homeless on Friday.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:27 PM on October 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

The padding approach sounds great to me. It doesn't have to be ugly, it can be one of those foam play mats.
posted by colin_l at 7:27 PM on October 3, 2014

Honestly, you need to look for a new place, even if it takes months. Not because you're doing anything wrong, but because your landlord and neighbour are threatening you/creating a hostile environment and christ, that's a miserable way to live. No matter how many people claim otherwise, you can't stop a 2 year old from running around, it's not only impossible but unethical. You've taken appropriate steps, you've tried to broker peace, and that's as far as you need to go. If you think your landlord will begin to discriminate against you because of this (which, AFAIK, is illegal), start documenting everything that's happened and speak to a lawyer as soon as you can.

In the meantime, can you get one of these foam puzzle playmats and make a path for him to run on? They absorb some sound. Not much, but it might help.
posted by saturnine at 7:28 PM on October 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

I would be pissed if I had to listen to someone run around on hardwood floors before 9am. If you can't use rugs because of allergies, you need to live on the first floor.
posted by Mavri at 7:50 PM on October 3, 2014 [54 favorites]

Tell them, and your landlord, you will adhere to local noise ordinances (good news: You almost certainly are already!), and make good faith efforts above and beyond what is legally required, and then just keep doing what you're doing, which is totally reasonable.

You will never be able to pacify these people. In fact, if I were you, I would encourage my kid to make as much noise as possible during reasonable hours - because you are entitled to, and it's not against law, and it might make them move out sooner. Also, research your tenancy rights, the building by-laws etc, so you can be the one to throw the laws and regulations in their faces first. Fuckers. Unreasonable apartment dwellers give the right shits.
posted by smoke at 7:52 PM on October 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

your new neighbors are flaming assholes. you were there first, for ten years, and two year-old children run around and make noise, and good neighbors who love children resign themselves to this fact thinking "this is the future of america, what will still be here after i'm gone."

your error is to play defense and "walk on eggshells." i would go full offense. "right now, you have a problem with my kid. it is foreseeable that you could soon have a problem with me. is this the direction you really want to go toward?"
posted by bruce at 8:00 PM on October 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

I do not think it's unreasonable for people who live below you to not want to be woken up at 7 AM by your child running on hardwood floors on top of them. 7 AM is too early for any significant amount of noise, and in fact buildings that have rules about this will almost always give 9 AM as the end of "quiet hours". Maybe 8, definitely not 7.

Also, we can't hear what this actually sounds like, we can only go by your words, and it doesn't sound like you have stood in the lower apartment when your kid is running around. If you haven't, you don't even have a basis from which to judge how loud it sounds.

You don't sound like you really understand that this is a valid complaint, and that your neighbors are entitled to the peaceable use of the apartments for which they pay. Your neighbors would probably be more understanding if YOU in turn tried to actually understand where they are coming from, rather than just labeling them "aggressive" for complaining.

The fact that you think the previous neighbors didn't mind is irrelevant. They may have not minded. They may simply not have complained. They may have had hearing problems for all we know. It doesn't matter.

So, my best suggestions for defusing this are: 1. put yourself in your neighbors shoes. FOR REAL. 2. carpets. 3. Quiet hours until 9. 4. If that fails, move to a ground-floor apartment.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 8:01 PM on October 3, 2014 [43 favorites]

You might find some encouragement in this previous AskMe that was similar. I LOVE LOVE LOVE a quiet environment, but lester's advice is pretty spot-on.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:02 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

The fact that you think the previous neighbors didn't mind is irrelevant. They may have not minded. They may simply not have complained

They may have moved because of the noise, and told you some other story.
posted by sageleaf at 8:05 PM on October 3, 2014 [22 favorites]

Refusing to cover hardwood floors is unreasonable. Children running around on bare floors can basically sound like there is a little herd of elephants stomping around up there. It can be rugs or it can be your foam padding, but it needs to be something which will dampen the sound.

Then, congratulations, that's basically all you need to do.

I would go batshit crazy living under a toddler, so I can see where they're coming from (especially the early morning wakeup). My solution is to not live under other people, but sometimes circumstances prevent that from being an option for people. I think it's absurd they knowingly chose to move in with a toddler upstairs, so there must have been some factors that made that the best situation for them.
posted by ktkt at 8:25 PM on October 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

Sounds like horrible people.

Horrible to complain about random pounding during all hours of the day? The mind reels.

In fact, it is a horrible tenant who allows pounding all hours of the day, randomly, and to invoke the landlord's foibles to somehow confuse the issue.

My partner and I are living this situation, downstairs. The child upstairs will never get quieter; the running and pounding has escalated, and will escalate, year after year. We are moving out next month. The value of our apartment is undeniably lowered by the presence of the toddler upstairs.

Occasionally, we wonder how the landlord and future tenants will address this issue.
posted by Mapes at 8:39 PM on October 3, 2014 [20 favorites]

Oh wait, did you say 7am? Not cool. I retract my earlier advice, that is not reasonable. You need to keep the running around between 9am and 10pm. Lots of people with allergies have carpets -- obviously I don't know your specific allergies, but I think you need to get some rugs and learn to manage the allergy/rug combination.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:44 PM on October 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Can you swap apartments with the people downstairs?
posted by stellathon at 8:45 PM on October 3, 2014 [15 favorites]

When I found out they knew there was a toddler above them when they moved in and asked her to "have a heart" she went over and slammed the door in my face.

Whenever someone chooses to do something way over-the-top rude like slamming a door in your face, it's actually a gift in disguise. It means you can suddenly stop giving a rat's ass about bending over backwards and/or spending your own money on home improvements you'd rather not have in order to attempt to make life in the other person's apartment nicer for them.

She burned that bridge.

Make all the noise you want, and enjoy your sweet child. Ah, the patter of little feet! Don't let the bastards get you down, OP.

If your neighbor were a real grown up, she would be taking the obvious logical steps to block out the noise in her own space, such as using earplugs, a box fan, and/or a white noise maker, etc.

This is like people who choose to fly on airplanes without bringing a set of earplugs along with them, and then complain about the ubiquitous and 100% foreseeable normal crying child who is suddenly bothering them. People like them insist everyone else has to bend over backwards and do the impossible to keep the sound out of their ears. No. Their ears, their highly-solvable problem.
posted by hush at 8:49 PM on October 3, 2014 [18 favorites]

Cannot imagine another society/time in history where people expected total quiet in the world, because the world contains children, birds chirping loudly at dawn, woodpeckers, and babies crying. In every building I've ever lived in -- and there have been many -- there have been people singing scales, vacuuming, crying, dropping pots, teenagers having parties, people having sex, and yes, babies and toddlers and kids making their sounds. If the world is going to continue, there are going to be children running. Putting rugs down might muffle the sound, and would be a nice thing for you to do, but for people to be this *irate* about the fact that the world is noisy is unrealistic and has never been realistic. It's annoying. But I don't think it's anyone's right to have zero noise for what is actually just a few hours a day in an apartment building, and I think it's a social sadness that people have come to think that quiet is the default of the world. Put down some more mats, but they should get earplugs and fans.
posted by third rail at 8:53 PM on October 3, 2014 [21 favorites]

I think your neighbors sound unreasonable, yes. I also think you could and should do more, though. Right now, you don't get along with either your landlord or your neighbors, so it is just practical, and in your best interest, to make the effort. [Asking your neighbor to "have a heart" was really not the best way to go, honestly, and made me cringe a little. It sounds like you blame them for being disturbed by your child's noise--and maybe you do!--but painting them as heartless isn't going to make them want to work with you, either.]

Yes, kids do run, but you only have one child, and if he isn't chasing or being chased by another child, I think it is a bit of a copout to just throw your hands up in the air and say, well, that's what kids do. I had two boys, and I know it is hard to keep kids 100% quiet, but I have also lived in an apartment when others had kids and we didn't yet, with kids shrieking and yelling next door. When you have neighbors close at hand like that, everyone has to be mindful of how your activities are affecting them. As parents, you are responsible for keeping the noise level of your kids reasonable. That you had other neighbors who didn't complain before you had a toddler running around really isn't relevant now that you do.

When you are making dinner or getting ready, give your child tasks to do or a bit more directed play time so he isn't just running around the floor. He has plenty of opportunity to do that when you aren't at home, right?

The rugs/allergy connection is not really an excuse; there are hypoallergenic rugs. You have your son's room paded, too, which means you can find a solution that works with the allergies, but you don't really want to do that throughout the whole apartment. Maybe you can move a little bit on this and put a rug liner or foam or something in the heaviest traffic area between rooms?

Is your child wearing shoes inside the house when he is running around? That's easy to fix by having a rule for everyone: shoes come off as soon as you get home and shoes are the last thing put on before you leave. That makes a huge differnce in noise right away.

I don't understand the part where you say you keep your child from running by telling him to jump on the couch--am I just misinterpreting that? Because that is not a solution, that's just different noise.

Finally, and most importantly, make sure you document what you've done, get the landlord in there (find an excuse to invite him inside in a nice way, at a moment when you are NOT angry with your neighbors), and show him the efforts you are making, and remind him that you are, of course, happy to make reasonable accommodations. Remind him as well that you are long-standing tenants who are never late with the rent, etc., and how much you love where you live. Say that you hope you can count on him to back you up when your new neighbors complain unreasonably, and then let this all go and stop walking on eggshells. If your neighbors are not happy with those efforts, too bad for them. You will have clearly demonstrated that you have made the extra effort if/when the time comes when talk comes of complaints to the police or asking people to move out, etc.
posted by misha at 9:03 PM on October 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

7am - 8am: running/playing as parents prepare lunch/get ready to leave

OK, I honestly sympathize but this is not OK for apartment living in hardwood floors without carpeting. I imagine this sounds like a giant herd of elephants to your downstairs neighbors.
posted by posyblue at 9:05 PM on October 3, 2014 [28 favorites]

Horrible to complain about random pounding during all hours of the day? The mind reels. ... In fact, it is a horrible tenant who allows pounding all hours of the day

That would be annoying, but it's not what the OP indicated in her timeline. There are literally hours, and sometimes all-day during the week, when there is no noise. We're talking a few hours. While that's not nothing, it's not all day, and it's probably not unreasonable.

OP, honestly, you don't have the responsibility to regulate a two year old as much as some in this thread are indicating that you should. Our world is getting progressively more anti-child (and I say this as someone who is both bothered by excessive child noise and also has children), and I wouldn't cow-tow to the pressure. Be reasonable, make appropriate accommodations when possible to reduce noise, always be nice, and let your neighbors grow up a little bit.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:05 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree that your neighbor sounds like they aren't handling this well-- slamming the door is not an okay response. However, I spent a year living above a four year old in an old building with wood floors. He started running around at 7 am (before I had to wake up, so I lost sleep every work day) and would frequently do so after school too for hours. He was a very cute kid and his parents were really nice, but I started dreaded mornings because I just couldn't take the noise. And I like kids! The only good thing about it was that we weren't the apartment downstairs beneath them. We didn't mention the noise to anyone but the other tenants affected by the noise, we didn't try to get them evicted or anything, but no joke, it was the worst part of living there. They did not have carpets down.

So: is your couch on foam pads or a rug? Is there any kind of rug that you can handle (or could handle with a better filter/vacuum)? Create a foam pad area in one room? Any other loose fixtures or furniture that might be rattling around or exacerbating the problem?

I'm sorry they're being jerks about this. I hope you can find a compromise.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:08 PM on October 3, 2014

We were not allowed to run indoors. At all. Ever. World without end, amen. That's what the good Lord made outdoors, with all its many unbreakable things and soft surfaces, for.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:14 PM on October 3, 2014 [34 favorites]

7am - 9am: quiet play, but running is possible

This is totally uncool on weekends and I bet this is the primary source of your neighbors' rage. It's probably bad enough but within acceptable limits on weekdays, unless they work nights, in which case it's not really anyone's fault, just bad luck. But the weekends thing? Really awful, and definitely worth a slammed door in the face.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:17 PM on October 3, 2014 [51 favorites]

I had downstairs neighbors like this and they made continuously unreasonable demands, and made my life terrible for things including but not limited to walking around in heels in the morning (around 7-8am) while getting ready for work. My landlord didn't care to get involved, but my aggressive neighbor continued to make my life very uncomfortable with constant hostility/complaints. Eventually I moved out, but I am just here to say that I opened this thread expecting a loud chorus of people saying you were in the wrong--and was not entirely surprised to find one--but I am of the opinion that there are many people who live in bottom-floor apartments who have completely unreasonable standards of noise, especially in cities.

Maybe approach your landlord, point out that you have been there for a long time and have not caused problems, and maybe it is not in his/her/their best interest to side with tenants who are inappropriately picky? Regardless, start looking for another place. It really is the sanest option for you right now.
posted by likeatoaster at 9:18 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

including but not limited to walking around in heels in the morning (around 7-8am) while getting ready for work.

Do you know what that sounds like from below?

There are things that people need to do to live their lives: make lunch, get ready for work, etc. For someone who lives below to expect people not to do those things is unreasonable. There are things that people don't need to do to live their lives and that don't even make their lives more enjoyable or better in any way. For example, walking around in heels at 7am, while getting ready for work is unnecessary and not life-improving for the heel wearer in any way. To expect people not to do these things is completely reasonable and to continue doing them is to be a bad neighbour.

There are things that people need to do to live their lives that can be done in a multitude of ways, some of which are more annoying to neighbours than others, and some of which are either easier or more enjoyable to the people doing them. Running around an apartment is one of those things: While it may technically be possible to have a child never run around, it would be difficult and significantly impair the family's quality of life. So here there is wiggle room... keep the running around reasonable (i.e. not before 9am), and if they still can't deal...well, they'll just have to deal because what choice do they have?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:35 PM on October 3, 2014 [22 favorites]

People like this shouldn't have downstairs apartments, quite frankly. I've lived downstairs and the noise from upstair neighbors can be annoying, but that's part of the deal. You can offer to designate running times and quiet times. Like no running early in the morning or late at night, if it wakes them up. But otherwise, they can't tell you that your kid isn't allowed to run around. That is what kids do. They should find an upstairs apartment and you should try to ignore them and hope they just move out.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:41 PM on October 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

It sounds like your downstairs neighbor's are being jerkish about this but, yeah, 7am is absolutely too early for anyone to be running around playing on bare hardwood floors! Everybody has to compromise to make apartment living. Your neighbors are going to have to live with a reasonable amount of noise at reasonable times of day. And you're going to have to deal with preventing unreasonable amounts of noise at unreasonable times of day.

7:00am is an unreasonable time of day.
posted by Justinian at 9:43 PM on October 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

I'm sympathetic to you and to your neighbor. I live in NYC and don't mind outdoor noises one bit, but noise from upstairs drives me batty.

I also have downstairs neighbors, and (because I know the sound is amplified through ceilings), I basically tip-toe around, which also sucks. I agree with those suggesting you look for another place.

Having lived somewhere 10 years does not in any way absolve you from being considerate of people that moved in more recently. That they knew you had a toddler does not mean they knew you were opposed to putting rugs down (and, for what it's worth, that only helps with pitter-patter; when your child grows older, the footfalls will still be louder than you realize).

It sounds like you have a decent idea of your schedule, but one frustrating thing about that kind of noise is that the other people don't know how long it will go on. It might sounds strange, but I'd recommend showing your neighbors your schedule--even giving them a copy--and sticking to it. Then "have a heart" yourself, and be open to changes if they request them. Again, sounds strange, but it's similar to not knowing how long you'll be in a traffic jam. Knowing can make a world of difference in accepting.
posted by whoiam at 9:52 PM on October 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

You should try to make reasonable accommodation (I agree that 7 am is pretty early..) but be consoled by the fact that if your new neighbors are by nature habitual complainers they'll probably wear out their welcome with the landlord quickly, especially if the landlord is as irascible as you make him sound.

It's unfortunate to have unpleasant neighbors, and whether or not their complaints are justified it sounds like they're unfriendly and handling things poorly. But that's beyond your control. Focus on the things that you do control.
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:55 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your comment to the neighbour to "have a heart" was kind of insulting. As if their complaints were based on pure evilness and not on the fact they are legitimately bothered by the situation. I have lived below a toddler and even with carpeting it was loud. I cannot imagine the HELL that it would be below a hardwood floored apartment.
posted by thegoldfish at 10:07 PM on October 3, 2014 [47 favorites]

I want to add that I do think your neighbors are being unnecessarily aggressive. I said the noise upstairs drives me batty, but in 13 years living below a family with 2 boys, I've complained directly to them, exactly twice, and that was when I thought our light fixtures (yes tightened) might actually fall.

That is, I expect some amount of annoyance with apartment living. But seriously; give them a schedule so they know when they can heave a sigh of relief that nobody's up there. I love my upstairs neighbors, but there's nothing better than knowing they're out.

Edit to add that finding a new place might also be an opportunity to find something with some outdoor space, which would be great for your toddler and neighbors.
posted by whoiam at 10:08 PM on October 3, 2014

Their complaint is that they can hear where he is in the apartment, not that he bangs on the floor or throws things, just that he runs.

I am pretty sure this will only escalate. Our son will never be completely quiet

Asking for complete quiet would be unreasonable, but it sounds like they're just asking that he not run (as much?) on your uncarpeted hardwood floors. That's not unreasonable.

8pm - 7am: quiet (we will try to push this out to 8am)

Try? On the weekend? I think expecting no running on uncarpeted hartdwood floors before 8am on the weekends is more than reasonable.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:24 PM on October 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

If you think your landlord will begin to discriminate against you because of this (which, AFAIK, is illegal), start documenting everything that's happened and speak to a lawyer as soon as you can.

FWIW, depending on your lease (and there's a very good chance your lease covers this) this isn't 'discriminatory'. My current lease (and most leases I've ever had) stipulates that if any neighbors complain about noise from my apartment I have to take reasonable steps to mitigate it (and carpeting for floors is specifically listed as an example). IANAL but I do know a lot about this stuff, and to pursue a claim of housing discrimination you'd need to prove that a baseless noise complaint is being used as an excuse to force you out of the building because you have a child - which would be difficult to prove even if that were the case, and almost impossible to prove in this case since it sounds like that's not what's going on.
posted by Itaxpica at 10:26 PM on October 3, 2014

Just to clarify: Does this mean that before your neighbors complained, you would sometimes let your kid run around before 7 AM?

This is also important. If this was a thing that was happening regularly on weekends or even weekdays then I can totally 100% understand how your neighbors went from 0 to door slamming rage so quickly. Obviously the best thing would have been for them to tell you right away that it was unacceptable but I can also kind of understand them being shocked into silence by the level of thoughtlessness that would let this happen in the first place.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:29 PM on October 3, 2014 [12 favorites]

+ 1 for absolutely no running before 9am, 10am on weekends. You clearly have no idea how fundamentally disruptive it is to live below or next to someone who doesn't get that running in their apartment = a shitty thing to be doing while other people are sleeping. Take your toddler to a park to run his heart out and teach him that running inside anywhere is actually not good manners. Your neighbors may not be handling this well, but as someone who's been there and whose health has suffered because of such things, I empathize with the intensity of their complaints.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:33 PM on October 3, 2014 [26 favorites]

Assuming your what can we do? question in the title refers to doing something about the noise and not just about the neighbors, have you seen those interlocking foam mats that have a hardwood floor pattern? Like these? My sister has them (some she found at Costco) at her house for her toddler to play on and they look pretty good and can be wiped off easily or probably even mopped or Swiffered, so: no sounds downstairs, no allergies, kid can happily continue being a kid, plus it doesn't look like you're in a Gymboree at home.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:43 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

have a heart

This would be infuriating to hear. It basically says "The problem is really with you and I am done discussing this right now." Also, once people are angry with you in this way, their experience of the noise will likely become that much more unbearable as the situation is imbued with that much more interpersonal hostility.

redirect his running to jumping on top of the couch

This also jumped out at me and makes me think that the noises very well might be egregious. If your child's activity level is at such a height that your idea of mitigation is to send him to jump on furniture, that is in the realm of unreasonable. Moving about the apartment in a moderate manner, pushing and pulling toys around, calling out to parents- these are all perfectly understandable and acceptable levels of activity for a 2 year old. Letting your child routinely use the apartment as a McDonald's Playpen, complete with Bouncy couch, sounds quite problematic- though in your head, you have patted yourself on the back that this is a mitigation measure.
posted by incolorinred at 10:51 PM on October 3, 2014 [30 favorites]

My partner and I (and a few other people we know) do not like to stay in the same house as one particular family because their kids are up before 6am most days and will run around screaming and fighting and carrying on with toys. Mum (only ever mum because dad sleeps through it) 'tries' to keep them quiet - which just adds loud yelling to the mix. So in hardwood or tiled areas, if they are present, nobody sleeps past 7 except for the heaviest and most hungover of sleepers.

Part of the issue is that there is very little delineation between what is acceptable indoor behaviour and what is not. Jumping on the floor, or off things, is not. That's an outdoor thing unless we've set up yoga mats or something at my house on the ground floor. It's not something we have ever accepted as upstairs behaviour. For these kids though, there is no quiet play except that 'trying' when other people are around. Which means they have no practice at it, which I think is a big part of the problem. My kid knows that loud playing in the morning is unacceptable until everyone in the house is awake and up - there are plenty of things to do that are not so aggressive. After everyone is up there are still rules about shared spaces - no whistles or recorders in the common areas for example - but it's something we have modelled and spoken to her about since birth. So while it isn't second nature or instinctive, she has practice at it. Part of communal living is moderating your behaviour out of respect for others.

And unfortunately you primed your neighbours for this - by apparently having no rules until they complained you have made it so everything is an issue. If, from the start, you had enforced the 'no jumping off the couch' and 'no running inside' or at least 'no running before 7am' rules then there would be less ill-will but they're sensitized for it now and prepared from 6am for it to start. It will take a while of iron-clad adherence to the rules - no 'try', even if you have to go to the park at 6am, or share the bed and read stories, or whatever - before they're able to trust that you aren't backsliding to what was obviously 'normal' to you.

(note: in my city ordinances 7am is the threshold for noise like chainsaws and mowing even on the weekend - it's the pits)
posted by geek anachronism at 11:50 PM on October 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

I have been both the tenant bothered by kids and the asshole with noisy kids at this point.

You need to put down foam padding, but the neighbors and landlord are bozos. This is why rooms downstairs from toddlers rent at a discount. Your landlord should have warned them and gotten some tenants with kids themselves.
posted by benzenedream at 11:51 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am pretty sure the noise is not unreasonable.

If you have been living on the upper level for the past 10 years, you really do not know what the noise is like.
posted by invisible ink at 1:35 AM on October 4, 2014 [15 favorites]

Meh, it's the building. I wouldn't fault a two-year old for complying with his natural developmental impulses and I couldn't blame your neighbour for being pissed off by their effects. There are some good tips on Apartment Therapy for noise reduction, including tiles and carpet underlay (which could just as well go under cork flooring, with maybe a flat-weave rug like a sisal overtop, which might be managed decently well with a vacuum with strong suction & a HEPA filter. [Other noise-reducing materials.]). Between that, a no shoes in the house rule, and being stricter about timing things, I bet it could be manageable. Sounds like your landlord probably wouldn't pitch in, but it might be worth the investment.

Also, re "not that he bangs on the floor or throws things, just that he runs" -- I doubt your neighbour is that invested in judging your kid's behaviour as a whole, it's just the noise. Depersonalize this.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:52 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am, by the accounts of all who know me, a patient and mild-mannered person who is almost never roused to rage. I have also suffered the awful, sleep-depriving, quality-of-life-destroying experience of living under stompy neighbors in an old building with hardwood floors (including someone who walked around between 6-8 a.m. in high heels every morning before I had to get up--WHY, WHY, WHY? Can you not put the heels on just before you leave??). I know that these stompy noises are not inevitable, because I had neighbors in the same building before stompyfeets moved in who made perfectly reasonable noises. If in response to my complaints, my stompy neighbor told me to "have a heart," I think I might have slammed the door in their face as well.

I do not know quite how to describe how horrible it was (I once phoned my landlord about it in tears); I eventually moved to a top floor and will never live in a building like that with others above me. You really don't know how loud it can be and how the sound can carry, and there is something about stompy/walking noises that is different from all other normal living noises like talking, televisions, music, traffic noise, people shouting, etc. Those kinds of sounds don't bother me. I've lived in cities for most of the last twenty years and I know how to tune out noises and make good use of earplugs and headphones. Stompy feet on hardwood floors upstairs defeat all of these skills.

There's also the anticipation and the dread--you never know when it's going to start up again, and when it does, you just want to start weeping.

I would suggest that now that you have a child, you should really consider moving to a ground floor apartment, because I think you are going to be upsetting your neighbors for a while. And even though they didn't complain, it is entirely possible that the previous tenants moved away because of the noise as well.
posted by tiger tiger at 2:10 AM on October 4, 2014 [33 favorites]

I think it's completely unreasonable to let your child run around on uncovered hardwood floors that early in the day.

You need to 1) put down hypoallergenic carpets, and 2) keep your child quieter until later in the morning.

I think your behaviour is quite selfish, to be honest. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot, and someone was pounding on the roof above where your child sleeps at, say, 9 pm.
posted by Salamander at 2:24 AM on October 4, 2014 [21 favorites]

Wow, this is contentious, holy shit. I'm kind of amazed how many people are on the side of "they should just deal with the noise". I mean, i've encountered in real life too, but ugh.

So i live in a building packed up against another building. my bedroom window is like, 3 feet from the window to the room of a toddler. They're not above or below me, but i hear all the running, screaming, toy throwing, etc. Their schedule seems to be something pretty much like yours.

Every single person on my side of the building who faces that window has complained.

Everyone has gotten flippant "have a heart!" type responses from them. Their landlord, our manager, our landlord.

Amusingly, they ended up putting down those foam-rubber daycare type interlocking mats throughout, as far as i can tell, most of their apartment to dampen the running.

I really think the onus is 100% on you here to be considerate. It's shared housing, and that doesn't mean "well people make noises!" and all the garbage above. They are not being divas who shouldn't live in an apartment by complaining about this, this is above and beyond the "yes, people make noises, deal with it" level. You need some kind of floor covering, and you need to push back play-around-in-the-apartment time later into the day.

And yes, seriously, the weekend thing. One of the only times my very quiet, reserved, calm(and former summer camp/daycare worker of many years!) partner actually screamed at somebody was to open the window at like 7:45am and be like "Are you guys FUCKING KIDDING ME? shut the kid up, it's not even 8 and it's a saturday!". I'd say 8-9am on a weekday is sort of a DMZ. That's standard get ready for work, or already gone and at work. But on a weekend? I'd say 9 is the bare minimum. I'd campaign for 10, honestly, as full on making loud noises time.

Basically, the kid shouldn't be stomping around and hooping and hollering and stuff any time you wouldn't play music at a fairly passionate volume.

Really, you've gotten lots of good suggestions for mitigating the sound or occupying your son while it's not-loud-hours. I sympathize with your neighbor here, even if slamming the door in your face was out of line. I also sympathize with them going to the landlord after you said that, because really, that is an almost narcissistic statement. I also agree with incolorinred that, with the couch thing, i think you're really minimizing in your head the amount of activity going on here.(which... sounds exactly like my neighbors) I can't imagine this sounds like anything but pretty much construction, after reflecting on that.

My parents moved out of an apartment they liked, into a place that on a concrete slab over the buildings garage on what was essentially the 1st floor exactly because they thought of this problem when i was 1-5. I might be biased here, but every time i've had to listen to this type of noise in an apartment my thoughts have been somewhere between "wow, they should really put some carpets down or something" to "this is just like, blatantly inconsiderate and i think they have no idea how much noise this is making".

And to be clear, i don't hate kids or anything. But i file this in the same category as people who constantly get ready to loud music at dumb hours, or the heel thing mentioned above, or just other generally loud at the wrong times things. I expect to hear noise in an apartment, i also expect my neighbors to not ride pogo sticks around or jump off of things on to the floor(or drunkenly knock over bookshelves at 2am, or a million other examples). It all falls within the inconsiderate/not having a realistic idea of what noise you're making banner for me.
posted by emptythought at 3:29 AM on October 4, 2014 [14 favorites]

I have noisy asshole neighbors with noisy asshole kids, and in 99 out of 100 cases my sympathies are with the people going nuts from all the goddamn screaming thumping toddler noise. But you're that 1 in 100. It sounds like you're really trying to do everything you can, and these folks need to accept that they're in a crappy living situation. I don't think asking them to have a heart was insulting. It sounds like you're kind of desperate, and I only wish our neighbors gave as much of a damn as you do.

There are hypoallergenic carpets. Definitely look into those! I also like the suggestion about swapping apartments with the neighbors. And consider moving.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:21 AM on October 4, 2014

I've lived next to people with lots of kids and I've also been the neighbor of a woman who was hypersensitive to noise so I can see both sides to this. My +1 has allergies so we've avoided carpet but I think in this situation, I'd go for the rubber floor mats and try to understand that 7am is awfully early for most people. Try to think back to before you had kids and they were doing construction on your street and how frustrating it was when the jackhammer started so very early. And when they were doing it on a weekend, how much did that suck? I had neighbors who ran an adhoc daycare in their apartment it was incredibly loud and started at around 7am when parents were dropping of their kids - it was at a time when I wanted to be getting up around 8-9am. I thought many bad thoughts about the kids, their parents, the neighbors and the piano they had, etc.

Yes, two year olds are a force of nature and you're never going to be able to satisfy this couple, but for the sake of your sanity and to placate your landlord - start putting in foam/rubber matting. If carpeting is necessary, get a good vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and go to town.

On the other side of the coin, I dealt with a woman who lived below me who would start hitting the ceiling with a broom if we so much as knocked over a piece of tupperware after 9pm (and she watched the clock because if it happened at 9:03pm, the broom would come out). It was funny because the broom was always much louder than anything we'd done. We're not loud people - no loud stereo, we were in bed by 10-11pm, up around 7-8am and out of the house until 7-8pm; I think we had one party the entire time we lived there and it was an afternoon birthday thing on a weekend. We put felt thingies on the bottom of all of our furniture, removed our shoes in the house, walked on eggshells and generally felt nervous at home all the time until we went away for Thanksgiving and she complained to our neighbor about how loud we'd been ... while we were out of town! I don't know if she was just crazy or was hearing another neighbor as well. We continued to try to be sensitive but the feeling of guilt decreased radically.

So, do what you can do to make things better for your neighbors but realize that they're probably sensitized to the noise and are hyper-aware of it now and may never relax.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:29 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sort of surprised at the number of people saying that your neighbors are being reasonable. I assume he's not a 700-pound toddler, so I'm having trouble imagining how much noise he could possibly be making. That said, I agree with others who say you should look for another place to stay even though you were there first because from what you said your new neighbors seem unhinged and your landlord seems completely unsympathetic despite you having lived there for a decade (without any issues with previous neighbors). I have never, ever, regretted moving out of unpleasant living situations. I know it'll be logistically challenging to move with a toddler and ten years' worth of belongings, but it may be worth it to get away from this hostile situation.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 4:53 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sort of surprised at the number of people saying that your neighbors are being reasonable. I assume he's not a 700-pound toddler, so I'm having trouble imagining how much noise he could possibly be making.

It's something about the way noise travels in some buildings, which is why a lot of people are saying "You really don't know what this sounds like." There are certain types of noises--particular those that happen directly on a hardwood floor up above such as running, walking in heels, dragging furniture, dropping things, etc.--actually sound a lot louder and more disruptive from the apartment downstairs than they do in the one where it is actually happening.
posted by tiger tiger at 5:07 AM on October 4, 2014 [15 favorites]

I'm having trouble imagining how much noise he could possibly be making.

A lot of apartment buildings in the US have very, very poor noise attenuation. Newer buildings in some cities have to be built to higher standards, but in anything older noise is guaranteed to carry and even in some new buildings it can be just as bad. When a floor is built more like a drum, it can be noisier below than it is the apartment above, which is just a crazy-making situation.

We spent a while in a place where the upstairs people had some kind of low-key social event (games night, or something like normal like that) two nights a week. They told us about it and were as nice as possible about keeping the noise and hours reasonable (and of course we never complained because it was a normal thing and they were nice about it), but it was so crazy noisy below that we'd joke about the wild sex parties they must be having up there. In a building like that a toddler upstairs would be hell -- no amount of rugs would mitigate the noise enough.

For another example, literally right this moment I can hear my downstairs neighbor snoring. It's almost, though not quite, loud enough to feel the vibrations through my chair, but it's possible that with their bedroom door closed it would be quieter in their living room than it is up here. Sound transmission is strange and unless a building is well-designed and well-built it can be a big problem in multi-unit structures.

I'm not saying you guys are in the wrong here, but I do think that your family needs to move because you have an active kid and you deserve to be in a place where you don't feel uncomfortable or nervous about your everyday schedule and activities. Moving is a hassle, but even if you got new neighbors tomorrow chances are good that they will be complaining soon. Seven am is way too early for most people to start hearing kid noises, but it's also going to mean long mornings of agonizing inactivity for the kid -- the current situation is good for no one, your kid most of all, and unfortunately moving is the best solution.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:53 AM on October 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

I can sympathize with you, if only because I know how hard it is to get 2-year old to do anything they don't want to. You obviously have a morning child with a lot of energy, which is not necessarily a bad thing in other environments. But your neighbor's complaints are valid, and so the situation is untenable, and in many ways it might be worse if your neighbors were more passive-aggressive, instead of aggressive-aggressive, and were complaining to the landlord behind your back.

If carpeting is not viable, have you thought about going out for breakfast on weekends? Some of my favorite breakfast spots/cafes had outdoor places for children to toddle around while the adults slowly woke up with lots of coffee? And even if they didn't, a child-tolerant cafe or diner will not have that many customers that early on a weekend?

Or could you have cuddle/tv or ipad time, where you let your child lie in bed with you, or you curl up on the couch with them, and let them watch something for a while? That was our solution when our kids were getting up at godawful am-o'clock, and while we won't win any parenting awards from Doctor Spock for using TV as the answer, it kept everyone sane.

Finally, the good news is that time is going to start going by at bullet-train speeds, and soon you will be yelling at your kids to get out of bed before noon for heaven's sake. This is a very temporary situation, unless your downstair neighbors are like mine once were, where and didn't want us to walk upright ever. Time isn't going to speed up for your neighbors, but if you know that whatever inconveniences you have to endure will only go on for a year or two, before the child is capable of some self-restraint, it might make it easier to work them into your life.

Ideally, you should move if possible though. You can't predict the energy level or sleep patterns of your child, and faulting parents for their child-rearing choices is a national sport. Children are stressful enough without worrying about when they are going to move around, and a ground-floor apartment, or an apartment with thicker floors, is probably better for all involved.
posted by bibliowench at 5:54 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your neighbors' rudeness does not invalidate their complaint.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:07 AM on October 4, 2014 [21 favorites]

The schedule you posted really does make me question whether your neighbours are actually being unreasonable. Rude, sure, but letting your toddler run on uncarpeted floors at 7am? That's not at all okay.

I get that you feel miffed that they knew your kid was there and moved in anyway, but you knew you lived on the top floor of a building when you had the kid, too -- you could have moved to a more appropriate place for a small child. People who live in apartments do have to learn to put up with some noise, but people who live in apartments also have to learn to mitigate the noise they make.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:13 AM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you're really trying to do everything you can, and these folks need to accept that they're in a crappy living situation.

Well no. Because toddlers are going to run, but they don't have to run on uncovered hardwood floors. Unless the OP covers all of her floors, she is by definition not doing "everything she can" to minimise the noise.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:14 AM on October 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'm really not getting why a "no running in the house" rule is such a big deal. My parents had it when I was growing up. And I had it when my kids were growing up. Yeah, you gotta watch the kid(s) and enforce the rule, but it's not that difficult. And it's as much for the kids' safety as anything else.

If they need to run - that's what outside is for. Surely you're not keeping the kid indoors all day / every day?
posted by doctor tough love at 7:16 AM on October 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

For what it's worth, this strikes me as a vicious cycle. Speaking from my own experience, if I get woken up really early by noise, then I am tired all day, and that makes me grumpy and prone to snapping at people. Then, when the noise happens the next day I am even more tired, increasingly snappish, etc. As others have suggested, I would definitely focus your efforts on having the noise start later. I bet your neighbors would have more internal resources to cope with some noise if they were starting from a bedrock of more sleep.
posted by ferret branca at 7:56 AM on October 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'm going to second the idea of suggesting that you swap apartments. One way or another you need to move to the first floor somewhere, because this problem's not going away for a long time wherever you live.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:35 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow. Do people really believe that *everyone with children* should all move to first floor apartments ? Basically so that (primarily) young adults without kids can maintain pristine sonic environments and not have the hours they have chosen to maintain be disturbed in any way, without trying earplugs, noise machines etc?
Have you never come home at midnight and shut your door a bit too loudly, or laughed in the hall coming home after a party, perhaps waking a parent in the building who has to get up in 5 hours?
I am very sensitive to noise. Now that I live in a house, the next door neighbor's barking dog at 6 am, who is put into the yard every single day at 6 am, drives me bats. I have had little kids living in apartments over me in buildings when I lived in cities, and I didn't feel happy when I heard the crazy thumping at the wrong time for me. But. I put a pillow over my head and muttered to myself. Because expecting everyone to achieve still silence so that child-free hours can be maintained...well, this is not the way the world works, no way, no how.
In the grand scheme of the human race, the right of a little kid to do developmentally normal stuff like run around -- not all day, but while his parent is preparing a meal -- simply trumps the right of people to sleep as late as they want, without trying to take care of their own sound environment with their own silencing techniques -- expecting to live in a dense urban environment without any noise entering their sensory boundaries.

Should people with kids get rugs? Sure. But rugs are slippery and it is likely that a child isn't going to be able to run safely on a rug. They should not have to cover every inch of their floor in foam.

As for running only outside: this is a toddler in an apartment in a city. A toddler can't always wait in stillness til you go to the park later.

The only other society I can think of that would have insisted on keeping toddlers from running to avoid disturbing anyone would have been high bourgeois Victorian middle Europe. Man, those guys' aesthetics really did focus on rugs, actually.
posted by third rail at 9:25 AM on October 4, 2014 [14 favorites]

This is not your problem. Don't allow it to be. It is the landlord's problem. If your neighbor complains to you again, politely advise her to take it up with the landlord and then document it. At some point, it becomes harassment. Keep a record of your landlord's abusive behavior as well. The next time that he complains, calmly explain to him that it is a problem with his building and he might want to ask a contractor to come out and give him an estimate on soundproofing between floors.

In the meantime, don't let your toddler wear his shoes in the house. Do encourage him to not run in the home (which is a good policy anyway). And do start looking for a safer, less aggressive place to live. Not because your child is a normal toddler who will make noise but, because you deserve a to come home to an environment that you can relax in.
posted by myselfasme at 9:48 AM on October 4, 2014

Wow. Do people really believe that *everyone with children* should all move to first floor apartments ? Basically so that (primarily) young adults without kids can maintain pristine sonic environments and not have the hours they have chosen to maintain be disturbed in any way, without trying earplugs, noise machines etc? ... In the grand scheme of the human race, the right of a little kid to do developmentally normal stuff like run around -- not all day, but while his parent is preparing a meal -- simply trumps the right of people to sleep as late as they want, without trying to take care of their own sound environment with their own silencing techniques -- expecting to live in a dense urban environment without any noise entering their sensory boundaries.

Encouraging the OP to move is some of the worst advice I've seen in awhile. I'm flabbergasted that a two year old moving along at a two year old speed at pretty restricted time intervals would require bending over backwards to the point that a pain-in-the-ass move is what is recommended, and for someone who had been living there for ten years.

There is zero responsibility on someone to move in a situation like this.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:51 AM on October 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for everyone's responses, I appreciate both the "this is not your problem" and "you are the ones being inconsiderate here" answers, because they show that the issue is not clear cut. I do feel responsible for our noise, of course, and we absolutely got spoiled with previous tenants who moved out a month ago and never complained about the noise. We checked in with them every week, since we were fairly close with the previous neighbors. Actually our son occasionally tries to knock on their door because he remembers we used to go there and visit.

As to the first viewpoint, this is unfortunately our problem, since I haven't been able to sleep or eat since the door slammed in my face. We are feeling like prisoners in our own house, worried about every little noise. I've bought foam tiles and will tile most of the floor where the running can happen, and we've started doing "no running, only walking" reminders although of course that only goes so far with someone who doesn't know how to put on pants. This morning we left the house at 7:30am before he had a chance to even stand on the floor and walked around until the library opened. Not sure how long this can be sustained, so maybe we do need to start looking for another apartment - our car got vandalized in the last couple of days, don't know if this is a coincidence or not.
posted by Shusha at 10:38 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm really not getting why a "no running in the house" rule is such a big deal. My parents had it when I was growing up. And I had it when my kids were growing up. Yeah, you gotta watch the kid(s) and enforce the rule, but it's not that difficult. And it's as much for the kids' safety as anything else.

If they need to run - that's what outside is for. Surely you're not keeping the kid indoors all day / every day?

Of course she's not keeping her kids inside all day every day. Of course not. Did you see the schedule of her comings and goings that she provided as evidence for the Meta-jury?

She's also said she's considering putting down foam mats all over their apartment in the places where her child might run. She's put down foam padding in his room. According to The Schedule there's basically four hours a day over the weekends where their might be some running, and three hours a day on the weekdays. Out of twenty-four hours a day.

As for the no running in the house rule, rules are not taught in a day. If you remember having had such a rule, it is because you had that rule at a time you could remember rules. Toddlerhood is the time where adults attempt to teach rules to people who have trouble remembering that their hair is on their head and that people don't eat quarters. There is a learning curve to learning the rules. Every single person in this thread was once a child. Ideally, you had adult caregivers who understood this and tried, even in the face of your constant failure, to guide you toward the perfection we adults now exhibit all the time everywhere.

Lastly, slamming the door in your neighbor's face for any reason other than abject fear is stupid and entirely unreasonable, and does not exactly predispose anyone to give a flying foot about your needs. If someone had told this same story with the issue in question being loud music or sex noises - something adult beings actually have total control over, rather than flailing little Napoleonic chaos machines, like toddlers - most here would be screaming Crazy Neighbor Gonna Crazy, emirate?!, and advising the OP to ignore this person and their violent, unreasonable approach to living amongst other humans.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 10:51 AM on October 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

Are the apartments similar in size/layout? If so, could you just switch apartments with the downstairs neighbors?
posted by Jacqueline at 10:56 AM on October 4, 2014

Unless you've lived in an apartment with someone above you, you seriously have no idea how loud sounds can be in other apartments. I can hear my upstairs (and next-door) neighbors' bodily functions. I can hear everyone's conversations. The guy upstairs from me vacuums at 3am. I have no idea why. He also snores like a chainsaw. And doesn't flush unless he's pooped. His girlfriend is a moaner, but not a screamer. I really, truly wish I didn't know any of these things.

Listen carefully to your kid running around. Now imagine that sound multiplied and conducted through an echo chamber. That's how loud it is downstairs. You may get a lot of "points" with your downstairs neighbor if you ask to hear how loud it is, and leave your partner and kid upstairs, with instructions to run.

I'm definitely in the "no running in the house" camp. It's not just for consideration of the neighbors' ears, it's also a safety thing. When you're running and you fall, there's a harder impact than there would be if you fell while walking. Sure, kids are pretty durable, but there are sharp corners of things for them to go flying into when they trip and fall.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 11:11 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

We are feeling like prisoners in our own house, worried about every little noise.

As an apartment-dweller who's lived under kids before, they probably feel much the same way - continued pounding noises can be very disturbing, especially if they have any anxiety issues. I lived in fear of the pounding 24/7 until they were convinced by the landlords to forbid running in the house and put down more rugs. The loud pounding sound spiked my adrenaline like crazy and made me feel like I was under attack and it would take close to an hour for me to calm down after it finally stopped.

I agree with other posters that even once you put down mats, it would be a sign of good faith to ask if you can hear what it sounds like and stand in their apartment while your kid is running around up there - it's probably worse than you think if their reactions are any indication.

Timing is another well-covered issue - if you do continue to permit running, even with pads in, 10 am on weekends is as early as I would let it start up. 7am pounding every weekday would still drive me completely insane and I would probably secretly hate you, but at least I'd know I'd have a prayer of catching up on sleep on the weekend.

One more data point that "have a heart" would have royally pissed me off too, it's hugely insulting to imply they only dislike it because they don't like you or don't have sufficient sympathy for your kid. Their reaction doesn't sound particularly reasonable, either, but since we only have your side of the story I can't say for sure. As long as I'm weighing in, a "no running in the house" rule was standard at our house, and while I'm sure it didn't 100% eliminate running incidents, it wasn't something we ever did regularly, much less for hours at a time. Running is outside behavior.
posted by dialetheia at 11:21 AM on October 4, 2014 [13 favorites]

Okay, to all the people who say there should be a "no running in the house" rule -- please remember, the OP's child is a two-year-old! I had the same problem when my two kids were very young, and if I said to them "Walk, don't run!" once, I said it ten thousand times.

The deal is, for a child that young, running is the default. They are not little adults; they don't just stroll around. And the "running" is not like adult running; it is just head-long forward propulsion that is fairly labeled "running," but is, again, the normal way that little kids locomote!

I do think the OP should, as she has indicated she will, figure out some way to cover the hardwood floors. Having been on both sides of this equation, I know that it is hard for the downstairs neighbors.

But I truly sympathize with the OP. Our downstairs neighbor blamed me for causing her to take up cigarette smoking again, and also threatened to sue us, informing us that her husband was a lawyer. Given that my husband and I are both lawyers, that did not particularly faze me. But having the neighbor waylay me constantly to complain about this issue that I was doing my very best to minimize? That was no fun. I get how stressful this is for the OP.

So to the OP I say -- hang in there!
posted by merejane at 11:39 AM on October 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Well sure, obviously it's impossible for a kid that age to follow any rule all of the time, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be a rule at all. It sounds like the OP is just now trying to implement such a rule -- "we've started doing "no running, only walking" reminders." I bet if you told the neighbors downstairs you were buying padding and making new rules, they would be at least most of the way appeased. That there was no rule at all before and the running used to start before 7am some days makes me really understand where the neighbors are coming from here, though.
posted by dialetheia at 11:57 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

As to the first viewpoint, this is unfortunately our problem, since I haven't been able to sleep or eat since the door slammed in my face. We are feeling like prisoners in our own house, worried about every little noise.

I realise a lot of people are conflict avoidant but do you have an anxiety disorder that is worsening this? Because this seems like a severe response.

Look, once you've laid foam tiles, that's what you can reasonably do. At that point, fuck the neighbors. You have a right to inhabit the space you pay for, after having made reasonable steps to mitigate the noise of one of your household.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:41 PM on October 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Encouraging the OP to move is some of the worst advice I've seen in awhile

Though it's extreme, I think moving probably is the ideal way to solve the problem if it's financially and logistically possible. I say that because I do think rugs on upstairs hardwood apartment floors are a pretty standard expectation, at least in every city where I've lived. Even a cat running across a bare hardwood floor sounds like a tiny horse from below.

If you lived on a bottom floor, or in a newer building with concrete soundproofing between floors, you wouldn't have to worry as much about letting him run around. Honestly, I feel like the majority of people wouldn't want to live below you in the current situation, and yeah, it's unfortunately much louder than you'd imagine when you're upstairs. If your neighbors have normal work schedules they're gone during the day, so it doesn't help that it's quiet then.

Of course, it's horrible that your neighbors are being such jerks about this, and that you're so stressed out. And legally, you're almost certainly doing nothing wrong. But I think anyone living in a shared building should take pains to be considerate. If you do stay, two year olds are capable of learning not to run inside (at least most of the time!). It just may take time.
posted by three_red_balloons at 12:42 PM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

P.S. What's the layout of the apartment like? If he can play in areas that are not directly above their bedroom early in the morning, that will also be incredibly helpful.
posted by three_red_balloons at 12:44 PM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think you should focus very seriously on putting rugs down and preventing running before 9am and after 9pm. If you are able to get a handle on those two things and your neighbors continue to complain and are nasty to you? They are harassing you.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:34 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding three_red_balloons. I've been the downstairs neighbor and even though our upstairs neighbors had a two story apartment, their child began jumping on the floor directly above our bedroom at 7am every day. Can you adjust the part of the apartment that child plays in?
posted by bendy at 1:34 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Though it's extreme, I think moving probably is the ideal way to solve the problem if it's financially and logistically possible.

I would agree if we were talking about the psychological stress that jerky neighbors might cause, and it just isn't worth it. Not because she has a moral obligation to get out of there because the neighbors aren't happy with her efforts, or with relatively normal kid noises. There are solutions to this problem that might lead to a move, but I don't think the obligation falls to the OP.

It is tricky, though. I've been on both ends of these kinds of situations, and it can be frustrating all around.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:43 PM on October 4, 2014

Nthing the advice to put down padding on the hardwood floors, and the no-shoes-inside thing. (I can't imagine how loud the high-heels thing must be; I can hear my downstairs neighbor on the rare occasions when she's running late or something and is dashing around with shoes on. )
posted by sarcasticah at 1:55 PM on October 4, 2014

Okay, to all the people who say there should be a "no running in the house" rule -- please remember, the OP's child is a two-year-old!

This view that children are by nature unruly and unable to adhere to boundaries set by parents is not borne out by science nor is it conducive to good early development. These are precisely the years when the child is learning what the boundaries and expectations are for him/her and how to regulate their emotions and behavior to adhere to them. Hugely important life skill for a human being.

Sure, kids will not always be perfect and do things they aren't supposed to, but throwing your hands up and never setting a boundary in the first place doesn't serve anyone- most importantly the child.
posted by incolorinred at 2:08 PM on October 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

1. You were there first
2. Your kid is a toddler
3. Toddlers run; there's nothing you can do about it; it's not something you can stop or punish. Toddlers gonna run. Anyone who thinks they can be reasoned with about this has never lived with a toddler.
3. Your neighbors moved into a downstairs apartment
4. Being in a downstairs apartment means that you will have noise going on overhead
5. Having noise going on overhead is a shitty way to live if you are sensitive to noise

I just don't see how this is your problem to solve, honestly. I say that as someone who hates noise in general. And you know what? Even when I was poor, I never moved into a downstairs apartment, because see #4, above.

Next time the landlord gives you any shit about it, I'd tell them that housing discrimination based on family member age is illegal, and that you've been a responsible, reliable tenant for ten years and that you don't appreciate the harassment. And tell the neighbor there's nothing you can do and you understand if she needs to move out.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:29 PM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Get more padding, and absolutely NO running around between 9 and 9, especially on weekends. You should also experience the noise first-hand. My upstairs neighbors have a pair of 3-5 year old children, hardwood floors, absolutely no floor coverings (in violation of HoA rules requiring 75% coverage). When the kids run around, the noise is just slightly quieter than someone playing a drum set in the living room. It is VERY LOUD.

Slamming the door in your face may have been rude. Consider that the noise you and your kid are generating is similar to slamming the door in your neighbors face, every day. They are frustrated about unacceptable levels of noise.

And adding a +1 to all the comments above, running is for OUTSIDE. As I was growing up, my house, and the house of every single one of my schoolmates, had strict no running rules. Have too much energy, bouncing around, running around? Take it outside. And this was in strictly single-family homes, no neighbor noise complaints a factor. Having the kid jump on the couch instead is not the solution.
posted by jraenar at 4:03 PM on October 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

since I haven't been able to sleep or eat since the door slammed in my face.

This is not a normal response. I mean, i'm sympathetic to the stress of angry, aggressive neighbors doing things like that(i've lived above a guy who broke his bedroom door in half because he was mad at me, and also did the "bang on the ceiling" thing so aggressively i'm pretty sure he poked a hole in the sheetrock... ugh), but i'm with darlingbri that like... do you have an anxiety disorder or something?

You really need to separate their shitty reaction, and as much as you can your reaction to their shitty reaction, from the actual situation and problem here.

I honestly think it's capable of being more clear cut than a lot of people realize, and that the people who think this isn't your problem haven't lived in buildings where sound carries in a ridiculous way.

And there's a simple solution to this, which is the "go downstairs and listen" advice many people have offered. You can decide for yourself whether this is a legitimate complaint. Hell, you should check it now, install the mats you mentioned getting, and check it again.

There's a difference between "there will be noise from upstairs" which yea, duh, and LOUD noise. I think your responsibility ends at figuring out whether it really is loud noise or whether they're just being awful. Go figure it out.

I've lived in places where people whined where the walls were very thick concrete and so soundproof that you could blast a full sized PA system that would be suitable for a ~50 person concert and it was like, quiet music from a phone speaker volume in the next unit. I've also lived in places where the DVD drive in someones xbox, placed directly on the floor, was an infuriating noise that sounded like a vacuum cleaner. This is the kind of place discussed above where if someone farted upstairs i could clearly hear it. People complained about dumb things in both places, because people are dumb. And it took figuring out what the actual subjective noise was to decide if i should ignore them or not.

There's a wide spectrum between those two, and i think what is a proper response depends on where you fall. If you can barely hear it down there, then they can go fuck themselves. But if it's actually, REALLY loud, well...

I think people are projecting both their experiences, and their really loaded feelings about people being kid haters and whatever on to this. And the reality is a lot of what's ok and is just them whining, and what's a legit complaint depends on how loud it really is down there.
posted by emptythought at 4:40 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

The deal is, for a child that young, running is the default.

It may be for some kids, but it's nowhere near universal. When I first read that the kid was up and running around the apartment at 7:00 in the morning, my first reaction was shock - I was wondering if he was lying awake all night chewing coffee beans.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:37 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

we absolutely got spoiled with previous tenants who moved out a month ago and never complained about the noise.

Since your toddler was not with you for all of the past 10 years, and only walking/running for the past year or so, you might want to stop using previous neighbors as a point of comparison.
posted by invisible ink at 6:40 PM on October 4, 2014 [18 favorites]

It is odd to me that even after all these first hand reports of what it can be like to live under a loud walker in a building with hardwood flooring, you still don't mention feeling any empathy for the people below you; instead, you seem focused on what the complaint has done to you and your psychological well being.

When my quiet, adult neighbors above me have perfectly civilized, small get togethers with other adults, it honestly sounds like elephants are playing soccer with all their heaviest pieces of furniture. These are older adults having a small dinner party; I think if a running toddler lived above me and the family kept the floors bare, I would have a complete nervous breakdown in about three days. It is a quirk of this particular building I am in; the noise is amplified in strange ways, and having it above me triggers a primordial anxiety response that does not abate no matter how many white noise machines I run. If you could put yourself in her position, you would understand, and be better able to process, the unfortunate door-slamming episode.
posted by girl flaneur at 10:18 PM on October 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Mod note: A couple of comments deleted. Reminder: Ask Metafilter is for directly offering help and advice to the OP, not for conversations, debates or arguments among answerers.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:11 PM on October 4, 2014

our car got vandalized in the last couple of days, don't know if this is a coincidence or not.

Coming back in to say, OP, that if you think the neighbors may have a hand in vandalizing your car at all, you need to report the vandalism to the police! In fact, you should report the vandalism no matter what, but definitely tell them your suspicions because they will follow up on that and if your neighbors were responsible, your landlord has a very good reason to kick them out and solve the whole problem for you.

(Of course, if you don't really think they could be involved, that was a pretty nasty aside to just toss in the thread.)
posted by misha at 11:13 PM on October 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Sorry, one additional thing: If your apartment building is anything like mine, the jumping-on-the-sofa redirection, while clearly well intentioned, may actually end up contributing to the problem insofar as it adds a new noise to the cacophony. Any movement of furniture in the apartment above me is very loud in my place, and I'm assuming the sofa is moving a bit with each of your son's jumps. At the very least, I would suggest putting the pads you purchased under the furniture as well.

And, for whatever it's worth, this is not simply a "thin walls" problem in my building; unlike some of the other posters, I very rarely hear my neighbors' voices. Instead, it is percussive noises from the people upstairs (even a dropped paper clip!) that are amplified, and fans and earplugs do little to block this kind of noise.
posted by girl flaneur at 11:45 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

OP, how about trying this? Buy or bake something nice or get a bottle of wine or something, go to the downstairs neighbors, offer it up, and say something like, "I'm so sorry we got off on the wrong foot" and ask if you can step into their apartment and hear what it is like when your son is running upstairs because you are going to put down pads/rugs and you want to compare to find out if this makes a difference. (That way you avoid any awkwardness where it looks like you are checking out the noise yourself to see if their complaints are legit.)

You may find that, as some of us have reported here, the noise is really disruptive, more so than the normal noises we'd expect living in an apartment and more so than you realize--as many of us have reported from personal experience. Or, your place may have decent soundproofing and your neighbors may be picky and crazy and impossible. Once you have this information, you can decide how to proceed.

One caution: while this is happening, based on my own experience, they are probably thinking oh god I don't care I just don't care I don't want to have a conversation I don't want your wine/baked goods/etc I just want you to fix this problem because oh god I'm so tired and so stressed I don't know what to do with myself please please just make it stop. If they are decent people, they will probably be able to conceal this to some extent, but if they seem a little perturbed, don't get too anxious about it.
posted by tiger tiger at 12:52 AM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

So here's the deal, your child is a toddler, and although it probably seems like he can't possibly get any louder than he is right now at this stage of his life, that is not completely true.

Due to a lovely occurrence called a temper tantrum, in just a few years your child will occasionally scream, shout, stomp his feet, and slam doors. This is all part of development and growing up.

That said, it will become unbearable for any neighbors you have below you who may have irregular work hours. It is unwise to ever assume that people work 9-5. Food service, retail, emergency workers, custodial staff, and librarians are only a few of the many fields that can have varied schedules. If people don't get enough sleep, it can really affect job performance.

It's wonderful that you are doing what you can to reduce noise.

At the same time, the best long-term course of action might be moving. You and your downstairs neighbors obviously just don't mix well, and your landlord does not seem like someone you enjoy. Besides, little shusha is going to need room to grow into the wonderful person he is meant to be. In any spare time, start looking for ground floor apartments, condos, or stand alone houses to rent. You won't have to worry about tiptoeing or foam and your son will have the ability to be as noisy as he needs to when he needs to.
posted by donut_princess at 4:25 AM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

swap apartments.
posted by at at 7:59 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

In my experience as a parent who frequently sleeps in the basement time-shifted a few hours from the rest of the family when working late, 7AM is definitely too early and I would work on pushing the time boundaries in somewhat...there isn't anything magical about 7AM per se, but it's just too early to be disturbed from a fitful sleep unless you're literally waking up right at 7AM.

It's the perfect time to be jostled from sleep with a definite need for more sleep but the inability to get back to sleep, because there's just enough light of day, and you need to use the bathroom, maybe get a drink of water, might as well brush teeth, breath is gross....

Maybe that's all too subjective, but thinking in typical "non-parent, 20-30 something terms," most people have an expectation that they won't be bothered by loud noises until around 8-10AM depending on the day of the week and their own schedule.

Two years old is definitely challenging though, and in our case probably involved some Curious George on Netflix snuggling in bed with with the parents at least on the weekend. We didn't so much need to suppress sound as we wanted to sleep in or lounge a little more ourselves without letting them run wild unsupervised.

I would move for something like 8AM-8PM, or 9AM-8PM, ideally shifting it another hour on the weekends to 10AM.

If you plan on staying a long time I think more padding / hypo-allergenic carpet is a good idea. It's much cheaper than relocating or buying a house simply to address this particular issue, but personally just having a difficult landlord would be enough for me to want to move on if I can't establish that they have my back.

At that point, if you're sticking to a schedule in good faith and have made some efforts to curb the sound, you can reasonably point to that if you're called out by the landlord or tenant. It might even help to have one of you go down there and hear how loud it is, and then show them how innocuous the activity is upstairs, just to give it some perspective, but it's probably past that point now, and more in the direction of "look, I understand it bothers you, and we're trying to do XYZ, but that's all we can manage..."
posted by aydeejones at 1:27 AM on October 6, 2014

I left out the fact that I currently live in a duplex and there isn't all that much room for running and we would discourage it if our children were able to build up a sprint and were doing so regularly, but it certainly sounds like a ton of running is going on (2 kids) when I'm in the basement trying to sleep. We discourage indoor running but the perception that "running around" is taking place can be unshakeable when you're underneath the pitter-patter. In my previous house I would sometimes be working in the basement and would get supremely irritated, with the "herd of elephants" thing going on. Inevitably it would be pretty innocuous play, amplified through the floor. Shoes definitely amplify it but kids can also just walk around ponderously stomping their feet without really trying. It's tough!
posted by aydeejones at 1:33 AM on October 6, 2014

I've had to deal with noise complaints in apartments before I had a kid. The neighbours complained that I walked too loudly on the floor and the stairs up to my apartment. But I'm a big guy. Like anyone else I wear shoes in the stairwell when I'm coming home from outside, but it's always socks or bare feet in the apartment. I gotta live my life and I'm not going to cover everything in soundproof foam and walk around on tiptoes just because we live in a shitty building with bad soundproofing. Like you, I put down some of that kids-room foam stuff under the rug in the living room, but that's it. Any complaints about me walking up the stairs to my apartment or from one room to the other from that point on are firmly in the "I don't care" file.

Bottom line IMO is that people are allowed to have toddlers and I don't think "has a kid" is a legal basis for eviction. Kids are going to run around sometimes--and by your description it's not really even that often. I have a 2-year-old and I suspect with the times you've listed it's not that your toddler is literally running laps down the hall for a solid hour. They probably have a couple of giggly fits running from one room to another before getting distracted by something. Big deal.

I strongly disagree about the "moving" advice. If you're living in an apartment now, you're probably going to move to another apartment, which probably means downstairs neighbours there, too. It's a lot of effort to go through to potentially find yourself in the same situation as before. The padding is a nice gesture and if it's possible to put more down as others have suggested that's a nice thing to do. But this is their problem. You like your apartment. They don't like theirs. Let them move.
posted by Hoopo at 3:29 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

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