Recording noisy neighbour for complaints
January 31, 2017 4:17 PM   Subscribe

My apartment is big and cheap and I've been here forever. However, my next door neighbour has started screaming at the top of her lungs at various points of the day and night. My landlady and I have talked about this and she's been understanding, reassuring me that the neighbour will not be renewing her lease (ends May 31) and my rent won't go up this year. The written report of the neighbour's most recent outbursts have prompted her to ask me to try to record things. How best to do this?

I've recorded snippets on my phone, but I'm not going to sit there for up to 45 minutes while she screams every few minutes for several seconds at a time, particularly in the middle of the night when I just want to put my pillow over my head and try get back to sleep.

Since some of the screaming is violent-sounding (directed to her upstairs neighbour), I have not approached her personally and will not do so, which is why I've gone to the landlady.

What I would like are suggestions as to how to record these outbursts without my actively doing so. Is there an app that will start recording after noise hits a certain level? If so, which? If there are many, which works really well? I have a spare iPhone 5S (16GB) that I can dedicate to this. Regrettably, I do not have a laptop I can use for this and my desktop is too far away from the source of the noise (the shared wall).

If there's no good app, what's a decent hand-held recorder that's activated by noise? Any recommendations? Or is there another way to deal with this entirely? (I am not moving and I'm reluctant to get the rental board involved as my landlady will be doing that once more evidence has been collected.)

Oh, and bonus difficulty level -- my neighbours upstairs have two children who love to run around. I don't mind recording this noise to prove to my landlady that they are holy terrors, but I would love to be able to set a schedule for when the app or recorder will be listening for noise to record.

(I'm in Quebec, so I only have access to the Canadian app store, just FYI.)
posted by juliebug to Technology (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
ManyThing. Download from the App Store on your 5s. Easy Peasy lemon squeezey. And fairly inexpensive. Pay for a months worth of the 7 day unlimited data storage plan. Make clips and send them to your landlord. You can change the threshold for recording both sound and movement. The app tells you the "score" of sound or movement that triggered the clip recording - accuracy on this is so so. You'll have to watch a lot of clips to find the good ones. Otherwise, the app is very functional. And inexpensive, also quality of sound and picture are pretty good. This will work for you.
posted by jbenben at 4:31 PM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm confused why that other comment was removed, I forgot to add in my comment that this is likely the responsibility of your landlord + you should check the legality of filming without consent in your jurisdiction (Hint: this is really your landlord's job if they are planning to use this recording at all or share it with the neighbor making the noise.)
posted by jbenben at 5:38 PM on January 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

I agree with jbenben... explore the legality before you do this for the landlord.
posted by HuronBob at 5:43 PM on January 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think my previous comment was removed because I didn't answer the question; I just asked why the OP's landlord was putting this job on the OP. I should've explained further that recording someone in my state without both people's consent is completely illegal and I didn't want to see you get into legal trouble. Sorry, OP. I didn't mean for my question to come off as snippy.

The landlord, however, could possibly install some type of security cameras or other device in the hallway and get her recordings that way.

But frankly, even if I did live in a single party consent state, based on what you've said about the neighbor (she might be somewhat unhinged), I still wouldn't do it. I've had the misfortune of dealing with people that sound like her in the past and I give them a wide berth now whenever possible because I don't want them to direct their ire on me. Sorry you're having to deal with this, but if you're determined to go through with it, the ManyThing app that jbenben recommened looks like it'll do the job.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 6:14 PM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

No way in heck. This should not be your deal. Let the landlord set up a stealth scream recording device.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:53 PM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

So, the yelling is loud enough that I can hear what the woman is saying. Like, every word. There is absolutely no reasonable exception of privacy here. What I can hear through the walls of my apartment without trying to overhear cannot possibly be considered a private communication. She's screaming at the upstairs neighbours, above her apartment and my own, but if they can hear her, they're ignoring her. (I'm of the mind they can't hear her at all.)

The problem here is one of placement. I'm fairly certain that only I can hear her -- and possibly the neighbour on the other side of the problematic neighbour. From the publicly-accessible hallway, there's not a lot of noise. (Some, but it's MUCH louder from my bedroom, which is where our walls are shared, and this is the noise that's disturbing me.)

My understanding is that if I'm the one who's complaining, I'm the one who's hearing the screaming and thus I'm the one who's going to have some kind of recording device in her apartment to gather any evidence of these incidents, whether it belongs to me or to the landlady. I'd rather have full control over what recordings the landlady is getting than have her swing by every week and pick up a recording device that has potentially gotten any of my own random noises. (Singing in the shower, swearing after stubbing a toe, phone calls, etc.)

However, I will bear in mind the potential legal problem and will bring that up to my landlady -- and I appreciate your mentioning it. Since I can hear the screaming clear as day, it didn't occur to me that recording these outbursts is potentially illegal.

I'll try out ManyThing -- thanks so much for the suggestion. Happy to entertain other ideas as well! :)
posted by juliebug at 7:31 PM on January 31, 2017

There's an app called SnoreLab, it may be free for first few days. It records very easily and provides a graph of the noise level.
posted by jennstra at 7:53 PM on January 31, 2017

On Android I use a random "Simple Voice Recorder" for this, and for sound-activated recording I picked up a likewise "Simple IP Camera" that has a sound activation feature and installed it on an old phone I had laying around.

Poke around in the app store, likely most of the free ones only have little ads on them so find one with as few bells and whistles as possible. Mine just has record, pause, and save.

As for legality, in my travels down this path I haven't been able to find anything that speaks to recording just the ambient sound in your own home -- and I've looked -- and furthermore I think the case can be made that someone screaming in an thin-walled apartment like that has to know that they can be heard, reasonably giving up their expectation of privacy. IANAL, consult your local listings.
posted by rhizome at 9:09 PM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't have any app suggestions, but since you've mentioned interest in the legality aspect, you might want to read this page. Most of it is relevant Canada-wide, and there's a bit at the end that's Quebec-specific.
posted by MangoNews at 5:56 AM on February 1, 2017

If you are recording from your own bedroom inside your own dwelling and not through a window this is likely very legal. Also, it makes more sense. Your original ask seemed like your landlord wanted you to capture this person raving out their windows or something. If the problem is the lack of soundproofing through walls and you are filming the wall, this is likely perfectly fine.
posted by jbenben at 6:35 AM on February 1, 2017

Wait, is she screaming AT the upstairs neighbor with the kids? Is it because of the kids' noise? Or is she screaming at HER upstairs neighbor? I'm confused. If she's reacting to noise, it's one thing (rude, but understandable that it's triggering her). If it's random outbursts, it could be a mental issue, or personality disorder. Either way, it's your landlord's problem to record proof, not yours.
posted by jhope71 at 8:04 AM on February 1, 2017

Quick updates/clarifications:

- I've tried out ManyThing and it seems to be working well. No recorded outbursts yet, but I haven't had it going 24/7 due to a lack of an extension cord. I'm sure I'll need to tweak the sensitivity settings, but I think this ought to work. Otherwise, I'll try SnoreLab.

- I am recording from my hallway next to my bedroom, which has a shared wall with my neighbour. The windows are not open; this is literally noise coming into my apartment from my neighbour's apartment directly through the walls.

- The neighbour is screaming at both my upstairs neighbour (kids who are holy terrors running around) AND at her own upstairs neighbour, who, as far as I can tell, wears clogs or some other heavy shoe type. (My neighbour was screaming about clogs the other day.)

- I've got a lawyer friend, who is a member of the bar in Quebec, who's looking into the legality of it all.

- While I agree it's the landlady's reponsibility, there's maybe three places a recording device can be placed in order to obtain proof: my apartment, my neighbour's apartment, the apartment of the person living on the other side of my neighbour. Certainly my neighbour won't agree to a recording device in her residence. The other neighbour might not even hear the screaming, since it's on the other side of the apartment (next to mine). And I'd much rather have my own recording device in my apartment than one belonging to the building's management. So we'll see if there's a legal issue. If there is, I'll certainly let my landlady deal with it. If not, I'll probably assume this responsibility for now in order to expedite the issue.

I'll post an update on this thread once I've ascertained whether or not ManyThing or SnoreLab work well and I'll update regarding the legality of the recording as well.

Thanks for the suggestions and advice!
posted by juliebug at 12:55 AM on February 4, 2017

So, final updates:

- Manything is outstanding. On its most sensitive setting, it picks up almost every outburst from my neighbour. (Granted, it also picks up a lot of my own noise, but I can just delete those clips.) I've been downloading the clips from the cloud, putting them together in a movie editor and uploading these for my landlady to view on YouTube as unlisted videos. This seems to have really kicked her into gear now that she can really hear the outburts and see the timestamps I've added.

- In terms of legality, my lawyer friend says that because it's clearly audible within my own apartment, there should be no legal issue in recording these outbursts. (She reminds me that she is not my lawyer and this is not legal advice and I would pass that on to anyone reading this.)

- Having said that, I won't be making these recordings forever and I've let my landlady know this.

- In the meantime, my landlady has contacted a lawyer herself to help deal with the issue and is following their recommendations. She's keeping me updated and there are some options we can look at for me, too. (moving me to another unit, etc)

Thanks to all for the recommendations and for bringing up the question of legality. I appreciate it all!
posted by juliebug at 8:13 AM on February 24, 2017

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