Is my neighbor being too noisy? Not sure if I am being unreasonable?
November 21, 2018 3:31 PM   Subscribe

My neighbor has outdoor speakers and’s so loud and driving me crazy. Parties every weekend, shouting and yelling. It’s like living next to a frat house at times. Please see extended explanation.....

Single family houses are very close together, about 8 feet. It’s a nice family neighborhood with a mix of younger families and retirees and is overall pretty quiet (we are in Florida). My neighbor and I both have pools and screened patios. I didn’t have any issues up until a few months ago when they installed an outdoor television and surround sound speakers that are in all the corners of the screened patio.

They now host loud parties with several guests pretty much every weekend for 8+ hours a day. Even during the week, there are usually several guests over in the evening. Music on with thudding bass, or sports on the television along with shouting and yelling. All of this is clearly audible from my patio, as well as inside the house if a window is open. Even when there is no tv or music noise, they talk so loud and shout. I can clearly hear every word they say. Unless I want to endure their noise, I am forced to wear noise canceling headphones if I want to sit outside, and can’t open my windows anymore.

I contacted them about it, and they were really rude, and unsympathetic and told me they can be as loud as they want as long as it’s not late at night. I had hoped perhaps they didn’t realize how far the sound was carrying, but that was not the case. I also thought that we could come up with a compromise, say reducing the outdoor parties to once or twice a month instead of every weekend and turning the bass level down, but they shut me down so fast I didn’t even have a chance to bring it up. I’ve contacted the HOA multiple times and they won’t give me an answer regarding what is acceptable as far as noise volume, duration and frequency.

Would you be tolerant of this? I consider myself to be a pretty reasonable person, and this just really does not seem considerate to me. Sure an occasional party, but not all the time and not so loud. Living so close to other people, I would never even consider behaving this way.

I’d move, but I’ve only been in the house for 5 years, so it wouldn’t be a smart financial decision since I haven’t built enough equity yet. I really don’t want to have to consider that but my sanity is being tested. Slim to none chance of them moving.

I don’t know what to do at this point? I am becoming more resentful, angry and TBH, I dread coming home from work now. Sad to prefer my office to my own home.

I have seriously considered purchasing my own speakers and blasting some polka music at them when they are being loud, but I keep telling myself not to be petty and try to find another resolution. And I absolutely don’t want to disturb anyone else.

I would really appreciate any thoughts. Thank you!
posted by FloridaLife4345 to Home & Garden (42 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Their behavior is extremely rude and I would consider it to be absolutely unacceptable. That said, I think you have to avoid the temptation to 'fight fire with fire'. In situations like these, I like to think in terms of concrete outcomes: what is the best possible outcome? What can you do to work toward it? What is the worst case scenario? What you can you do to minimize the pain it would cause you? Is there any overlap in the answers to those questions?
posted by dbx at 3:36 PM on November 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Is there a noise ordinance in your area? Call the police if there is.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:37 PM on November 21, 2018 [14 favorites]

I do not have a solution for you, alas, but you are not being unreasonable. It is possible the noise violates a city ordinance so you might consider investigating city rules about noise and/or nuisance topics since the HOA is being cowardly. You might also consider speaking to other nearby neighbors to see if they are also bothered by this development. The HOA may find it harder to ignore complaints by a group of neighbors. This sounds horrible. Hang in there.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:38 PM on November 21, 2018 [12 favorites]

I have looked into calling police, but they won’t do anything unless they can hear the noise from the road....which is 30-40 feet from the back where the noise is coming from. It’s barely audible from that far away. Completely different experience when on my back patio.
posted by FloridaLife4345 at 3:48 PM on November 21, 2018

Record their conversations using video recording on your phone and post it to YouTube. There is no expectation of privacy if they are being so loud you can clearly hear them in your own home. They might think twice about it if they're saying things they don't necessarily want their extended families, other friends, bosses, co-workers to hear...
posted by Mallenroh at 3:55 PM on November 21, 2018 [19 favorites]

Is there a neighbor on the other side of them? Have you talked to that neighbor?
posted by HotToddy at 4:19 PM on November 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

You aren't being unreasonable. I would call up my city's by-law enforcement office to see if there's a rule against the noise on the books. If so then after a couple of tickets the neighbours may stop.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:22 PM on November 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

The neighbors on the other side of them are both doesn’t bother them at all. The neighbor on the other side of me doesn’t have a pool and doesn’t spend any time outside in her lanai so it doesn’t bother her....although she has mentioned she has heard it.
posted by FloridaLife4345 at 4:24 PM on November 21, 2018

I think this is definitely something to bring to the HOA with all the other neighbors who are irritated, en masse, with detailed records over several weeks. Stuff like this is basically why people form HOAs in the first place.
posted by charmedimsure at 4:25 PM on November 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

"I'm rubber, you're glue; bounces off me and sticks to you." Set up a microphone and play it back to them.
posted by at at 4:25 PM on November 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

told me they can be as loud as they want as long as it’s not late at night

I highly highly doubt this is the case, but if you've gone to the police and they're lazy then I suppose there's not much you can do on that angle. If I was to ask again I would put it in terms they can understand: outdoor Super Bowl parties every weekend. Do you have and/or have you read your HOA rules?

Have you gone to the road to see if you really can't hear anything? Is this the street in front of your houses or is it off the back fence? Are there rear neighbors with whom you can present a united front? If you have rear neighbors that makes 5 possible lots with your kind of proximity to their backyard.

Consider planting some trees at the fence that both absorb some noise and which create pool maintenance obligations on their part. Your HOA appears toothless at the moment, so if you ever wanted to paint your house orange with a purple roof this is probably a good time.

The neighbor on the other side of me doesn’t have a pool and doesn’t spend any time outside in her lanai so it doesn’t bother her....although she has mentioned she has heard it

She is almost certainly 30-40ft away from the sound. The police aren't there to protect the street from sound, so "on the street" should not be as important as "that far away."

In general I would recommend adjusting your posture from a passive, voicemail-leaving, "can you maybe help me?" to "please do your job." Seriously, start calling in noise complaints every weekend, every time. Don't ask them if you can, just do it. Tell them you think drunk people are going to be driving away from the party, possibly with children (don't use kids right away, just if you eventually need an intensifier). If you know what time their parties usually end you can be even more "helpful."
posted by rhizome at 4:29 PM on November 21, 2018 [10 favorites]

The HOA refuses to give me an answer about whether this is acceptable or not, really feels like they don’t want to get involved. I am the only one that is affected by it...others around don’t spend time outdoors, or even open windows...
posted by FloridaLife4345 at 4:30 PM on November 21, 2018

There is no good answer here other than said neighbor moving
posted by patnok at 4:30 PM on November 21, 2018

ugh, this sounds annoying. I live in Florida and know what you're talking about with the zero lot lines.

I recently attended a gathering in a similar neighborhood. About ten people, including myself, were sitting around a backyard fire pit and this feeling of uneasiness came over me because it was 10pm. The neighbor's house was about 12 feet away. I am with you on respecting the peace.

Maybe you can hope for the novelty of the TV screens to wear off. Or, maybe rainy or cold weather in January will result in less outdoor parties. Find out your city noise ordinance. In my Florida town it's a half hour before sunrise and half hour after sunset. You could be setting yourself up for an enemy neighbor situation when you get the cops and HOA involved but if you feel like there's no alternative, keep calling the police, especially when it's past 9pm. That's my good sense cutoff -- 9 or 10pm.

Another idea to consider is to approach them again. Say something like, "I'm sorry if we started off on the wrong foot but I'm wondering if you can hear me out on some things..." and then politely explain your issues in a non-confrontational way.
posted by loveandhappiness at 5:01 PM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would do thus:

1. Find out what the city ordinance is for noise: i.e., if it is after a certain time.

2. Call the police again at that appointed hour, but insist the police come to your house to investigate instead of just going out to the street

3. Keep working on the HOA. They make smartphone apps that let you record the decibel level of a given noise; if you record a high level from your neighbors, and you can prove it, that may be something more to present them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:08 PM on November 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

and the silly answer:

Throw a party for some six-year-olds at which you serve them a loooooooooooooooooot of sugar, and schedule it for the morning after one of your neighbors' shindigs. At a time when you think your neighbors would be juuuuuuuuust starting to wake up with massive hangovers.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:12 PM on November 21, 2018 [9 favorites]

I wouldn’t care if they were having outside parties once in awhile, but I don’t want to deal with it every weekend, even during the day and not every weeknight. They cut it out at 10pm per HOA regs, so that’s why I’m sure I’m not getting anywhere with HOA or police, but still don’t think it’s fair or considerate that I have to listen to this all day and evening long. HOA has nuisance rules for noise....but whats considered a nuisance?
posted by FloridaLife4345 at 5:32 PM on November 21, 2018

This is a terrible HOA. You need to befriend a member of the Board, or join the Board, and have them over when it's at it's worse. Then your neighbors will be fined until they behave or move.

I strongly doubt the noise ordinance speaks to solely noise levels heard from the street. Cops don't respond to alleged nuisances when you phone up the business line. Walk into to the police station and talk to the desk sergeant. Call your city councilman if the police department won't help. One way or another you'll have a cop in your back yard with a noise meter in fairly short order.
posted by MattD at 5:52 PM on November 21, 2018 [10 favorites]

Are there others in the HOA dealing with similar issues, though not necessarily related to your problem neighbors? Perhaps you all can form a coalition, which might move the powers that be to do something.

Good luck with this - it sounds horrible.

Edited to add - seconding above remarks about the board.
posted by she's not there at 5:55 PM on November 21, 2018

To get the HOA to act you need to be the annoying enough to them for it to be easier to act to get you off their back than it is to avoid dealing with the situation. So call them on the hour, every hour. If you have to put up with being on blast, so do they. Same with the police. So far as your neighbours, I imagine after a hard day and night of partying, they're really tired and hungover and looking forward to a lazy morning of sleeping in. You know who never sleeps in? Babies. Find someone with a baby. A loud, pissed off hungry baby. Record junior crying on loop, blast through Marshall speakers at 5am in the morning (or whenever your preferred neighbour sleeping time is). Repeat.

I wouldn't do any of this lightly and I assume first that you've exhausted every other avenue a reasonable person would try including baked goods, polite notes, dropping in and smiling, legal venues, noise meters...all of that. But if that doesn't work, fuck these people. Fight fire with fire.
posted by Jubey at 5:55 PM on November 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

The board president says to call when it’s happening, but then doesn’t answer and by the time he calls back it’s hours later and its over.
posted by FloridaLife4345 at 6:02 PM on November 21, 2018

I'm sorry, but I'm all for the "get speakers and play music at their house starting at 8am" idea. It should be children's music. The worst kind, like Barney or something. Every day for a week. All day. You have to make it clear to them just how annoying it is.

It's clear these people just don't give a shit about anyone else. They're not going to give a shit until you make them suffer.

Figure out what the non-quiet hours are, and be rigorous about turning it on exactly at whatever time in the morning, and turning it off at whatever time at night.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:19 PM on November 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

MattD has the right idea. Cops hate noise complaints because it's a often a PITA to deal with people who make noise complaints, you have to make NOT listening to your noise complaint a bigger PITA for them. (1) Find out the dB limit in your local noise ordinance. (2) Get a dB meter app for your phone and check it. If it's past the limit you are in the right, if the cops won't take action you have to escalate to their manager (sergeant, city councilperson, representative, etc.) Once you make it a bigger pain for them to ignore you they'll get off their asses and ticket your neighbors.
posted by axiom at 6:27 PM on November 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

First, keep a log. Get a dB meter app on your phone and record the decibel level and write the date and how long the noise goes on. EVERY TIME. Write if you can hear it indoors. Write if you have to close windows when you'd rather have them open. Write if it wakes you up from a nap, or if you can't spend time on your patio. Write every obscenity you hear them shouting.

Check your municipal laws and HOA rules, and call EVERY TIME they're in violation. Call and leave messages for the HOA president who's not doing anything. Every time. (Every hour!) Calmly and politely but relentlessly.

Call your city councilperson. Tell them that you haven't been able to get action from your HOA or the police, but that you live in what you thought was a quiet middle-class family-friendly neighborhood, and suddenly it's like living next to a frat house, and you're really concerned about the impact on property values and on families. Nothing gets city council asses in gears like hearing you say you think your property values are falling and that families won't want to live in the area. Don't lie. Don't make shit up about kids being there or whatever. Be calm and factual and Very Concerned About Property Values.

None of this may do anything. But what you really want is that glorious, detailed log of contemporaneous noise events with as much detail as possible -- when, how long, how loud, what it prevented you from being able to do -- so that you can sue your neighbor. You can either sue for monetary compensation for your loss of enjoyment of your property (you can do this in small claims usually) or you can sue in regular court for a restraining order preventing them from making the noise. Or you can start in small claims and if they keep it up, go after a restraining order. This is a legal nuisance that is preventing you from quiet enjoyment of your home, and you can get a court to order them to compensate you or to stop the noise. It's not a slam dunk (nuisance cases never are) but you have options. Including audio recordings (depending on the legality in your area) in your log will also help.

Fair warning, it's very awkward to live next to someone you've called the cops on repeatedly -- my loud-music next door neighbors got a FIFTEEN HUNDRED DOLLAR FINE when I called the cops on them after repeatedly asking them to cut it the fuck out, because their noise was JUST THAT LOUD, and then they killed a bunch of my plants and then we all spent six years pretending the house next door didn't exist. (I would totally do it again, though.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:30 PM on November 21, 2018 [28 favorites]

Depending on where they are, you can sue them in small claims court, under your local ordinance or possibly for breaking the HOA rules. I would try that route before I started trying to outdo them.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:31 PM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Been logging meticulously and have decibel meter, problem is, both our homes have AC equipment and pool equipment running in between our homes so it’s impossible for meter to tell what is actually their tv, music, loud people noise unless you are sitting on my patio. Have tons of video footage and presented to board, but no one on board will address it .
posted by FloridaLife4345 at 7:07 PM on November 21, 2018

Sorry, but I think you're out of luck (IMHO) and nothing reasonable you can do will change things.
posted by aramaic at 8:07 PM on November 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sorry, this sounds very disruptive, unpleasant, and uncivil. All I can say is: no, this is not ok; no, you are not being unreasonable; and yes, these people are acting rudely and obnoxiously.

If I were to run out of polite and civil ways of combating this bullshit that interferes with my quiet enjoyment of my home, I may resort to less mature tactics.

For example, do you know which way the prevailing airflow goes? Do you know how unpleasant it is to party outdoors amongst the smell of a few dozen utterly rotten eggs?

There’s also the possibility of indulging your own interest in outdoor speakers and industrial noise art, the kind that makes the sound of cats being tortured seem pleasant.

Pursue the other good ideas above first, but if you’re looking for no-holds-barred ways to make their loud parties less frequent and less enjoyable, feel free to memail me for more sympathy and brainstorming.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:21 PM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Definitely time to get the cops involved if possible. Though the hoa should also be on top of this. I don't know Florida very well but in Los Angeles there are limits to how loud you can be. The time of day is a factor but if it's as loud as you describe multiple days a week it needs to change. Sounds like you're gonna have a rough time here though because if your neighbors are responding saying screw you we can do what we want you could be in for a long battle. That sucks. Perhaps one visit from the cops might help. But try all avenues. And perhaps eventually they will be out there less.
posted by ljs30 at 8:51 PM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

No, this is not reasonable. I agree with those saying to pester your HOA to help you and to get the police to your house to hear this noise, at the very least. Otherwise nothing will even have a chance of changing.

Along with baby cries, on days when you will not be around much, you might also consider picking an annoying song (annoying to them, not you) and playing it through speakers on a loop. Dozens of repetitions of "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" in a row will drive anyone nuts, and it doesn't have to be all that loud to become truly nerve-grating after a while. Won't bother anyone else from what you've said here.

Seriously, though, while the idea of blasting noise back at them might feel good in the moment, in the long run you must (painful as it is) find a way to come to a compromise with them (via HOA and police, once you've convinced them to get involved, or even via a lawyer if the noise issue is having a demonstrable negative effect on your life/health) or, you will have to consider moving.
posted by Crystal Fox at 9:28 PM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, but I'm all for the "get speakers and play music at their house starting at 8am" idea. It should be children's music.

I have done something like that and it didn't work, and my campaign lasted over a year. Possibly two. They're still there and the problem is still going on (I'm about to escalate).

Some people will hold on to habit/instinct and resist change at all costs, they'll just come to some conclusion like you're nuts and who knows why you play children's music, maybe you're a daycare now. They'll turn their noise up more to mask it.
posted by rhizome at 10:27 PM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

In my state, the Dept of Ecology has established permissible noise levels measured in decibels statewide, with enforcement falling to local jurisdictions. Cities and counties can have their own laws also. If no local ordinances exist, the state laws apply.

It seems as though Florida does not have statewide regulations and that nuisance laws, as opposed to performance laws, have been deemed unconstitutional in Florida. I found this paper discussing the issues in Florida.

The table in the back of the paper has the same values as our Dept of Ecology. For residence to residence noise, the levels are 55 decibels between 7 am and 10 pm and 45 decibels from 10 pm to 7 am.

One of the issues with measurement is that proper training is required to operate the measurement equipment. In my state, enforcement requires that levels are measured by an authorized agency in order to pursue civil action or citiation. Violations are based on a 24 hour period, and penalties depend on the duration and excessive decibel levels in each period.

I am sorry that you are enduring this. I am really sensitive to noise and sigh with relief when our neighbor's newly installed outdoor HVAC unit goes off because it feels like a pressure has been lifted. We also live in a development with minimal distance between houses. I hope this helps.
posted by Altomentis at 10:56 PM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wonder if their fancy new LOUD outdoor speakers are the kind that are wirelessly connected.

If so, what if there was suddenly a nearby source of high-energy RF, in the same frequency range as the speakers operate in. It might cause some interference....

Just sayin’.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:01 PM on November 21, 2018 [11 favorites]

I hate to be the Debbie Downer in the crowd but I think the only way you'll get relief from this is either they grow up and start being considerate of the people around them or you move. There are people out there who just don't give a shit about others, regardless of how carefully you word it or who you appeal to. I'd start looking at options in that area if you're at the point where you'd prefer to stay at the office.
posted by h00py at 3:33 AM on November 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

The salty humid air in florida really has a tendency to corrode metal, so maybe the outdoor equipment won't stay operational for very long. Especially if someone were to say, encourage some salt water into the works with a supersoaker... Also, I understand that beekeeping is a very rewarding hobby.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:34 AM on November 22, 2018 [6 favorites]

Retaliating with your own noise will not, in my view, change these people's behaviour. They do not care about you, and the more likely reaction from them is escalation. I would follow Eyebrows McGee's advice. If you retaliate, you will lose the advantage of being seen as the innocent party. Courts and cops who hear you gave as good as you got will be less likely to sympathize, and will be less likely to believe or care that they started it.

I have no experience of having to deal with this. but here's what I would do in addition to or expanding on Eyebrows McGee:
1. Document their behaviour for a period (one month?) the times of day, contents and decibel level of their noise. To control for the AC and pool equipment, I would do a reading when they are not making noise as a baseline.

2. Write them a letter explaining that you understand they should be able to enjoy their home and yard and you are definitely okay with loud activities and parties, but that you are not able to enjoy your home and yard at all right now and would like to chat about how you can better co-exist. I would then describe the compromise you had envisioned, being clear that you are open to negotiation. I would keep a copy of this letter and any reply you receive.
I would do this for two reasons: (a) it's crazy world and maybe they will actually take you up on it; (b) this will be part of the documentation you can use to demonstrate your reasonable approach to this problem to any authorities you enlist to assist you.

3. Do another round of documentation of their behaviour after I sent the letter, to capture any lack of change or escalation.

4. I might consider, depending on who the neighbours were, putting in security cameras to capture any mischief to your property such as killing plants, etc.
posted by girlpublisher at 5:37 AM on November 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

On the last item, be careful with placement as I've heard of cases where cameras are put up and the neighbour complains that they are pointed at their home and that you are "spying" on them.
posted by girlpublisher at 5:38 AM on November 22, 2018

Your home's value may have gone up more than you suspect, look into it, especially if you are not really connecting with other neighbors and your HOA. It may just be time to move to a quieter place, one where the neighbors are not so close. Start imagining what you might want in a new home. Call a realtor, don't mention the bratty neighbors.
posted by mareli at 5:52 AM on November 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

I hate to suggest this because it will cost you, but have you considered contacting an attorney to remind the HOA of their legal obligation to residents? A stern letter might wake them up.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 8:21 AM on November 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Maybe prop a few of those 8ft x 4ft insulation boards against your fence and see how much that shields the sound (It'd also be nice if that blocks their sun and they think it's an eyesore). Or maybe put up a couple of 9ft x 12ft drop cloths along the property line.

Maybe consult with a noise abatement consultant. Even a 15 minute phone call might give you some new options. This one looks interesting, she's been an expert witness on both plaintiff and defendant's sides.

Maybe start a go fund me, or kickstarter to pay for the consultant. I'll chip in.

Regarding AC equipment and pool gear, can you regard that as baseline and still get a reading of how much their party noise adds to that baseline?
posted by at at 8:29 AM on November 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

As someone who ended up moving out of her lovely home of ten years (and I cried) due to the meth-addled drummer living below me, this is a tough situation.

Two other families ended up moving out of the seven-plex when I did.

It sounds as if you have tried so many things, and I believe the ideas mentioned upthread are certainly worth pursuing.
Echoing the people who are saying some people just don't give a shit. To paraphrase my mom, you can't tell inconsiderate people 'don't be inconsiderate.'

The upside was I found a place with walking distance to work, and after that a co-op with so many rules about noise, smoking, pets, unaccompanied children. I love it.

So, there could be something even better in your future.

Best of luck to you. I really feel your situation
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 9:06 AM on November 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

I would not attempt retaliation; as already stated, you cede the moral high ground and given the response you already got, they seem like they would view the whole thing as a "fun" challenge and just escalate. I would also keep calling the HOA. Every time you document a disturbance (and definitely document EVERY SINGLE disturbance, time/date/duration/details etc.) also call the HOA, and note that down in your documentation. So you will also have a record of trying to reach the HOA but them being unresponsive, in addition to documentation that you called them 6 times on day x or 27 times during the past month, and no one has gotten back to you. This could then be handy if you do wind up having to take your neighbors and/or your HOA to court.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 6:14 PM on November 23, 2018

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