How to handle noise complaint from neighbor?
December 30, 2018 7:28 PM   Subscribe

We moved in about 6 months ago. A house one door away from us (so next door to our next door neighbor) has complained to us twice now about noise in the past few weeks. In itself this isn’t a problem since we would happily be quieter except we can’t figure out what the noise is. Complainant is unhelpful in describing it. How do we resolve this?

She says that the problem has been every night this week and in the past too. She describes it as stomping but can’t hear our appliances (including the dryer which is very loud to us). She can’t hear the TV or the robot vacuum. Just “stomping”. When I asked for more details she just said we had to stop “whatever we’re doing” which hasn’t helped. Our houses are a terrace block of 5 and others have not complained and we haven’t had noise complaints in our previous (apartment) housing, so we’re kind of baffled.

Advice either on engaging with her more constructively (we’d like to help if we can) or figure out what the noise is would both be appreciated.
posted by ElliotH to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
People very often are completely convinced that they know where noise is originating, but are wrong. Also, apartments are filled with these idiots complaining that ordinary noise of living that they can hear from neighbors is people "stomping" on floors. Why does this person even think that the alleged excessive noise originates in your unit? Which is two houses away from them?

You are going to end up telling these people to go to hell sooner or later; may as well do it now. Tell them you aren't making any unusual noise, and to stop bothering you.
posted by thelonius at 7:36 PM on December 30, 2018 [22 favorites]


Could one of you go to her house while the other person stays in your house and walks/stomps around? Perhaps this could demonstrate that the sound is not coming from your house. It seems unlikely that it is. Have you talked to any other neighbors about whether they've had similar complaints from her?
posted by pinochiette at 7:43 PM on December 30, 2018 [9 favorites]


Have you talked to the middle neighbour? If they aren’t hearing anything from you it seems unlikely she is. I also can’t help but wonder if she is perhaps hearing things and talking to the middle neighbour will gauge if they have also had odd comments from her. You can also give her your number to call (even if it is the middle of the night) if she hears “stomping”, hopefully hearing your obviously fast asleep a few times will help her realise you are not the source (but then there is the risk she may continue calling and blaming you, especially if there are mental health issues involved).
posted by saucysault at 7:53 PM on December 30, 2018 [19 favorites]


Could it be a water hammer effect? Back when I was part of a makerspace, we had months of complaints from one of the tenants in the apartments above us about the obnoxious sound of our machinery. We had no idea what was going on until one night the landlord called me, saying the tenant had just lodged another complaint, while I happened to be alone in the workshop, quietly sorting mail, and thus able to verify that there was no equipment of any kind currently in use... Further exploration proved that the sound was coming from rapidly vibrating water pipes in the crawlspace below the apartment.
posted by crotchety old git at 9:20 PM on December 30, 2018 [23 favorites]


I second the water hammer effect. I work in an office where in the winter (when the hot water pipes are in use for heating) there is frequent and terrible banging that sounds like it's coming from the floor above, but which is in fact the pipes. But really, it sounded like someone had taken a sledgehammer to something in the room above, even though the exposed pipes were actually in my office. Unfortunately this is going to be very difficult to prove to her.
posted by ubiquity at 11:41 PM on December 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the noise could originate anywhere. I was home sick one day when there was lots of drilling and hammering and would've sworn on my life that it was coming from upstairs. Except, when I went stomping up there, it clearly wasn't. What sounded like noise from upstairs I eventually discovered was a guy removing bathroom tiles from an apartment three floors below me. He was terribly apologetic as he had no idea it would be so loud on my floor and hadn't given us a heads up. Who would?

Weird they are targeting you and not the place in between or any others. Really it could come from any of the terraces.

Only thing I can think to suggest is that she comes over to your place when you are supposedly making the noise, to hear for themselves that you aren't. At least that might get them off your back.
posted by kitten magic at 2:15 AM on December 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


There's a whole other house between you and her but she's convinced that you're stomping?! She's crazy. I would talk to your actual neighbor and ask if they've heard anything, they may also have advice for dealing with unhelpful neighbor - she might be known to be the kind of person that makes unfounded complaints. Or she's complaining to all her neighbors and blaming the sound on them.

Other than that, I would just ignore her. She's the one being bothered by the noise, its on her to figure out what's causing it. If she's not willing to work with you or be more helpful then there's nothing you can do.
posted by missmagenta at 4:19 AM on December 31, 2018 [14 favorites]


You can’t hear someone walking around from two houses away.

Consider that your neighbor may also be nuts. Approach cautiously.
posted by spitbull at 4:50 AM on December 31, 2018 [9 favorites]


"...she just said we had to stop “whatever we’re doing”

Until she can come up with a reasonable complaint, ignore her. She sounds like the type of person that looks for things to complain about.
posted by james33 at 5:20 AM on December 31, 2018 [8 favorites]


I would try to remain friendly with your neighbour. People sometimes 'tune in' to nuisance noise and the problem takes on a life of its own. That can happen to anybody.

Two things come to mind. The noise; floor mounted subwoofers can easily be heard next door but one in some houses. The blame; you are the new neighbours and someone might be trying to pin it on you.
posted by StephenB at 5:30 AM on December 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Setting aside the idea that she's delusional about the noise - which is a possibility - you can ask her to immediately come visit you the next time she hears it, so you can figure out what you're doing that's causing it. Maybe this can help figure out what she's hearing that's obviously not you "stomping" loud enough for her to hear you.

Odds are: it is nothing you are doing; it is likely something like the water pipes suggestion, or noise that's being carried from elsewhere. As mentioned, there is nothing you can do in normal house living that should be audible two houses away.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:51 AM on December 31, 2018


Neighbor, we've done whatever we can to assist you with this problem. We cannot find any indication that we are causing the noise, so we can't do anything resolve your noise problem. We'd be happy to assist you if we find a reasonable way to do so.
posted by theora55 at 12:10 PM on December 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Just want to agree that this person sounds crazy—like, stomping from two houses away? I could be splitting wood in my house and the people two doors down wouldn't hear it—and you should just tell her that you have no idea what she's talking about but it's definitely not coming from your house and to please stop bothering you about it. If she keeps on hassling you about this then (depending on how safe you feel around the police) I might even say that if she thinks I'm making excessive noise she has the right to call the cops about it, but that otherwise she should kindly stay off my property.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:40 PM on December 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Actually, I would probably take a more empathetic tack up front. I would say something like, "I'm really sorry this noise is bothering you, but I'm sure it's not coming from my house. I can't think of anything particularly noisy that I've done in here these last few days, and even if I had I really don't think I've ever done anything so noisy that it would be a problem two houses over. None of my other neighbors have complained… really, I'm sorry but I just don't see how it could possibly be me. Good luck figuring it out! No, sorry, I have no idea who else it might be. I honestly haven't heard any unusual noises at all, really. Wish I could be more helpful, but I just haven't been hearing it. Good luck!"

That's probably where I'd be at this stage, if I were you.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:44 PM on December 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sound can bounce around. At my old house, people at the bus stop 150 feet away sounded like they were right outside my bedroom window because the sound would bounce of my neighbor's house.
posted by vespabelle at 3:16 PM on December 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


I once lived in an apartment where I was being driven crazy by a very low end, physical vibrating/rumbling noise that I was certain was a fridge with a bad compressor in a unit above us. It turned on every 2-3 minutes for a minute and then shut off again and kept me up sometimes-especially because the sound was just on the edge of hearing. Maddening. After a couple years we moved to the apartment right across the hall and I discovered the noise was was indeed a fridge with a bad compressor- in the convenience store on the corner, in an entirely separate building! The sound of the fridge could be heard out the vents on the back of the store. How that translated into a low vibration that bugged the shit out of me in the other apartment is hard to explain.

So: she may very well be hearing something, it may or may not be related to something you've done since moving in. I think if you want to solve this mystery I would talk to the neighbor in between and find out if they hear anything new since you moved in. What room is this woman in when she hears the noise? If it's at night it's not workmen obviously, so my guess is someone in one of the other terraces has an appliance noise that may be travelling through the structure. Perhaps a new appliance, a newly failing appliance, or something that's been moved recently. Or a door removed, a window open, new hardwood floors... a dozen other things could have changed to cause her to hear new noises. Also keep in mind that if she can't hear your appliances outside your house say, or standing in her living room or whatever, she may well "hear" them in a bed with a rigid frame, or on a wood floor, or pushed up against the wall.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:48 PM on December 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


Thanks everyone you’ve all been very helpful. If she comes and talks to us again I feel much better prepared.

In the meantime I emailed with my landlord who actually checked with my immediate neighbor who confirmed that they don’t hear any noises and this sort of comment from that house is not unusual. So we both feel a lot calmer.
posted by ElliotH at 6:55 AM on January 1 [5 favorites]


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