Noise reduction help.
August 14, 2006 3:53 AM   Subscribe

I need advice on dealing with the noise produced by our neighbor's autistic sons.

This weekend, my wife and I moved into our first house together. It's a London "terrace home" which means that we share common walls with neighbors on both sides. On the west side lives a mother with two autistic adolescent boys, one of whom is prone to constantly making loud "hooting" noises, punctuated by screams. The other one cackles and grunts loudly. Yesterday, the noise started at 6 am, and went until about 8 pm.

So I have two questions. First, under UK housing law, were the vendors or the agents required to inform us of the situation as part of the Replies To Inquiry? Second, now that we're here, how can we best reduce the noise without spending a fortune?

P.S. I realise that my wife and I are the parties least affected by this tragic situation. I in no way wish to add to the burden of the family next door. But the situation is what it is, and I need guidance on how to deal with it.
posted by Optamystic to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't have any legal solutions, but assuming you own the property, perhaps you could soundproof the common wall. The best way might be to build a second wall with insulation or soundboard within . This would not be particularly difficult to do, and you probably could do it yourself with a few tools and some sweat equity. Other options might be to use accessories to dampen the sound, like bookcases, tapestries, or even a carpet.
posted by lobstah at 5:33 AM on August 14, 2006

I gather the best thing for soundproofing is mass. Full bookcases along the common wall may be a starting point which doesn't require huge capital outlay.
posted by pompomtom at 5:48 AM on August 14, 2006

What is the common wall made of?

I just found DIY Sound Insulation and Sound Proofing for a Quieter Home, which seems like a good start.

Finally, sound can leak around barriers and down channels (like ducts, or halls) in very unexpected ways, so experiments and attention to detail will be important.
posted by Chuckles at 6:26 AM on August 14, 2006

Best answer: As the parent of an autistic son, you have my deepest sypmathies. We live in a house now, but up until the beginning of this year we were in apartments and I was constantly feeling bad for my neighbors when my son was making noise. My son makes the same kind of hoots and screams you are hearing, plus he has a penchant for slamming doors when he is upset. Sometimes this happens in the middle of the night when he refuses to sleep. And as exhausted and frustrated as I may get when it happens, I always felt hyper-conscious and apologetic towards my nieghbors.

I don't know what the family is like who is next to you, and I don't know what kind of relationship you have with them. You might try approaching them in friendship, not to bring up the noise issue (trust me, they are keenly aware of it) but to simply be on good terms with them. While you are putting in whatever soundproofing solution you arrive at, they may be willing to do something similar on their side.

As odd as it sounds, just knowing I was on friendly terms with my neighbors made it easier for me to deal with the outbursts, since it was one less thing I had to stress over.
posted by Lokheed at 6:36 AM on August 14, 2006 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Lokheed writes "I don't know what the family is like who is next to you, and I don't know what kind of relationship you have with them."

We just moved in on Saturday, so we don't have any relationship with them. The boys' mother came over yesterday to tell us that her cordless phone doesn't work properly since we moved in (wtf?). That was when she told us about the boys (we had figured it out ourselves by then). I guess in the future I will just try to be cool to her - let her know that we don't harbor any animosity toward her or her kids.

I like pompomtom's bookshelf idea. I think we will need to combine plenty o' books with nonstop music in every room in the house. There are worse ways to live one's life.
posted by Optamystic at 7:30 AM on August 14, 2006

Your soundproofing efforts will work twice as well if you can convince the neighbours to do the same on the other side of the wall. :-) If you really are willing to pay for it all, consider it...
posted by shepd at 7:59 AM on August 14, 2006

I know this doesn't answer your original question, but if you have a wireless router, it could be affecting their wireless phone. This is very, very common.
posted by j at 8:15 AM on August 14, 2006

I know this doesn't answer your original question, but if you have a wireless router, it could be affecting their wireless phone. This is very, very common.

Indeed. 2.4Ghz routers and 2.4ghz phones don't mix well. Typically it effects older models moreso than newer (both in phone and router). One of you might consider upgrading.
posted by jimmy0x52 at 10:30 AM on August 14, 2006

In my very white trash middle school our band room used egg cartons for sound proofing.
posted by nadawi at 11:03 AM on August 14, 2006

The legal position is that the vendor is obliged to tell you about any disputes with the neighbours. Asking about noise isn't a standard pre-contract enquiry, but if a specific enquiry is raised, then the vendor must answer it honestly. So if there had been, for example, complaints to the council about the noise from next door, the vendor is obliged to tell you about it.

I would go back to your solicitor to check what enquiries were made, whether they were just the standard pre-contract enquiries or if any additional ones were made, including any questions about noise from neighbouring properties.

If a question was asked and the vendor said there'd been no noise issues, you would have a cause of action against the vendor for damages, the measure of damages being the difference in value of the property with no noise problem and the value of it with the noise problem.

Was the house noticeably cheaper than other comparable properties in a similar state of repair in the same area? If so, the noise problem might have been reflected in the sale price.

posted by essexjan at 11:23 AM on August 14, 2006

I'd definitely ask a lawyer about suing for recision.
posted by JamesMessick at 1:02 PM on August 14, 2006

What Lokheed said. I grew up in terraced houses and knowing your neighbours makes their noises more bearable. I spent years been woken up at 6am by Mrs Hodgeson next door shouting 'Get your lazy arse out of bed' at her 45 yr-old still single, still living at home, terrier breeding, dubious income earning son. But I didn't mind because Mrs Hodgeson was lovely (and still sends me and my sister a fiver at Christmas to spend 'on something nice').

Compare that to now, in cold, impersonal London, where I barely see my neighbours, who I assume are young professionals like myself, and who seem to alternate their time at home between having loud sex and playing the guitar badly.

The situation isn't helped because I'm pretty certain that thier bed is on the opposite side of the same wall that my bed's next too. I don't hear a peep from the neigbours on the otherside. Plan your room layouts so that you don't end up sitting/sleeping/etc near the shared wall if you can.

Oh, and have you considered that it's the summer holidays at the moment, so the boys might usually be in school/college/day care, at least in the daytime? And since you've only had one weekend with them so far, it might be that they were having a 'bad' weekend. Which might not be helped because they aren't at school etc and they are out of their usual routine. Getting to know them and their mother will help you to understand them and their routines and habits and that will hopefully make it easier to live with.
posted by Helga-woo at 4:44 PM on August 14, 2006

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