Why do you think residential noise regulations exist?
Well, have you ever had a neighbor that makes an obnoxious amount of noise?
At all hours of the day, it seems like they have loud music playing or their dog is barking.
Occasional noise is one thing, but it seems like the noise never stops, and it’s starting to interfere with your life.
Or better yet, maybe you’re the noisy neighbor.
You love a good racket, but your neighbors have threatened to call the cops on you more than once for interfering with their quality of life.
Residential noise regulations do exist and understanding that noise is a health hazard that causes stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances is important.
In this blog, we’re going to talk you through everything you need to know about residential noise regulations.
1. What are residential noise regulations?
These regulations are rules that limit the allowable sound level(s) at different times of the day for different zoned areas (residential, commercial, industrial, etc).
Normally, noise levels will be higher during daytime hours, and reduced during nighttime hours.
Residential noise regulations aren’t the same for every single neighborhood.
If you relocate, it’s worth looking up what’s permitted in your area.
Some regulations are very specific while others are open to interpretation.
Regardless, what used to fly in your old community may not be permissible in your current community.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that small or rural communities may not have noise codes in place.
They’re much more common in densely populated areas like big cities.
This is because noise regulation is an important part of community health, which is why it’s monitored by law enforcement.
2. What is the Noise Control Act of 1972?
The Noise Control Act of 1972 is a national policy to promote an environment for all Americans to live free from noise that jeopardizes their health and welfare.
The primary responsibility for noise control resists with state and local governments.
However, the federal government can deal with major noise sources when it comes to commerce and transportation.
Here is what the act focuses on…
It establishes a means of coordination of federal research and activities in noise control
It authorizes the establishment of federal noise emission standards for products distributed in commerce
It provides information to the public respecting the noise emission and noise reduction characteristics of such products
3. Are noisy neighbors breaking the law?
There’s no straight answer to this question because it depends on your municipality’s noise rules.
However, there are residential noise regulations in almost every community to prohibit excessive, unnecessary, and unreasonable noise.
The police can and will enforce these laws.
To find out the rules and regulations in your area, you should look up the local ordinances.
You can typically find these in one of a few places: online, at your public library, or at the city law library near the courthouse.
If you’re stumped, reach out to the office of the city attorney, mayor, or city manager.
4. What do residential noise regulations look like?
Residential noise regulations will often be advertised as “quiet hours.”
For instance, your community may state that quiet hours are effective from 10 PM to 7 AM on weekdays and 10 PM to 8 or 9 AM on weekends.
During quiet hours, you wouldn’t be permitted to engage in any universally disturbing noises such as running a powered lawn mower.
It may not be an issue at noon on a Sunday, but no one wants to wake up to you disturbing the peace at 7 AM on Sunday.
Some other commonly regulated noises include:
Playing music for parties late at night on weekends
Honking for early morning carpool
To reduce conflict, it’s always a good idea to have good communication with your neighbors if you plan to have an event with sustained noise.
You may also need a city permit for a large and loud event.
If your town prohibits sustained noise at a certain decibel level, this is also something to be aware of.
Should you have a neighbor file a complaint, the police will bring decibel-level monitoring equipment to assess the situation.
This reading could work against you when it comes time to issue a citation.
5. How should you approach your neighbor about a noise problem?
Most people have had a noisy neighbor at one point or another.
There are typically two approaches that come with an annoying neighbor who makes noise at all hours of the day and night.
The first is a non-confrontational approach — although you may be annoyed, you choose not to say anything and just deal with it.
The second is anger that escalates into you reaching out to the cops for enforcement of residential noise regulations.
Here are some ways you can approach your neighbor about a noise issue while still being cordial.
Approach the neighbor
Raise the issue with your neighbor calmly and respectfully.
This can be difficult for people who are upset about the noise as well as those who don’t like confrontation.
However, it should be the first step because most of the time the neighbor isn’t aware of the issue.
For instance, perhaps you’re exhausted hearing their dog who only barks when they aren’t home.
Make sure they know there’s an issue and give them the chance to correct it.
No need to start an all-out war!
Warn the neighbor
Neighbors don’t always respond as we’d like them to.
If the initial request didn’t do what you’d hoped, email them a copy of your local noise ordinance to back up your request.
With the copy, send a request to please keep the noise down.
Let them know that you’ll be forced to notify law enforcement if you don’t get the results.
You should also include the dates, times, and description of the noise, so they know exactly the problem you are identifying.
In some cases, this may be a valued neighbor relationship.
You don’t want to start a battle over noise…you just want peace and quiet!
If you want peace, sit down with an impartial mediator and see if you can resolve your problems without having to bring law enforcement into the fold.
Local meditation centers are a great resource, and they’re often free!
Call the police
If you haven’t seen any change or you’ve received no response, then you’ll need to bring in the police to back you up.
It’s best if you call the police department when the noise itself is occurring so they can measure the decibel level or hear it for themselves.
Additionally, note that some cities won’t act until they’ve received noise complaints from two or more people.
This is to prevent a “he said, she said” situation where excessively sensitive people are calling on their neighbors who aren’t breaking the law.
Sue for nuisance
You could also consider suing in small claims court.
This should be your last resort, but it’s an easy and inexpensive route.
You don’t need a lawyer to do so.
6. Can you sue a noisy neighbor under residential noise regulations?
Yes, you can sue a noisy neighbor in a small claims court and ask the court for monetary damages.
However, if you want the neighbor to “abate the nuisance” or stop the noise, then you’ll need to sue them in regular court.
Before you sue, make sure you’ll win.
Here’s what you need to show.
There’s excessive and disturbing noise
The person you’re suing (your neighbor) is either creating the noise or is the landlord and is therefore responsible
Your enjoyment of your home is impacted
You’ve asked the person to stop the noise
You’ll need to bring evidence of the noise and efforts to stop the noise to court.
Make sure you keep notes and/or emails to your neighbors, police reports, written complaints, witness testimony, your testimony, or recordings of the noise on hand.
7. How much money can you sue for?
Small claims courts limit judgments to between $2,500 and $10,000 depending on the state.
We recommend requesting $20.
However, if it’s a severe noise problem that’s been keeping you from sleeping or working, you could ask for up to $100 a day.
8. Can landlords keep a noisy tenant quiet?
If you have a landlord, it is their responsibility to help keep tenants quiet.
Most standard rental and lease agreements will have a “Quiet Enjoyment” clause that provides tenants the right to occupy their rental in peace.
This clause also imposes upon them the responsibility not to disturb their neighbors.
Because a tenant is likely violating the rental agreement if they’re violating residential noise regulations, they could be evicted.
A landlord should be enforcing both sides of this contract.
9. What can residential noise regulations do about your neighbor’s barking dog?
Barking dogs can drive everyone in a neighborhood or complex crazy.
Most of the time, problems with a barking dog can be resolved without the police or courts.
Try the following steps.
Ask your neighbor to keep their dog quiet
Often, dogs bark when they’re left alone, so your neighbor may be out of the house and unaware of the issue.
Once they’re aware, talk to them about the steps they plan to take.
For example, perhaps they could enroll their dog in an obedience school or consult with a behavior specialist.
Try mediation with a specialist who is trained to listen to both sides and suggest compromises
Understand the law in your specific state or local ordinance
In some areas, someone who allows a dog to bark after numerous warnings from police may be arrested for disturbing the peace.
If nothing else, this can often galvanize owners into action.
Reach out to animal control authorities to enforce local noise laws or call the police if you think a criminal law is being violated
The police won’t normally help with just general barking dog problems.
10. What if your neighbor is making excessive noise (such as playing the drums) all day and night? What can you do?
This is what residential noise regulations aim to prevent.
You should focus on both of the following if you have a noisy neighbor who is annoying you.
As noted above, residential noise regulations will have specific quiet times that law enforcement will enforce.
While your neighbor may be allowed to play their drums from 8 AM to 10 PM on a Monday, after 10 PM, they must stop.
If your neighbor is playing at all hours of the night, you should politely request that they stop and let them know about the quiet hours in place.
If it continues, you can begin gathering your evidence for additional action.
Decibel noise limits
Another important factor in most residential noise regulations is decibel noise limits.
To see how loud your neighbor is, you’ll need to get a decibel level machine (normally around $50 or less).
The police are also able to take noise measurements, but you’ll have to call them specifically when the noise is taking place.
If the noise is both below limits and only occurs within noise-permitted hours, then you’re probably out of luck.
The noise may be annoying, but it’s allowed.
If it’s outside of permitted hours and above the limit, then you have some leverage.
Again, we recommend talking to them first and letting them know what the issue is.
If the issue persists after you’ve discussed it with them, then you can reach out to police or law enforcement for additional assistance.
11. What should you do about noisy fellow tenants in your apartment building?
When you live in an apartment, you should go in knowing that you’ll likely deal with some noise.
Tenants will be coming and going.
Some will be doing home repairs or moving furniture.
Others will love playing music or instruments.
Some will have loud conversations or even walk loudly across hardwood floors.
That said, noise is a health hazard, and if there are loud parties, stereos, dogs, or other types of excessive noise, then you’ll want to find a way to remedy that.
Here’s what you can do to restore peace and quiet to your home.
Make a polite request to the problem neighbors
Document the problem
Send a second written request
Contact your landlord
Research your city’s noise ordinance
Contact the police
Residential noise regulations are an important factor to be aware of whether you’re a tenant, homeowner, or landlord.
If you’re living in a city or town, you want to know how they enforce noise regulations because it’s such an important part of human health.
When you relocate to a new place, check out how noise ordinances are handled in the community.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants, or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.