How to Handle Noise Complaints
Your apartment is your cocoon from the outside world, but what happens when the things around you start creeping in past your walls? We’re talking about all those noisy moments that disturb your peaceful evenings and weekends. The loudness that keeps you from sleeping. The random noises that intrude on conversations and make you turn the TV volume up.
Hopefully you were able to scope out the area before signing a lease and knew what the noise levels would be on a regular basis. But you never know what your neighbors will be like, and with all the rapid growth after you move in a construction crew could end up setting up shop next door.
So, what can you do when you have noise complaints? Plenty.
Know the Noise Ordinance
The City of Austin Codes and Ordinance, for example, includes a section on noise issues. Chapter 9-2 lays it all out from definitions to general restrictions to permits. The basics are:
- From 10:30pm to 7am you can’t make noise or play an instrument/music that is so loud it’s audible to the adjacent residence or business.
- From 7pm to 6am gravel/rock machines can’t be operated within 600 feet of a residence, hotel, motel, hospital or church.
- From 7pm to 6am food cold storage and refrigeration trucks and equipment can’t be operated if they cause noise or vibration at a residence.
- Sound equipment in vehicles and watercraft can’t cause vibration from 30 feet or 100 feet respectively at any time.
- Sound equipment at businesses can’t exceed 85 decibels from 10am to 2am, and they can’t have any audible noise emitting from the business from 2am to 10am.
- In residential areas sound can’t exceed 75 decibels and you can’t use sound equipment that makes noise beyond your property line from 10pm to 10am.
If someone breaks these rules it’s a Class C Misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500. However, there are ways to break the sound barrier. For instance, a person can get written consent from all those that would be affected by the noise. There are also a number of permits that can be obtained by businesses that allow the rules to be bent.
Where the Noise Comes From Affects How You Should Handle It
Not all noises are created the same. How they are being made and who is making them has a huge bearing on how you should handle it.
Neighbors – In apartment settings this is often the source of noise, especially when you’re on a middle floor. If it’s a one-time or sporadic thing, then chalk that up to life and understand that you probably also have loud moments. However, if it’s repeatedly a problem something’s got to give.
First have a frank, cordial conversation with your neighbor to voice your concerns over the noise and how it’s affecting your living situation. Being polite will get you much further than being rude when it comes to noisiness. Offer up a solution rather than just telling them to stop making noise, and let them know your sleeping schedule so they can be mindful of when to keep it quiet. If they don’t tone it down it’s time to go to the management. In an apartment setting this is more appropriate than getting the cops involved. The management can handle taking more drastic measures if that is needed.
Business/Workers – If it seems like some of the ordinances are being broken by a business find a manager to approach and discuss the matter. Usually businesses want to keep good relationships with nearby residents so simply letting them know they are disturbing you could be enough to rectify the situation. If the manager says they have a permit ask to see it.
If the problem persists you’ll probably need to bring the apartment’s management team on board to help. On a high note, at least construction is short-term.
Outside Individuals - Depending on where you live the noise might not be coming from neighbors, construction workers or a business. If you live in dense urban areas like downtown there’s going to be outside noise from the general public and that’s just something that comes with the territory. Unless they are out in the parking lot or street thumping outrageous bass or squabbling there’s no need to call the cops.
In apartments where there is a lot of outside noise use these tricks to keep things quieter inside:
- Use a fan to drown out the noise.
- Purchase a sound machine to create ambient sound that masks the noise.
- Be mindful of where you place your furniture. Keep your bed on the wall that’s furthest away from the street and/or the next door neighbors.
- Make sure your windows are well sealed.
- A pair of noise cancelling headphones can be used anywhere – even in your apartment.
Remember, that in an apartment you have the management on your side. It’s best not to try to take matters into your own hands by being rude or making threats. Keep a good relationship with all your neighbors and let management be the noise enforcer.