Noise and the Property Manager

No. This isn't about noisy property managers, though I'm sure there may be some such inconsiderate individuals. This article is about how property managers can deal with complaints from tenants regarding noise.

The Problem

Let's face it, finding peace and quiet is not easily obtained in the 21st century. Many people are simply rude, believing they can play their music however loudly they like whether it offends others or not. Others simply believe that their music is so wonderful everyone else must think so too. Still others just don't think through what they are doing. They permit their pets to bark endlessly. They throw loud parties that last until the wee hours of the morning. They use loud equipment too early in the morning or late at night or operate vehicles with loud exhausts.

What is often forgotten is that their neighbors may work nights and sleep days, have babies at home that need to take naps, are adults who work from home, are students attempting to study, or are people who are simply bothered by unnecessarily loud and/or frequent noise. The noise issue becomes an even more acute issue in HOA's and apartment/condominiums.

A Few Facts

Sound is measured in decibels. For every increase of ten decibels the level of noise appears to double. Most people are bothered by sounds levels at 65 decibels. When noise is sustained at 90 decibels hearing loss may occur. Normal conversation at 3 feet is about 60 decibels. Truck traffic at 500 feet is usually around 90 decibels. A home lawn mower at 16 feet may produce a noise level at 100 decibels.

The Solution

There are solutions - solutions that are increasingly being leveraged by frustrated residents. Be sure to check the ordinances against noise in your city. Also, if you live in an HOA, be sure to check their rules as well.

  • Time Out - in our particular city the law for residential zones states, 'no person shall cause, suffer, allow or permit sound from any source which is plainly audible beyond the property line of the property creating the noise between the hours of 10 pm and 7 am.' On Friday and Saturday evening 'time out' begins at 11 pm.
  • Defining Unlawful Noise - certain types of noise are unlawful any time of day. Again, from our city by way of example, the law defines unlawful noise as 'any unreasonably loud, unusual, or unnecessary noise which disturbs the peace and quiet of any neighborhood, or which cause discomfort or annoyance to any reasonable person of normal sensitivity residing in the area, or which otherwise injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace, safety, or welfare of others.'
  • First, Be Neighborly - If possible, and safe, the preferred first step is to contact your disruptive neighbor. Often the offender is not even aware of the issue. S/he may be hard of hearing and have their music/TV up loud enough for him/her to hear, not realizing that it is also up so loud that you can also hear it. It would be well for all of us to step out of our homes to see if the volume we play music at and/or listen to TV can be heard outside.
  • Second, Call the Police - Some folks are too afraid or unable to contact their neighbors about a noise issue. It would then be appropriate to contact the police, using their non-emergency number, and ask them to make the contact. If the noise issue persists, contact the police again. Violation of the city noise ordinance is a misdemeanor in our city.
  • Third, Contact the Property Manager - If you live in an HOA and the noise continues despite police warnings, it would be appropriate to contact your property manager and/or HOA board. They can, equipped with police reports, levy a fine on the owner of the property. Unfortunately, if the police have been unwilling to act, the HOA board will have less ability to take action. The only option left will be the voting box at the next election.