How to Deal with Noisy Neighbors

By Matilda Davies

What on God’s green earth are they doing up there anyway? The trope of the noisy neighbor is one that is suffered by the urban and rural dweller alike. Keep in mind that sometimes the issue is less about the noise your neighbors are making and more about your building or the construction of your home. Buildings with thin walls and wooden floors are just going to have noise problems, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all be conscious of our volume.

I once had an upstairs neighbor with a penchant for wooden floors and wooden shoes who would clomp around at six in the morning while she made coffee and ate breakfast. (OK, that was me.) The point is, my neighbor, who didn’t have to be up early for work, politely pointed out the noise issue and I bought some slippers. Now my neighbor can get the sleep she needs and I can shuffle around like femme Hugh Hefner in the mornings. Win win.

So, what can you do about noisy neighbors?

Here are five steps you can take to solve the problem of noisy neighbors.

1. Let your neighbor know the noise is a problem

The first thing you should always do is let your neighbor know that the noise is a problem. Chances are, they don’t realize they’ve been a nuisance. Some will be extremely responsive to a simple note, phone call, or in-person conversation about the noise. Be calm and polite and pose a solution. (Keep in mind that What do you do up there? Riverdance? Keep it down, sister.  is not really a solution.) For example, I get up very early during the week for work. Do you mind being conscious of your TV volume after 10pm? Or, Girl, you get up so early! Go on now! I think your treadmill is right above my bedroom, though. Could we compare schedules and find a solution that works for both of us?

Keep in mind that some neighbors are just going to be, ehem, difficult, and a note or a conversation may not make them any quieter. Here’s where you can do next.

2. Know the local rules

Read up on local noise ordinances or take another look at your lease or co-op rules. Some will include noise clauses. For most cities you’ll be able to find helpful online Q&As that guide you through dealing with noisy neighbors, such as this guide for New York City.

3. Tell the super or landlord

If your neighbors don’t respond to your requests or if you don’t feel comfortable approaching your neighbors and live in an apartment building, contacting your landlord or super to make a complaint about your noisy neighbors is often one of the most effective ways of dealing with noise issues.

When filing the complaint, be specific about when and how often the noise occurs. If you can, point to local ordinances or a lease clause that the neighbor is violating. The landlord or super will probably go directly to the tenant(s) or take soundproofing measures in the building; in extreme cases, they may demand that the tenant(s) do the soundproofing themselves.

If you own your home or don’t live in a traditional apartment building, you can also alert your HOA or co-op board

4. Tell the police

If your landlord’s or super’s warnings go unheeded, you can always contact the police. This is where knowing local noise ordinances is important, as is keeping track of how long the problem has been going on and when and how long the noise goes on. You’ll also want to have documentation of all formal complaints filed against them.

5. Soundproof your apartment

Even if your neighbors keep the noise down, your home may just be one that lets in a lot of noise. You can take measures to soundproof your home to prevent noise from coming in, like sound blockers and noise-reducing doors. You can also try white noise machines (we like this one from Marpac). If you’re not ready to try a noise machine, there are plenty of white noise apps (here are our favorites) you can try to save you some sanity at bedtime.

Measures that keep noise out can often keep noise in as well, so put down rugs, add plenty of soft furnishings, and take off those wooden clogs. You don’t want to be the noisy neighbor either. Remember that your noisy neighbors are much more likely to keep the sound down if you’re doing your part to lower the noise pollution.


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