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How do I know whether my neighbor's noise is breaking the law?

Noisy Neighbors

Howard Gould (Neighbor Law Expert, Finestone & Richter) gives expert video advice on: How do I know whether my neighbor's noise is breaking the law?; Is there anything I can do about a barking dog?; What can I do to stop my neighbor's noise? and more...

Is there anything I can do about a barking dog?

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How loud is too loud, legally?

It depends on where you live as to how loud you can go. Some places will have a specific noise level, a decibel level that is recognized as the maximum that you can reach. Other places may be just a standard of reasonableness. So you're going to have to look at the law in the community where you live. Again, you're going to want to enlist other people if you can as witnesses, because that's going to be the best evidence. If you have more than one person who says this was really louder than we should have to suffer, you're more likely to succeed,

When is excessive noise allowed?

I think the key word there is excessive. It sort of assumes that the noise is too loud. We really in general run by reasonable standards in many areas of the law. If you have emergencies, for example, no one is going to complain that the siren on an ambulance or a fire truck is too loud because it has a purpose for being that loud. You have to look at the circumstances and what's reasonable under the circumstances in terms of what the noise is. If there's some construction that's going on and they have to jackhammer to do that construction, then even though it's a very loud noise and maybe you can't bear to be in your house, your neighbor may have a right to conduct that during regular construction hours in so long as what they're doing is really construction and not doing it simply to annoy their neighbor.

What can I do to stop my neighbor's noise?

The first step in any neighbor dispute is communicating to the neighbor in the best fashion that you can determine, talk to them. You're going to communicate with them first about their noise problem, and if you can't deal with it in that way, it may be that you're going to call the police and inquire as to how they can help you in your particular circumstance. For example, we are all certainly familiar with situations where there is a loud party next door and it's two in the morning, and the police will come and ask them to quiet down or, depending on what their local laws allow, even end the party. So sometimes you can enlist the police to assist you with particular noise issues like that. On the other hand, if it's a neighbor who is directing noise at you with loud speakers, playing their music loud, doing it on a regular and frequent basis, it may be that you're going to end up going to court, either youself or hiring a lawyer. In fact, I have handled cases like those, one in particular where a neighbor was purposefully directing loud noises and music at his neighbors on a regular basis, and it unfortunatley turned into a long, drawn-out case because the court can give damages and the court can issue an injunction, but enforcing the injunction is not always easy because the only real remedy that you have with that injunction is to put somebody in jail, and judges are hesitant to do that in a neighbor versus neighbor dispute over noise.

What if my neighbor doesn't stop violating the noise laws?

I would certainly call the police if normal types of communication aren't solving the problem. Hopefully the police will get the problem solved. If the police can't get the problem solved then you may well need to go to a civil court, file a lawsuit, get an injunction and also seek damages against the neighbor. You just don't know how far you're going to have to take that to get him to stop the problem. I know of one case where I was involved and I know other lawyers have been involved; this started, it must have been 10 years ago, and I've heard recently that they are still having a problem with this neighbor and the noise that he's causing them.