Unless you live in a huge mansion nestled deep within a rustic, 500-acre plot, odds are that you've had to deal with a noisy neighbour at one time or another. Whether you're complaining to the guy in the next apartment who blasts free jazz at 1 a.m. or the folks in the adjacent house who have all-night summer cookouts, here's how to approach the matter calmly and tactfully.
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Decide if you're being reasonable. As a general rule, excessive noise after 11 p.m. on a weekday is grounds for complaint-and perhaps as late as 12 midnight or 1 a.m. on a weekend. Unless your neighbour's music or conversation is literally shaking your furniture and causing your cat to shed its fur, it's not kosher to knock on his door at 8:30 at night and demand complete silence.
Try to muffle the noise. Because confronting neighbours is fraught with uncertainty, you should first do everything in your power to try to ameliorate the noise. Consider turning on a fan, investing in a white-noise machine or simply going to bed wearing earplugs (which are surprisingly good at blocking high-frequency noise, though not the thrum of a pounding subwoofer).
Talk to your neighbour in person. If the offending party is in an adjacent apartment, it'll be tempting simply to bang loudly on the wall (or floor, or ceiling) to get his attention. This isn't a good idea; if your neighbour is making that much noise, he/she probably won't hear your urgent banging, and even if they do, might be more offended (or amused) than genuinely concerned. (If you know their phone number, calling is okay, but a face-to-face is always best.)
Speak in a level tone of voice. If you and your neighbour are complete strangers, the last thing you want to do is yell at them and point at your watch as they blink at you from their open doorway. In a friendly tone, tell them you've got to get up early the next morning and you'd really appreciate it if they could turn down their stereo a bit. The same strategy applies if you're dealing with the house next door, though of course it's more of an inconvenience to get dressed for the trip.
Call the police only as a last resort. If you've been dealing with a noisy neighbour for weeks or months, things may eventually reach the point where you have no choice but to call in the authorities. Before you do this, beef up your case (and protect yourself against possible recriminations) by contacting other neighbours who are also suffering and presenting a united front to both your neighbour and the police.
Dealing with noisy neighbours
Tips and warnings
- Never call 999 to register a noise complaint; this number is strictly for emergencies. Instead, look up the phone number of your local police precinct or department.