How to Make Noise Complaints About Your Noisy Neighbours
Quest For Quiet!
Want To Talk About Noisy Neighbours?
It sounds like the boys living in the apartment below us have invited 20 of their closest friends over for a video-game tournament. A glorious symphony of hollering, electronic gunshots & explosions play for the next 6 hours.
Later, the hockey game is on. It’s an important one & the volume needs to be cranked so loud that the boys have to shout over it to be heard. By the end of the game, all 20 boys have sufficiently medicated themselves to become thoroughly intoxicated.
We can’t imagine what they are doing now but it sounds like the demolition phase of a renovation. Except for those boys who have wandered outside & are now yelling, chucking beer cans & urinating off the balcony.
Sleep isn’t friendly tonight. However, seven AM still comes early.
The two little girls who live in the apartment above us are practicing their gymnastics routines. Their Dad doesn’t like being woken up either. He gets up & yells at the children to be quiet. But Mom doesn’t quite approve.
Hence Mom & Dad’s argument, that eventually becomes heated. Screaming, stomping, slamming cupboard doors & finally a slamming bedroom door ends it.
We can hear the children crying.
Noisy Neighbours & Residential Noise Studies
Studies have shown that residential noise (meaning noise from neighboring apartments, as well as noise within one's own home) can cause significant irritation & noise stress due to the great deal of time people spend within their residences. This can result in an increased risk of depression, psychological disorders, migraines, & even emotional stress.
The U.S. EPA has provided a list of recommended noise levels in its Model Community Noise Control Ordinance, published in 1975. For example, the recommended noise level for indoor residences is no more than 45 dB.
Take comfort - you’re not on your own. There are laws in place within your building & within your city to help you achieve your quest for quiet.
Comic Relief: Is This Really What's Going On?
Your issues with noisy neighbour(s) are in what type of dwelling?
Your Strata Corporation’s Bylaws
Excerpt taken from Schedule of Standard Bylaws in the Greater Vancouver Area that relates to noise:
(1) An owner, tenant, occupant or visitor must not use a strata lot, the common property or common assets in a way that
(a) causes a nuisance or hazard to another person,
(b) causes unreasonable noise,
(c) unreasonably interferes with the right of other persons to use and enjoy the common property, common assets or another strata lot,
(d) is illegal, or
(e) is contrary to a purpose for which the strata lot or common property is intended as shown expressly or by necessary implication on or by the strata plan.
One strata corporation added the following to their bylaws. Perhaps just to strengthen the laws against noisy neighbours?
(4) An owner, tenant or occupant shall not:
(b) make undue noise in or about any strata lot or common property
Your City’s Noise Control Bylaw
Excerpts taken from Noise Control Bylaw 5819 – North Vancouver City:
Quiet Area Sound Level
A person may make, cause or permit to be made, a continuous sound with a sound level during the daytime of 55 decibels or less, and during the nighttime of 45 decibels or less when received at a point of reception within a quiet area.
“quiet area” includes any area of the municipality where the absence of noise is of particular importance to persons in that area at any time, and includes any area within the municipality shown on Schedule “A” attached hereto; (the areas zoned residential were included in the quiet area shown on Schedule A).
“noise” includes: any sound, continuous sound or non-continuous sound which disturbs or tends to disturb the peace, quiet, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of the neighbourhood in which such sound is received, or, of any reasonable person in the vicinity of the source of such sound who receives such sound.
What is a Decibel?
A unit of loudness (volume) usually ranked between 0 dB (the threshold of human hearing) and 140 dB (the point where loudness can cause pain or hearing damage).
Noisy city traffic
You’re Ready to Take Action in Your Quest for Quiet!
Take this seriously. You’re accusing another condo dweller (defendant) of excessive noise & subjecting him to a fine. There can be no mistakes.
Depending on how your building was built, sound will tend to travel vertically & diagonally, from both above & below or horizontally from the apartments on either side. This makes it difficult to discern exactly which suite any particular sound emanates from.
Quietly listen at the door of the suite that’s suspect to ensure that is indeed where the noise is coming from.
If the noise is ridiculous, as in the above example, call the police. However, that’s only a short-term solution. You’ll need something that will help over the long haul.
I usually start by sliding an anonymous note under the noisy neighbour's (defendant's) door. I include information such as what I heard (keeping it objective) & the time that I heard it.
I find that this usually does the trick! Often my neighbours just don't realize that anyone can hear them.
For help with writing a "first contact" anonymous note, plus an example: AnnoyZneighbour.com
Time To Get Serious!
Some people are just downright selfish & will disregard your anonymous note. That's when you feed them to the dogs...
Compile, in writing, over seven days (consecutively or unconsecutively) the following:
- A description of the noise trying as much as possible to keep your descriptions objective. If need be, write what you believe is causing the noise in brackets.
- The date including the exact time of day or night that you hear the noise.
- If you hear music, & if you can, name the band & song or even some words.
- Keep your descriptions free of location (such as ceiling, floor, up, down etc.) as it is important to keep your identity confidential.
Work the above detailed information into a letter & mail or email it to your Property Management Company. By law, they have to present it to the Strata Council & forward a letter of warning to the defendant with an invitation to either: write a defense/admission letter, or attend a Council hearing as per Strata Property Act 135 (in British Columbia).
Such exacting information will help tremendously, as it will go a long way to:
- Quash notions of denial & stories of innocence on the part of the defendant.
- Educate the defendant on how much noise is respectful.
- Startle the defendant into changing her/his behavior after the first warning letter.
As per the privacy act, your identity must remain confidential.
If the problem is not rectified, continue to compile information, sending the details in letter after letter to the Property Management Company. After the initial warning, the defendant can be fined once every seven days.
For help with writing an email to your property manager & strata council, plus an example: AnnoyZneighbour.com
Have you ever had difficulty with noisy neighbour(s)? If so, how did you handle it?
The Waiting Period
This is the period of time between making a formal complaint & waiting for due process to unravel until your noisy neighbour finally realizes that allowing noise to escape his dwelling is no longer an option.
Some strata corporations insist on delivering a warning letter first. This means that you may have to organize further information & make another formal complaint before your neighbour's noisiness is finally subdued.
This also means more time being privy to the sounds your neighbour's life.
White noise! Or otherwise known as background noise can drown the worst & ease your suffering. A fan can be an excellent source of white noise. Any other white noise ideas? Please share with us what you do for white noise in the comments below.
Never Let Them Know it Was You!
There’s all sorts of advice about doing the neighbourly thing. Advice about politely & courteously explaining to your neighbour that his noise is bothering you.
Never approach your neighbour!
At first glance this might seem cowardly. It’s not. People turn at the drop of a hat. Even reasonable folks will retaliate when confronted & criticized, no matter how polite you try to be. If you complain to your neighbour even once, all subsequent complaints, whether they are made by you or not, will be blamed on you. By approaching your neighbour even one time, you make yourself a target.
You have every right to a reasonably quiet home.
You’ve done your part by explaining the problem with a detailed list that doesn’t leave anyone guessing. Then you’ve sent this list through the appropriate channels allowing the people who are trained to handle these issues, deal with them properly.
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- Sylvia Leong
© 2010 Sylvia Leong