You were so relieved to find what you thought was the perfect apartment, in what seemed like a quiet area. But now your dream has been shattered by the reality of booming music, TV noise, raised voices, or what sounds like someone building shelves 24/7. But before you go on a rampage that might do you more than good, take a moment to examine some smarter, safer, more effective strategies for coping with that next-door noise.

Realistic Noise Expectations

The first thing you must do is ask yourself whether the noise you’re hearing really goes beyond normal expectations. A certain amount of noise can’t be helped in a shared living environment as people go about their daily activities. You can’t stop your neighbor from cooking dinner, flushing the toilet, or walking across the room on creaky floorboards. (You’ll be doing these things yourself, after all.)

To determine the dividing line between normal noise and excessive noise, think in terms of the “covenant of quiet enjoyment.” This standard, which is considered a legitimate aspect of any tenancy by the courts, entitles you to enjoy your stay without experience unreasonable noise or disturbance — unreasonable being the keyword. An occasional bark from the neighbor’s dog is a reasonable expectation; all-night barking outside your window is not. The occasional dinner party that ends at a reasonable hour is reasonable; keggers that last till dawn are not.

What Do the Authorities Say?

Your lease may have specific language in it about what constitutes a noise violation, or it may simply prohibit tenants from “behaving in loud or obnoxious manner.” Local ordinances may prohibit excessive noise after a certain hour on weekday nights. Before you bring the authorities into your dilemma, make sure you know what their rules are and what constitutes a genuine grievance.

The Positive Approach

Fighting back by staging a “battle of the bands” or indulging in other childish behavior will only escalate the noise on their side. These raucous conflicts may even lead to a complaint lodged against you.

Talking to your noisy neighbor can often resolve the issue. This conversation needs to be as non-confrontational as possible, if only because you may not know the emotional or mental stability of your neighbor (trust your instincts and don’t walk into danger). Be as positive and polite as possible. You may find that your neighbor turns the volume up because he’s hard of hearing, or that he didn’t realize the sound was carrying. You might even show up with a cake or pie to introduce yourself, mentioning the noise issue in passing conversation. There are plenty of ways to be diplomatic.

Noise Control From Your End

If your neighbor clearly has no interest in modifying his behavior, you still have non-confrontational options for lessening the impact of that noise on your life. Try controlling the experience from your end through remedies such as:

  • White noise – Sometimes the background noise from your air conditioner or a white noise machine is sufficient to reduce the disturbance.
  • Earplugs – Earplugs can make moderate noises disappear completely or cut loud noises down to tolerable levels.
  • Smart daytime scheduling – If the noise always occurs during the day, simply arrange to be somewhere else.
  • Waiting it out – You’re probably not the only upset neighbor in the building. Wait and see whether the problem goes away due to someone else’s intervention. The neighbor may even move out at some point.

Formal complaints should be your last line of defense. Getting neighbors into hot water with the authorities can make them angry or defiant, causing them to make even more noise as revenge on the tenants around them. Hopefully, however, this escalated behavior would give management what it needs to take stronger measures.

Any apartment can have intermittent noise problems as tenants move in and out. Stay calm, stay reasonable, and pursue peaceful solutions!

Amanda Mears
Amanda has worked as a journalist, an SEO copywriter, and a social media specialist. Her aim as a Four Walls contributor is to provide something worth reading and create a community for people who lease and love it. She’s also a real person, not just a mysterious internet writer, who loves silversmithing, podcast-binging, and trying to figure out how to fix her rented apartment’s bad linoleum floor (see, just like you!)