Neighbor noise complaints

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
This is a situation that I am not dealing with, but wanted to discuss.

If I'm playing drums in my single family house (not an apartment) in the afternoon for instance, with all the doors and windows closed, and my neighbor is bothered by the sound...and they knock on my door to get me to quiet down....do they really have a right to do that during afternoon hours?

I'm in my house, during weekday working hours, do I have a right to play drums? I'm thinking yes. Listen to lawnmowers. Are drums in the house less loud than outdoor lawnmowers?

I'm going with yes, generally speaking. Apartments I get, but in my own house? Would I have the right to submit a complaint that my neighbor is bothering me just as much for knocking on the door, interrupting me and complaining to me? I have rights too.
 

Supergrobi

Technical Supervisor
Staff member
I can only speak for Germany. Over here, playing an instrument within your flat or house belongs to the free development of the personality protected by fundamental rights. This means that you can play for 2 hours per day between 7:00 am to 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm, except on Sundays. Although this is a quite clear regulation, there's still room for judges to ensure a peaceful neighborhood by e.g. limiting the time or the volume.
 

wraub

Gold Member
This is a situation that I am not dealing with, but wanted to discuss.

If I'm playing drums in my single family house (not an apartment) in the afternoon for instance, with all the doors and windows closed, and my neighbor is bothered by the sound...and they knock on my door to get me to quiet down....do they really have a right to do that during afternoon hours?

I'm in my house, during weekday working hours, do I have a right to play drums? I'm thinking yes. Listen to lawnmowers. Are drums in the house less loud than outdoor lawnmowers?

I'm going with yes, generally speaking. Apartments I get, but in my own house? Would I have the right to submit a complaint that my neighbor is bothering me just as much for knocking on the door, interrupting me and complaining to me? I have rights too.

In my area, it's basically about if someone complains, and if police want to act on it. I learned this when cops showed up to an afternoon band practice, basically if there's a complaint they'll check on it regardless of hour. However, I was told that it's up to individual officers to react accordingly and in context of the situation and reactions could vary.

I try not to play drums before 10-11 AM and always stop by 8 PM. I like my neighbors.
 

KEEF

Senior Member
UK anti-social noise regs are 11pm-7am so by the letter of the law anytime outside of that is fine.
I've always tried to be more reasonable and stick to between 9am-9pm and keep it to a couple of hours at a time max.
 

moodman

Well-known Member
I would say no, power tools, mowers etc are louder.
The interpretation of local sound ordinances and the closeness of the buildings might influence the situation.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
I guess what I'm trying to get at is this: Why not fight back against the complaining neighbor if it's my own house?

I think we should fight back and not let some curmudgeon dictate what we do. Screw being nice. They aren't being nice to me, why should I be nice to them (hypothetically)

I'd rather struggle with the neighbors than roll over and assume I'm in the wrong when I may not be.
 

Ghostin one

Senior Member
In the USA, you have the right to go up to someone's house and knock on the door. You don't have to answer or listen to them. You can tell them not to come back, and that they're trespassing if they do (in PA).

I've spent YEARS trying to get our township to enforce the noise part of the zoning code. One neighbor has a fleet of dirtbikes and atv's they used to ride up and down the property line. The township's response? They wrote a new noise ordinance requiring complaints from two or more properties before any enforcement would occur.

Now my other neighbors have a nascar modified 358 they run in their garage 120' feet from my house, 50' feet from the property line. They don't know how lucky they are that I quit drinking years ago.

It would cost me > $4000 for a lawyer to even try to get the them to STFU. I might do it.
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
There's no universal response to this question. The specific ordinances pertaining to your jurisdiction, as well as the manner in which authorities elect to interpret and apply the language therein, will determine the behaviors you can engage in without penalty and those for which you might be prone to punishment. Noise is a murky phenomenon. Ambiguity abounds both in its measurement and in the leniency with which it's to be tolerated.
 

eric_B

Senior Member
Larry, interesting you bring this up, it is more or less an issue I was contemplating.

First, I think the legal aspect is most prominent: is there regulation about the dB levels, times, etc?
Second, what is the actual situation: (semi)detached house / apartment, distance to neighbours, etc?
Third, what do you consider acceptable noise (from your neighbours)?

I live in a detached house, pretty well isolated (but not specifically for noise so you can hear me play outside), the closest neighbour lives over 10 meters.
When I played in a band 10 years ago, I played acoustic after work, from 6 PM to not later than 8 PM and afternoon during the weekend.
When I talked to them, neighbours said they could here me but never complained.
As I quit the band I switched to mutes and silent cymbals - and did't play much at all.

Now I'm returning to drums I'm feeling I should play normal acoustic again (for better practice) but think it might disturb the neighbours - although it didn't before.
More or less a personal dilemma: as I'm getting older I notice I'm getting less tolerant to noise of others, so should they accept my drums whereas it may annoy me if they produced the same level of noise?

A tough one, I haven't decided yet.
 

Ghostin one

Senior Member
So I would just tell them you're within your rights as a homeowner. You could be nice and try to accommodate them somehow, but that's up to you.

Another thing I learned is that if there's a "decibel" limit in an ordinance, unless the cops or code enforcement have some kind of training and certification, and can prove their decibel meter is properly calibrated, it's meaningless in court.
 
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C. Dave Run

Well-known Member
I live in the woods so have no idea. I can make as much noise as I want whenever I want without reprimand. This does not mean I'm a dick about it however. I usually only drum in the afternoon.

When I was gigging in the late 90s/early 00s, our rented jam room was in a railroad zoned area. About 50 yards away was residential zoning, and apartments. We would constantly get complaints. The land lady got a lawyer to make the cops stop bugging us.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
Larry, interesting you bring this up, it is more or less an issue I was contemplating.

First, I think the legal aspect is most prominent: is there regulation about the dB levels, times, etc?
Second, what is the actual situation: (semi)detached house / apartment, distance to neighbours, etc?
Third, what do you consider acceptable noise (from your neighbours)?

I live in a detached house, pretty well isolated (but not specifically for noise so you can hear me play outside), the closest neighbour lives over 10 meters.
When I played in a band 10 years ago, I played acoustic after work, from 6 PM to not later than 8 PM and afternoon during the weekend.
When I talked to them, neighbours said they could here me but never complained.
As I quit the band I switched to mutes and silent cymbals - and did't play much at all.

Now I'm returning to drums I'm feeling I should play normal acoustic again (for better practice) but think it might disturb the neighbours - although it didn't before.
More or less a personal dilemma: as I'm getting older I notice I'm getting less tolerant to noise of others, so should they accept my drums whereas it may annoy me?
I haven't decided yet.
I just think as drummers we should be sticking up for our own rights. No one else will.

If my neighbors were making noise, I accept it because sometimes I make noise too.

My neighbors son had a band that would practice heavy metal for like 3 hours every week...in the garage with the garage door all the way open which is about 40 feet from my front door. Of course I never said a word and it was loud and yea I was a little bothered by it (metal = not my cup of tea). But I get it so I never complained.

Acceptable noise? I tend to let people be who they are. I don't like dictating what people can and can't do according to me, because I don't want anyone imposing their will on me either.

All I'm saying is if someone is complaining about me, I would send it right back to them and let them squirm. I think I'd rather be the asshole that doesn't cower to their neighbors than to have them dictate to me when I can and can't play.
 

Capital D

Member
Around here, we can make reasonable noise (very subjective, I know) from 7am to 10pm before the cops will show up. Luckily for me, the neighbors around me and I have an understanding and most of us have friendly relationships. In fact, there are 2 guitar players on my street.

That said, I am all for having a conversation with an angry neighbor. First to try to calm him or her down, then if they escalate, I'm willing to escalate too. I'll complain about everything they do from now until the end of time or one of us moves. I will not instigate, but I will push back as hard as I am pushed. I won't just take the abuse.
 

C. Dave Run

Well-known Member
Are some noises considered necessary and some not?

Yard work must be done or nature will take over, no exceptions. Loud music is a choice.

Are these types of things considered legally, or is it just "noise in my space that I dont like"?

I'm pretty sure the idea is: I've paid for my space. Your noise shouldnt be here.

I dont think the activity matters, but some are accepted as necessary while others are blood boiling. All this talk of drumming noise and neighbors, think I'm gonna go be that guy for a while.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
They just shut down live music at a brewery in the next town because of noise complaints.
 

cdar

Junior Member
We’ve had four new sets of families move into our neck of the woods… so far so good, we play until 10pm once a week, I practice other times throughout the day when I get a free hour.
These four new families have yet to complain however we are armed with response if it ever happens. Sounds harsher then it is, but the point is, “Larry’s point is…”, my band and I have rights as well and we monitor how loud we are and were just not loud out front outside, much less if your inside another house.
Our challenge this year with said families is our outdoor summer practice on my back deck. Usually our neighbors are into it, we work it into an after work/pau hana thing so were hoping for that.
 

Ghostin one

Senior Member
C Dave, almost all municipal ordinances make exceptions for lawnmowers, home maintenance, etc.


larryace, this is the relevant part of your township's noise ordinance in the zoning code... "30 feet from the place of noise generation..." is not clear to me, it may mean the property line.

I have a hard time believing you're in violation.

Definition of noise disturbance. Any sound that endangers the safety or health of any person, disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities or endangers personal or real property. The measure of disturbance shall be measured in accordance with the A-weighted decibel scale which is expressed as "dBA."

In those areas of the Township zoned residential, as defined by Chapter 500, Zoning, except those instances as defined by § 320-101C(5)(a) of this chapter, it shall be an excessive noise disturbance if, 30 feet from the place of noise generation, the dBA exceeds:

75 dBA between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.​
55 dBA between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.​
 

GetAgrippa

Diamond Member
I've been dealing with this last year. Now I'm playing a Surge Alesis ekit. I miss real cymbals and drums so much Most neighbors real friendly and have no issue with my drums. But this one fella next door-who I've never met-just his wife who states she can't hear it. When something presents like that-it really gripes my ass. I try to be logical and put it down and take his position he's working from home and it bothers him, blah, blah, blah. Maybe if he had come over instead of his wife it would not be so offsetting. I put it down and I try to be a good neighbor-but he's a cowardly wimp that I'd like to open a can of Ensure nutrition drink and have a summit. Nay I wish that were true but I really want to open a can of old man powered whoop butt on the lil MFer . Then I'm like dang Art you letting crazy make you crazy, and it just makes me feel terrible that I still got the "rage" in me after all these years.
Dang I can't type today LOL
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
I think I'd rather be the asshole that doesn't cower to their neighbors than to have them dictate to me when I can and can't play.
While I agree that one's rights shouldn't be trampled in the presence of unreasonable demands, the equation works two ways. If someone is complaining about noise but the source of said noise believes he's doing nothing wrong, who's clearly correct? The question comes down to legal interpretation and the skill with which both parties can present their respective cases -- in accordance, of course, with the local ordinances that regulate the production of sound, as well as the purpose and intent of sound. Numerous and complex variables defy generalization on this topic.

My point: Anecdotal data that stems from the personal experiences of others isn't of much use here. You'll know you can freely disturb neighbors only when those neighbors don't protest. Otherwise, you might receive a citation and be required to appear in court. It somewhat depends on the personality of the officer who rings your doorbell. Law is enforced by people, not robots.
 
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