Noisy Neighbor Laws

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 What Types of Legal Actions Can I Bring Against My Noisy Neighbors?

There are several possible legal remedies and individuals may be able to seek if their neighbors are constantly being loud or excessively noisy. It is, of course, always best to attempt and resolve any differences with a polite request or conversation. In some cases, a neighbor may not be aware that their actions are causing an issue.

If, however, an individual’s neighbor does not understand the issue or take action to resolve it, an individual may be able to pursue one or more of the following:

  • Nuisance
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Noise ordinance violations

Noises which are excessive or disturbing can result in a nuisance lawsuit. A nuisance lawsuit is one of the most common types of legal actions pursued for noise disturbances, such as loud music in neighborhoods.

Nuisance is defined as the unreasonable or unlawful use of property in a way which causes damage to another by preventing them from enjoying their own property. A nuisance may include:

  • Noxious smells
  • Loud noises
  • Unauthorized burning of materials
  • Posting obscene indecent signs or pictures
  • Illegal gambling

An individual is likely to succeed on a nuisance claim if they show that their neighbor’s loud noise continuously interferes with their ability to use or enjoy their own property. A noisy neighbor’s loud music is called a private nuisance.

In some jurisdictions, an individual may be able to pursue a disturbing the peace claim. In some jurisdictions, there is a decibel limit for sounds in a neighborhood. If a neighbor exceeds that decibel level limit with their activity or noise, they can be found guilty of disturbing the peace. Disturbing the peace is a minor criminal offense which is typically punished by a fine.

In some jurisdictions, noise ordinances, or neighborhood noise restrictions, may be enforced. A noise ordinance is a ban on specific types of noise or music in a certain residential area.

These ordinances may also place a ban on loud noises at specific times of the day, such as during sleeping hours. An individual should check to see if their city or municipality has these types of ordinances and whether their neighbor may be violating them.

It is important to note that there are a variety of legal avenues through which an individual may address a dispute with a noisy neighbor. One issue that individuals may face with noisy neighbors is that many individuals believe that it is their right to be as loud as they wish in their own homes or yards.

In addition, it is commonplace for a neighbor not to respond to the initial complaint. Because of this, if one legal option is not helping resolve the situation, an individual may wish to try a different approach under noise disturbance laws from the list above.

What Are the Remedies for Noise Disturbances by a Neighbor?

Depending on the type of legal action which an individual files, there are several different remedies which may be available to individuals who are suing a neighbor for noise disturbance. Some common remedies for a noise disturbance include:

  • Monetary damages
  • An injunction
  • Mediation

A noisy neighbor may be required to pay a monetary fine if they have violated a local noise ordinance. If an individual is able to prove that they have suffered a loss as a result of the noise, the noisy neighbor may be required to compensate them for their losses or injuries which may have occurred, such as hearing loss. This is called monetary damages or compensatory damages.

Another legal remedy may include an injunction. An injunction is a court order that commands the noisy neighbor to stop making the loud noises or to cease playing their music so loudly. This remedy is common in nuisance claims and other situations in which monetary damages are not available.

An individual may also be able to use mediation, which is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Mediation is a process where a neutral third party is used to assist two conflicting parties to promote reconciliation, settlement, or compromise.

Mediation may offer a cheaper and swifter resolution to an issue instead of pursuing litigation. It may also help in touchy situations, such as complaints between neighbors.

In these types of disputes, emotions may run high and it may be awkward to be around the noisy neighbor after you have approached them about the issue. In some cases, if an individual pursues litigation, the court will order them to first attempt to resolve the issue through mediation.

Prior to pursuing any type of legal remedy, an individual may send their neighbor a cease and desist letter for noise complaint. This type of letter will serve to put an individual’s noisy neighbor on notice that they are causing an issue and will serve as later evidence that they were aware of the issue. If possible, the letter should include:

  • The sender’s name and address
  • The recipient, or noisy neighbor’s, name and address
  • A demand that the recipient cease the offensive behavior

This type of letter should be sent via certified mail with a return receipt requested. This will serve as evidence that the noisy neighbor received the letter.

In order for an individual to succeed in obtaining monetary damages or obtaining a court order to force their noisy neighbor to stop making noise, they will likely be required to show the following:

  • The existence of excessive and unreasonable noise
  • The neighbor is responsible for the noise
  • The neighbor refuses to stop making the noise
  • The noise adversely affects the individual’s enjoyment of their home

It is important to note that the types of remedies which may be available vary according to the laws of the individual’s jurisdiction and based on the type of offense which is involved. An individual should check with their local laws or consult with a local attorney if they are unsure of their options.

Which Remedy Should I Seek?

The remedy that an individual should seek will often depend on their situation and the receptiveness of their noisy neighbor. It is important to remember that the main goal is to ultimately get the noise or loud music to cease.

In some noisy neighbor cases, monetary damages may be more effective than an injunction because the noisy neighbor will have to give up something as a result of their actions. This is because if the noisy neighbor does not follow the local noise ordinances, it is likely they may not follow an injunction either.

On the other hand, if the noisy neighbor knows they will be required to pay a fine if they do not cease the offending behavior, they are very likely to stop those disturbances. For the majority of individuals, it is not worth the monetary loss to continue making noise which they can easily stop.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues with a Noisy Neighbor?

It is essential to have the assistance of a real estate lawyer if you have any issues with a noisy neighbor. Having a dispute with a neighbor can be a great cause of stress, as your home is supposed to be a place you can relax and enjoy life.

There are many different reasons you might have an issue with your neighbor, but not all of them may be actionable under the law. Your lawyer can advise you about what types of conduct may cause a legal issue — everything from your neighbor not repairing issues that affect your property to having a loud barking dog.

There are several issues your lawyer will be able to review and see if a remedy is available. These include the ordinances in your area, the state laws, the Homeowner’s Association (HOA) rules, if you have one, and your lease agreement if you rent your property. It is important to keep documentation of any of your interactions with your neighbor or complaints to HOAs or landlords, as your lawyer can use this as evidence in your claim.

Your lawyer can also advise you regarding which remedy will be most likely to resolve your situation. If you experience harassment or threats because of your requests for your neighbors to be less noisy or fix an issue, it is important to let local law enforcement as well as your lawyer know.

If you do have to file a lawsuit or complaint with the city, your lawyer can represent you any time you are required to appear in court.

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