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Noise Law - Legal Limits and Nuisance Law
Renting & Housing Sponsors
It has become a noisy world. We live in a time of jumbo jets, lawn mowers, barking dogs and electronic drum blasters. Communities and individual homeowners are often confronted with either accepting the increased level of noise or take action to abate the nuisance.
Under state law tenants and homeowners have the legal right to the quiet enjoyment of their property – including being free from intrusive outside noise caused by others, usually your neighbors. Every state has their own set of regulations and guidelines concerning sound transmission at or near ones place of residence. The same is true under federal law, which is governed primarily by the Federal Noise Control Act.
Can I Legally Stop My Neighbor From Making Too Much Noise?
Yes you can. While courts have the judicial authority to enjoin and stop noisy neighbors, most courts require some proof of tangible harm to the complaining party before it will take injunctive action to cease the disturbance. This is usually translated to mean that the unabated noise has a detrimental effect on the complaining parties property’s value. If it is the government that is the source of unabated noise, the fifth amendment to the constitution protects homeowners from a diminution of their properties value by the government without just and due compensation. The same rule applies to most utilities and common carriers.
How Much Noise Is Legally Too Much Noise?
Most states have employed a judicial test in determining the difference between legal and illegal noise levels. If the noise is such that it offends the "ordinary sensibilities" the court has substantial authority to order injunctive relief to stop the noise.
Notwithstanding most noise laws do not protect people who voluntarily and knowingly choose to live near the source of the noise disturbance. In short, the law does not allow you to follow the nuisance and then expect to be able to take legal action to stop it or recover damages as a result of it – no matter how annoying or disturbing the noise might be.
Do Zoning Laws Protect Against Noise?
Absolutely, this is one of the primary reasons for having zoning laws. Many municipal districts have enacted zoning laws that prohibit noise disturbances that exceed a specific decibel level. There are many municipalities that have enacted ordinances that limit noise based on the time of day. We recommend that you obtain a copy of the local noise abatement ordinance to determine whether there is a mandatory process to follow in resolving the disturbance.
Should You Report The Noise To The Police?
Rather then risk a negative confrontation between your local law enforcement and your neighbor; you might first consider getting into communication with your neighbor to discuss the noise issues personally and informally. Many times a noisy neighbor is not even aware of the noise problem and stopping it requires only a polite and friendly request to lower the noise. More often then not, neither drama nor anger is needed to resolve the problem between neighbors. However, if a friendly conversation or letter doesn’t do the trick, you might be left with no other choice other then to file a “breach of the peace” complaint with your local police. If the police cannot resolve the noise problem with a visit and a warning, you may be required to proceed with retaining a property lawyer to file a civil complaint to abate the nuisance or handle the matter yourself through small claims process.
What About Mediating The Noise Dispute?
Most mediations concerning noise abatement occur only after a civil lawsuit has been filed and the litigating parties have concluded preliminary discovery. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution, which allows the conflicting parties to informally resolve their dispute without having the ultimate issues determined by a judge. Mediation can often give the parties more control to fashion a remedy that works best for both sides.
Apartment Living – How To Report Noise To Landlord?
Apartment living usually means having to share common walls with your neighbors. Sharing walls can become problematic quickly – especially when it comes to loud music. Even though you are renting and do not own the property, you are still entitled to the quite enjoyment of the property while you are a lawful tenant of the building. In these circumstances, the landlord has a positive legal duty to make sure the other tenants do not unreasonably disturb your tenancy. Failing to take reasonable action as landlord to remedy the disturbance can legally release or excuse the complaining tenant from their lease obligations especially if the noise constitutes a constructive eviction. Under this scenario it might become necessary to retain a lawyer to convince the landlord that it would be in the best interests for all concerned to stop or otherwise evict the offending tenant from the apartment.
What About Noisy Bars and Liquor Stores?
Bars and liquor stores located near residential property zones can quickly become problematic during the evening hours. Consequently, cities have enacted noise prevention ordinances, which prohibit commercial enterprises from making loud noise or playing outside music during the late evening hours.
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