Neighbors Complaining About our Children's Noise

Hi fellow parents! I'm sure those of us who live with others, especially others who don't have children have dealt with this at some point so I'd like to hear suggestions of what others have done. Some background, we live in the upstairs apartment with cork floors and are pretty sure there's been "blown-in" insulation in at least a couple of the rooms. We have lived in the downstairs unit as well so we do know that you can definitely hear sounds down there when people are moving around upstairs. Anyway, our downstairs neighbors have been complaining for a while about the noise from our kids (5.5 and 2.5). We have tried unsuccessfully to quiet our children down, because they're kids and they like to dance, run, stomp, play, etc. We try to get them outdoors as much as possible but can't really avoid all noise. The level of anxiety I feel about trying to keep my kids quiet is intense yet the neighbors are still complaining. So clearly we need to do something else. I suspect that we may need a sound or acoustic engineer to come and assess but assume that this will be expensive and whatever they recommend will cost a lot. Has anyone dealt with something similar and had success (i.e. downstairs neighbors happy)? I guess my fear is that we will go through an incredible amount of stress and expense (including possibly relocating for extensive construction) in order to still have complaints from below and anxiety from above. Would love any advice, commiseration, etc!

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I can relate.  When my kids were smaller our downstairs neighbors constantly complained about noise. They would write us letters saying that we were teaching our daughter to be disrespectful of others by letting her yell and stomp around (she was 1.5 years old!!) and often they would aggressively pound in the ceiling with what I assume was a broom. We tried rugs etc but nothing helped. Kids are loud and that’s what apartment living is like. Eventually we moved and as we were moving we saw that our downstairs neighbors were moving too! We should have just waited them out. So my advice if you like your place is just to ignore them (I know it’s hard) and if they hate the noise enough they may eventually move. There is just no way to quiet down little kids 100% of the time, it’s just impossible and trying will make everyone miserable. I really feel for you, good luck. 

I would tell your neighbors that it is normal for kids to make noise and they should stop harassing you.Unless it is after 10 or early in the morning they are overstepping.Let them move to an all adult community if they don’t like it.

I'd focus on your anxiety/fear levels and try not to let that play so much of role in this. I know easier said than done (because I'd have the same anxiety you do!). The nature of living in apartments is that you are going to hear noises. Kids absolutely cannot be expected to be quiet (within reason of course, i.e. no dance parties at 5am) and this is really on your neighbors to accept. I'd be curious if anyone has good language to use in a letter to them (or conversation) that might gently encourage them to back off. Perhaps noise cancelling headphones, white noise machines, etc. This is not on you to fix though!! 

Hi! Perhaps those downstairs neighbors should just move out! Okay, now that that’s out of my system...you’re not alone. My poor downstairs neighbor has to deal with the ruckus of my 3 small children living life. I do my best, but you’re right,  they’re kids and there’s only so much you can do. And I’m with you...it adds to our stress, leads to more yelling and mean parent stuff that otherwise wouldn’t be necessary. Sigh! However, I would not spend money to fix an apartment you don’t own and really don’t have the rights to modify. I would continue to be apologetic, when they complain- reassure them you’re doing your best, remind them that they are children and ask for suggestions. Maybe a gift basket during the Holidays! Take care! 

I know exactly how you feel. We experienced this in two different rentals.

First was a Victorian, we were in the attic, and the folks under us could probably hear EVERYTHING. Our kid was 3ish at the time and we tried to be quiet, but there's no way. A great compromise we came up with was to figure out the layout of the unit below us, and we put a thick area rug with acoustical padding over the ceiling of the bedroom of our downstairs' neighbors. And then every Monday morning we were very quiet until about 10am because the gentleman below us sleeps in on Mondays. We also tried to be quiet daily before 8:30am, and explained to our child that we have to be considerate. We were friends with the neighbors and so they would let us know if any particular time they needed some quiet, and we would accommodate.

Second rental was a craftsman, we were second floor and our whole living room hovered over a studio occupied by a Cal student. This was during shelter-in-place and it was nerve wrecking trying to stay quiet so our neighbor can study at home (it was his last year in a very intense program), since he couldn't go anywhere else. We had area rug, we tried to walk along the edges of the house so it wouldn't be as loud for him, it was crazy the amount of accommodating we tried to do, but he probably still thought we didn't do enough. He would text us periodically to ask us to be quiet and we would be like, but we were already quiet!

With all that said, I think you can try to find a happy medium with the downstairs by setting up quiet times when you agree to try and keep the running/jumping/romping to a minimum, and lots of area rugs. It's not fair to your kids to ask them to tiptoe 24/7, they're kids. And, to make you feel better about everything - if I were a downstairs neighbor, I'd count myself lucky if all I hear is normal kid noises during waking hours. You guys are not up there hosting nightly raves, blasting music while they're trying to sleep, yelling/screaming adult fights, etc etc.

I’m not sure I can offer anything new because I am making some assumptions here, my assumptions are that you already have rugs all over the floors (maybe even layered or with foam lining underneath)to cut down on noise and that you folks don’t wear shoes indoors.

My questions (to better understand reasonable solutions) would be: 

1) Is this an neighbor anxiety issue (meaning the noise cause anxiety and stress for your neighbors) or work/ concentration issue, or a sleeping issue?

2) Are you comfortable changing some of your kids’ habits/behaviors to make your neighbors more comfortable or would you rather an environmental solution? 

I can share some behaviors things that work with little kids, but I know for some parents that’s not the solution they are looking for. I am also curious if the neighbors are citing any specific noises/sounds or if it’s just a general complaint about all noises?
 

I have a dear friend who has been the "downstairs" person in the situation you describe, over the course of many years, with many different families living upstairs. In her experience, rugs make a huge, HUGE difference. Can you get rugs? It's weirdly the case that the littlest ones among us often stomp the loudest (this is true in my house too - the kiddos just don't know how to walk softly). Rugs really do help, preferably with thick carpet pads underneath. Furniture pads also help a ton - maybe think about getting felt pads for the legs of your dining chairs, etc.

I'd also recommend possibly getting your landlord involved to act as a mediator/broker. The landlord should hypothetically be someone who has an interest in keeping all parties happy and might be able to offer concrete suggestions and/or help figure out who should pay for what.

You could also consider setting some parameters with your neighbor... are there any times when it's particularly important for them to have quiet? Could you focus your efforts on those times and then relax the rest of the time? Can they make use of a white noise machine to help distract them at other times? Kids deserve to run and play, and you deserve to be comfortable in your home.

I’m not 100% sure, but I believe children making noise is legally acceptable and there isn’t anything your neighbors can do. Of course you should be considerate, but construction seems unnecessarily accommodating. Can you cover any hardwood floors with carpets? Beyond that, your neighbors need to be more understanding. Your kids have every right to play in their own homes. 

Hello,

I don’t have great advice but definitely empathy as we went through this. My son is now 9 but we lived in an upper floor apartment from when he was 1 till he was 4. The last two years were constant complaints from the downstairs neighbors and lots of anxiety on my part. We had our heart set on living in the community where our apartment was, but could not afford or find anything that was not a small similar upper floor apartment. In the end, it was the complaining neighbors were the main catalyst that pushed us to broaden our geographic horizons and move a little further out so we could buy a house. 
Good luck! 

Oh I really do understand this issue...we lived with our two children in the upper level unit until recently. I imagine this is especially harder and more tense in covid times. During non-covid times I took some comfort in knowing that for the majority of the day our family was outside of the house (at daycare, preschool, work, etc) and it was only so many hours the kids were making noise.

One thing we did do that helped some was put a huge bound carpet remnant down in one of the bedrooms with a nice thick pad. This became the Saturday morning play area and watch videos, etc. I also didn't complain when their noise kept my kids up at night (within reason up to say 10:00 or so on a weekday) and tried to use white noise and thicker curtains in their bedroom, also some area rugs with nice thick pads. I'm not a rug person and much prefer hard wood floors, but, I do think it helped some and they appreciated the effort. We also did not let our kids use push toys and simply put them outside off limits.

At some point though you do what you can and that is just kind of something we all have to live with when we live in a multi unit housing. Maybe they will have enough and move out and another family will move in! LOL

My roommate and I (no kids 20 years ago) had an older lady in the downstairs unit who had zero tolerance for footsteps etc.  This was fine usually because we worked very long hours.  However, she did call upon her son to come knock on our door.  This son then threatened to call the cops when I had a friend visiting so I stopped answering the door.  According to the landlord, or some other source, previous tenants in our unit had perhaps not stayed long.  This was all a bit unreasonable as viewed from both sides.  The lady's family then had an adult grandson move in to help keep the peace and this worked well.  Unfortunately, within our short maybe 2 year stay, the lady was taken by ambulance one day mid-day and did not return.  If you care about others, you will never stop wondering or worrying.  I have been described by AirBnB hosts as wonderful and super quiet while traveling with young children.  I feel very sorry for you.

Hi again, I posted previously but wanted to add...slippers! I like to wear slippers all the time in the house anyway but we made a strict no-shoe rule in the house and had house slippers we tried to have the kids wear as much as possible, especially in the early morning hours. I have become quite fond of the kid slippers made by Bomba:

https://bombas.com/collections/kids-gripper-slippers

Non-slip bottom and easy enough to put on and don't fall off like other slippers. I was thinking I would also let your neighbors know you are trying these things and doing your best...honestly can't do much more and you have to live a life as well and they might be extra sensitive to noise.

Oh, I can definitely commiserate! In our old rental, our 4-year-old on the hardwood floors (plus tantrums) drove the couple downstairs crazy. We put rugs down where we could and did our best to get her outside as much as possible, and I was SO stressed out. But after we came to terms with the fact that the downstairs neighbors were plain awful and mean and would never be satisfied, my partner and I finally resolved not to stress about it. This was hard, especially given how terribly the young 20-something couple had treated us—just constantly complaining to us and the management company. They even told us several times that there must be something wrong with our daughter, we should get her checked out for "psychological problems," we were the worst parents they'd ever known, etc., all because she was making normal kid noises. The great irony is that the woman in the couple downstairs was naturally a stomper—every one of her footsteps resonated throughout the building like she was Bigfoot. (Now, I don't know whether she was doing this to get back at us or she naturally had a heavy footfall, but we had lived in that place for 9 years and none of the other downstairs tenants had ever made sounds like she did. ANYWAY!) You have a right to live in your unit stress-free, so do just that. It will be hard, but keep telling yourself that you and your kids are in the right. If the nabes keep complaining, block them as much as you can and redirect any communication to your landlord/management co. (this is assuming you're renting) or take advantage of a mediation service like Seeds (https://www.seedscrc.org/). If the noise is really that intolerable for them, they will move, and then the management/landlord should take care of any noise abatement measures WITHOUT YOUR HAVING TO RELOCATE. Our downstairs complainers moved away when their lease was up, thank goodness, only to be replaced by tenants whose dog would come up by the back stairs, sneak inside our place, and pee on the kitchen floor. Sigh. We haven't been renters for a few years now, but there's a whole other set of problems when you own your own place... Good luck and STAY STRONG!