Neighbors' Loud Voices & Music

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Noisy tenants in neighbor's possibly-illegal in-law cottage

July 2014

I live in a unit in a small apartment building that is next door to a huge old house. This house is being rented out to a bunch of unrelated people and there is a small in-law type unit in the back. The people who live in the in-law unit are sometimes noisy (seems like dinner parties, etc. But just not fun to have it right next to my windows). This happens a couple of times per week. Because the in-law unit is so close to our windows (most unfortunately my toddler's bedroom window) I notice the noise. I can hear every word from over there. Extremely loud laughter and folks talking over each other. They cheer and applaud. I'm sure it's a lovely time...but so loud. And my toddler has been woken up multiple times. I'm so tired of getting the baby back to sleep again and again on nights like this. I feel bad complaining about neighbors having a good, generally wholesome, time but...I'm so tired.

I've asked them to quiet down but my request is not respected. I found the name of the property owner online (he's renting out the big front house and the in-law unit while he lives elsewhere in town) and I also found out that the in-law unit is classified as a ''non-economic second unit.'' Does anyone have any experience with such a unit? Does ''non-economic'' mean it is illegal to rent it out?

Besides the noise, one of the in-law unit tenants frequently smokes pot out there. I personally don't have a problem with that - except for the proximity to my toddler's windows. I don't know whether he has a prescription for it - but even if he does...can he smoke it wherever? Or does it have to be away from others?

What should I do? Should I go talk with the tenants during non-party time? Should I write a letter to the property owner? If the unit is not legally allowed to be rented - should I report it? Should I call the police every time they have a party? Or would all of that just backfire and make it worse?

In case it comes up in a suggestion - I can't move anytime soon due to my lease plus the crazy rental prices these days. And I have started putting white noise on for my toddler, which helps a little but he still wakes up when there is a party going on over there (and he is the type who can sleep though lots of noise, I've never been overprotective of noise during naps, etc). I also can't move my toddler away from the noise any more than he already is due to how the apartment is laid out.

Got to go. My toddler - who normally sleeps through the night - just got woken up for the fifth time. Ugh.

Thank you for your help!

tired of it

If in Berkeley, call the Berkeley Rent. They are extremely helpful. I am a landlord BTW and would be happy to run interference for a tenant, i hope the target landlord does as well. I like to say: there is a time to turn up the music, and a time to turn down the music.... Big O

First: as a parent, condolences. What's going on seems to be really really not OK - not supportive to living together in a peaceful community.

Second: what to do depends on which city/town you live in. In Berkeley, basically, you're up the creek with no paddle. In Oakland, call the city housing authority for advice before doing anything.

In California, raising objections in writing to the owner creates "specific notice." (Make your letter short, specific, and polite. Send your letter with proof of delivery - USPS or FedEx.) Please, be aware that your "specific notice" to the owner begins a clock for both you and the owner of the property. Probably, you should send a copy of your letter to appropriate authorities in your community with proof of delivery USPS or FedEx.

It shouldn't be that you have to move for your baby to get some sleep!

You don't say in your post what city you live in, but I would call the city to find out about how many people can live in the house next door, how many units it is listed as (which will tell you if it is legal) and if you have asked the neighbors to quiet down and they don't, I would call the police and ask what can be done. Also, you can find out who owns the building and write a letter outlining the issues you are having with their tenants and tell them you have contacted the city to complain as well. The owner is ultimately responsible for the tenants behavior. You may also want to mention the pot smoke because in Oakland, in a multifamily unit, no one may smoke within 10 feet of any opening to a building including vents. Write down everything (dates, incidents of noise, smoking), record the noise from your child's room. You have a right to peace. Good luck. Good Neighbor

It sounds like you are very unhappy where you are. I suggest that you move. Your landlord may be willing to let you out of your lease without a penalty. Ask him/her and see if you can work something out. It seems as if you are a family in a student neighborhood. It is not a good mix. Seems like moving would be the best option. Anon

Partying neighbors keep baby awake

Aug 2012

I'm at my wit's end with our neighbors. We moved into our home the same time they moved into their apartment next door. They like to play really bad techno music at all hours of the day and seem to have taken to hosting parties at night, sometimes weekday nights. The worst part is their bass, it rattles the walls and windows of our 100-year-old home. Our bedroom is approximately 2 feet from their living room window where their sound system sits. Sometimes when our baby sleeps and they're listening to their music, the baby monitor gets overloaded by the sound of their bass. We have fans blowing and white noise playing, but sometimes that is no match for their bass. Our neighbors are nice folks and we've been nice to them, calling or texting and politely asking them to turn the music down, but they will crank it up again the next day (or later in the same day) and we have to ask politely all over again. This works, but gets old fast. We've explained the baby situation but they just don't get it.

Last night was the final straw, over 12 straight hours of wall-shaking *really bad* techno, and drunk kids. It woke our baby really made my husband and I upset. We called and texted from 2am-5am, seems they just ignored their phones. We live in Oakland and don't imagine our reduced-police force will pay any mind to a 'disturbing the peace' or noise violation phone call. Any suggestions? I'm going to try and find out who the landlord is and make a formal complain with them. Talking to the neighbors directly doesn't seem to have made a difference. Would like to take the peaceful kind approach but I'm about ready to strangle someone. Victoria

This situation is awful. I don't have advice, but I really feel for you. We had it happen to us a few times, i.e. loud parties outside our apartment waking our baby up. We ended up finding out when the quiet time in our city began (I think it was 9 or 10pm) and called the police (the non-emergency number). We explained that we had a baby that could not sleep with the noise, and that the party was loud and seemed out of control so we were afraid to confront the neighbors directly (which we were since we did not know them well and there was a large party of drunk people there). The police actually came and quieted it down pretty quickly. So it might be worth a try. anonymous

My advice? Get I'd say the ''peaceful approach'' isn't working. Texting and calling is not enough. Go over there in person, knock on their door, and tell them to turn their music down/off immediately. Heck bring the baby with you for dramatic effect. These people are not ''nice folks'' if they don't have the decency to turn down their music at 4AM with a sleeping baby next door. Stop being passive agressive and get angry! Pretend you're a confrontational east coaster instead of a passive west coaster and be upfront with them. They're clearly not concerned about your feelings so why should you be concerned with being nice to them? Definitely call the police, repeatedly if necessary, it can't hurt. I would definitely contact their landlord as well although I personally think that dealing with them directly is your best option. Sucks to have noise with a baby! Sorry and hope you get it solved. It's time to get mad

First: you and your family have a legal right to ''quiet enjoyment.''

Second: police will, most likely, do little to quiet noise unless the noise occurs after 10PM and before 7AM (California's and Berkeley's legally defined ''quiet hours'') unless you supply information that police and/or a district attorney can use.

By law, any person who makes sounds that pass beyond the property line of the noise source has no reasonable expectation of privacy. State courts (especially California courts ! ) and federal courts have consistently held that anyone may record any sound that passes into their space from another space and/or any person may record any noise made in a public space or passes into a public space.

You may record the noise to show the ''character'' of the noise (tone of voice, offensive words used, etc.) and you can get someone with a dosimeter (sound-level meter) to record the sound level (volume) of the noise when the noise gets to your property. Give that information to local police. (Ask that your name and address be withheld. Sometimes, people who feel it is their ''right'' to make a lot of noise also think it's their ''right'' to demonstrate their self-righteous anger in threatening ways when their noise brings scrutiny of authorities, so caution is advised.)

If you think it is possible these noisy tenants are UC Berkeley students, text an ANONYMOUS tip to: cal [at] or call 510.644.8477.

Note: photographs, similarly, can be taken of what you can easily see without ''peeking'' or using special equipment without violating reasonable expectation of privacy. Worked for us !

ABOUT A SOUND LEVEL METER (from an experienced expert who has provided technical information in federal courts and California courts):

The first thing you need to decide is whether the meter is to get approximate levels to use when talking to the city, or whether you need legally defensible measurements.

The first goal will be readily met by a Radio Shack meter, which is actually not a bad piece of equipment for $50. See

If you need defensible (as in, with known error bounds and traceable to NIST standards) data, that will cost at least $600 (iPhone interface and mic) or over $1,000 for a purpose-built instrument.

I suspect that the Shack meter is OK for your use, if what you mostly want to do is convince the police that a real problem exists. If it turns out you need something better, you've invested only $50 to figure that out.

From a homeowner who is in favor of being able to sleep !

Yes, call the cops. That's their job, and they will have time to go over. We had neighbors who weren't half as bad as yours sound, and we called the cops constantly if the loud music went beyond 11 p.m. The cops always went, even in these reduced-budget times.

Many police departments have something called POP officers (problem oriented policing) whose job it is to deal with problems like these: non-violent but very annoying and breaking noise ordinances, etc. You can ask if your police dept has one. It's the non-emergency number for the police dept that is also staffed 24/7. They don't report who called, so don't be scared when they ask you for your name and number; sometimes they just want to call you later to report back or check back in. If you hear people shouting, you can say you are worried about it becoming violent (that happened to us once: partying neighbors started shouting at each other and the cops were there VERY fast!).

Also, if you know your other neighbors, let them know the phone number to call so that they can also call in the parties. And if you don't know them, then get to know them! Sometimes it's as easy as knocking on the front door. Don't forget the backyard neighbors to you and to the partiers as well. This will make it a higher priority for the police, and for the property manager/owner as well.

Also call the City and ask about talking to someone in code enforcement; there may be something that exists for ongoing noise, excessive partying, drunken people on the front lawn, etc. Isn't there something like ''disturbing the peace?''

If they are renting their apartment, find out who the property manager and/or owner is/are, and call them immediately. This is not appropriate behavior for anyone, but if they are tenants, and if police start making house calls, then the manager/owner will not be happy and will hopefully not let them renew their lease. If multiple neighbors start calling them, that also will make them unhappy and motivated to change.

Finally, if none of this works (and you should only give it a week or two for at least one visit to be paid), call or email your City Councilperson. I emailed mine with a general plea for assistance (what do we do?) and included his ENTIRE staff in the email. One of them forwarded it to the police sargeant, and I got a call from PD, the house got a visit, and I got a follow-up call from the PD AND the Councilperson's staffer being sure it had been remedied! Wow!

I hope all of this works out. It did for us. start the phone calls

NOISY neighbours screaming at each other driving me crazy!!

Oct 2010

HELP! My neighbors are driving me mad, and moving is not an option. They live extremely close to us, and we don't have a great relationship. This is mostly because in the past, the mom has tried to take advantage of me by leaving her kid in my care without asking if that's ok, so that she can have a rest from him - completely inappropriate as I don't even have a kid, but I work from home and she would just call over and drop him off, telling him to 'come home whenever you're ready!' The kid has some behavioral problems, and the parents fight constantly. We hear them screaming at each other and having the most vicious arguments. We also hear them screaming at the kids and the young one in particular seems to be constantly the target of his father's rages. The younger kid wakes us up almost every day as he seems to have loads of energy in the mornings and goes running round the garden (under my bedroom window!) screaming every morning and letting off steam in the noisiest fashion. We have tried speaking to them (fail) and now we have also left them a note - mostly because I didn't want to speak to them again because they (esp the dad) scare me but also because I wanted a paper trail that proves we really have addressed this with them. Nothing has changed. We can't move out. What should we do? Calling the police seems rather extreme, though we have thought several times about calling them in the context of some of the parents' more noisy fights. Such a tricky situation. Any and all feedback very much appreciated. exhausted neighbor

PLEASE call the police if she ever leaves the child with you again. That is child abandonment. There needs to be a paper trail. In addition, call the police whenever they have these noisy horrible fights. I've done it and it works. been there

How about mediation? **

In response to the recommendation for SEEDS mediation, I would NOT recommend them. My husband and I were threatened via email by his verbally violent brother-in-law (who also uses and grows marijuana as a business because he claims he has never been able to get a conventional job). My husband's sister recommended that we use SEEDS as a mediator to resolve family tension. I was reluctant and after I showed the SEEDS administrators the threatening email, they assured me that if my sister-in-law's husband became verbally violent, they would IMMEDIATELY stop the mediation. The first mediation, the husband interrupted and was told to be quiet and then was escorted out -- and we expected mediation would stop, but they brought him back in! The second mediation, the husband got mad at his wife and started yelling and then walked out and the mediator went after him and brought him back! Mediation should have ceased and he should have been told that because of his actions, it stopped. The mediators coddled this verbally violent substance abuser. My complaint to them was that they should have stuck to their policy and stopped mediation, but they were trying to hurry up and get us agree to something in three mediation sessions. They charge a nominal fee ($50) if you can pay, otherwise, you don't have to pay for the services. It is clear that you get what you pay for. If your problem is serious and you want to go the mediation route, pay the money to get someone who is trained. In my case, I should have insisted that we get a mediator trained to handle substance abusers with anger management problems. Don't use SEEDS

Noise from a neighbor's band practice

Jan 2009

I am wondering whether it is appropriate for me to say something to our neighbor about the noise from his band. One of our neighbors is in a band and the band practices at our neighbor's house. They practice in a above-ground basement and due to the location of our respective houses/the lack of sound-proofing in the basement/the volume of the amplifiers, we can hear the music in nearly every room of our house, including all of the bedrooms, even if the windows are closed. The music is not loud enough to halt ordinary conversation in our house, but it is loud enough that I must turn on the TV or stereo in order to drown out the sound. My question is, is it appropriate for me to ask them to do something about the noise? I understand that living in an urban area, we must expect a certain amount of noise. So I accept that I will hear my neighbors talking in their yards, children playing, lawnmowers and the like. The difference in my mind is that the noise from the band is filtering into our house and I cannot ignore the noise like I can from those other sources. In general, the practices seem to go on for at least 2-3 hours and happen roughly 2-3 times a week. During the week, the practices are in the evenings, and on the weekends they are usually during the afternoons. I do not want to be unreasonable about the noise, and I realize that renting out studios is expensive. That being said, I am frustrated that on an otherwise peaceful Sunday afternoon, I cannot take a nap without hearing the beat of the bass from next door.

I would appreciate hearing others' views. In particular, I am interested in responses from those who have had neighbors with loud music and those who have bands that practice at home. Should I just buy earplugs?

Hi: I am in a band and we have on occasion practiced in our detached garage in the backyard. We have always checked with the neighbors beforehand, and after the fact, to see if it bothered them. The neighbors have all responded positively, but if any one of them had complained we would have ceased our playing. -respectful musician

Oh, can I speak to this one. I don't have the band, I have the dogs. To me, excessive noise is all the same. Yes dogs bark, bands rehearse, but when their right to play (bark), clashes with your right to quiet/peace of mind/ serenity, then they need to change things(and yes, I have a dog, and no, it's not okay to leave a barking dog outside all day long while you are at work) It's your world too, 3 times a week is too much. Most people work all week and appreciate their weekends to chill out and relax, I would either speak with them, or write a note, and if that doesn't work call city hall and ask about the local noise abatement code. I also understand that most people desire to be on good terms with their neighbors, but I feel if an issue is not addressed, it will turn into resentment, and you STILL won't have any peace. I hear you

Hi. I've encountered your problem too that we ended up having to go to small claims court as our last resort (and won a judgment in our favor). People are entitled ''peace and quiet,'' so I suggest you get yourself a copy of ''Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries, and Noise'' by Cora Jordan to give you different suggestions as to how to deal with your neighbors in an amicable going to court is the VERY LAST RESORT!! Good luck! Also, don't expect to be popular for speaking up but you are entitled a nap in your own house without ''band'' interruption but don't expect to be popular if they don't like your request. If you can live with that, fine. If you can't, then put up with it as I'm not popular with my neighbors but I can hear my own voice now and there is nothing like peace and quiet on a Sunday's priceless!! anon

Neighbor's monthly 3AM drumming & screaming ritual

Nov 2005

5 years living next to this lady, she lives alone, late 50s. About once a month, until midnight or later, we hear loud screaming, drums, wailing..some pagan, shamanistic ritual..pretty sure she's on a good high in there..

Problem; asked her nicely 5 years ago and ongoing, to finish by 10pm, no change since. We are a family, one high stress teacher job to get up early for, one Phd in progress who needs sleep, and one 2 year old who already wakes us up once a night @ 3am. Not judging her practice, its her deal, but its rude, insensitive and selfish in my mind.

I want to call the police next time (risk of illegal substance fine for her?). Wife feels we should just accept it, live and let live and all that. Talking to her didn't help, writing a polite note raised her ire. She is normally a decent neighbor, not a bad person. Just goes off her head once a month. It drives me mad. We live in an East Bay urban environment, with homes close to each other. 

Advice? Leave it be, and take it on the chin? Or push the principle of 'do unto others' and make her realise she has to stop? Would be very interested in your opinions. anonymous

If that person lived next door and woke me up at 3am, I would call the police at once, and every time. It is completely unacceptable to make noise at that hour, and no doubt against city ordinances as well. Don't feel guilty! anon

Maybe it's just me, but I would have no problem calling the police about this. You could talk to her one more time, or see if any other neighbors are bothered, but after that, go for it. Call the non-emergency number, of course! like to sleep at night

You didn't say which city you live in, but most cities have a noise ordinance which specifically forbids this kind of noise after 9 or 10 at night, and it's always against the law if it lasts for more than a minute or so, no matter what time, if you live in a residential zone. I know that Berkeley and Oakland both have their noise ordinances online - other cities probably do too. People are entitled to peace in their own homes. Call the police every time it happens. And keep a log too. Nobody should have to put up with that! GO

You know, I would really suggest that you try try try to let it go, and even better, accept it with some grace. It's only once a month, and so many people have to live and struggle with daily and nightly noise from neighbors (parties, kids, animals, musical instruments, and such), the street, etc. We all live packed together in this urban environment and as hard as it is for some of us, up to a certain point it's just wiser to work on ourselves rather than fight other people. You say she's generally decent. Can you ask her to let you know a few days ahead of each gathering so that you can prepare yourself psychologically? Do extra sessions of your regular stress reduction exercises? And, I think that it might be helpful to your acceptance of other people's noise to realize that your 2 year old's noise, or other noise of your own life, might be bothering some of your neighbor's (maybe even this one) and that they are not making a fuss about it, that you are the recipient of their understanding and grace. At his level of inconvenience, I say go with your wife- live and let live. anon

Not being able to sleep through the night is truly exhausting and I sympathize with how difficult this must be. However, if this happens only once a month, I hope you can find a way to accept it. Not everybody in the world has it together, and your neighbor clearly doesn't (at least once a month). She is being inconsiderate, but this may be her only way of coping with the world, and one good thing is that it is relatively infrequent. I hope you can find some compassion for her and maybe even some humor. To reduce stress for yourself, try to acknowledge that she's nuts, life is nuts, and then put in your earplugs. Instead of trying to get to sleep, you may want to do your own ''crazy'' activity (presumably, quieter than hers) and just accept that life isn't always what you expect it to be. Nancy

You don't say in your posting what the actual problem is for you from your neighbor's behaviour--does it actually keep you and your family awake? I've noticed that sometimes in these situations, the bigger disruption from someone else's inconsiderate behaviour is the effect that my anger and indignation has on me, rather than the behaviour itself. Given that this is only once a month, and your wife doesn't want to take on a fight, maybe you could first try to figure out how you can accept and live with this--maybe just wear earplugs on those nights? If you can let go of the anger, you might find that it's possible to sleep through the noise.

If that doesn't work, I would let her know that 1) her behaviour is not OK with you, and 2) what you want her to do about it (stop at 10) and 3) if she's not willing to do that, then you will call the police the next time it happens. Or alternatively, you could suggest engaging in a mediation process- -there are free mediation services available. You could also talk to other neighbors to see if they are also bothered--if so they could deliver the same message. anon