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August 19, 2004

How to Handle Your Noisy Neighbor (and Not End Up in Jail)

by Stuart Lieberman
International Real Estate Digest

Your neighbor's kid is taking trumpet lessons. Or worse yet, drum lessons.

Your 22 year old neighbor loves to party with his friends, always at 2AM.

Your downstairs neighbor wakes you up each morning at 4:30 AM when he goes off to work. His car has no muffler, and he has not intention of ever going to Midas.

What legally can be done about your very loud, very annoying neighbor? The answer: a lot can be done. But you too need to be patient.

Rome was not built overnight, and it sometimes takes longer to silence a neighbor's loud mouth than to build Rome.

First, if at all possible (and safe!) speak to the offender. Be nice . There is a good chance that your neighbor did not realize the impact he or she was having on your life. Often, nice words and a smile can go a long way.

Also, its easier to treat a stranger un-neighborly, which is another reason why speaking with a reasonable neighbor and letting him or her know that you too are a nice person, can go a long way. Once a face attaches to the person next store, rude conduct often disappears.

If nice words don't work, or are too dangerous, tenants should see their landlords. The landlord should provide you with quiet enjoyment of your apartment. See if you can get the landlord to help mediate the dispute.

Many local governments have noise ordinances. Some require noise levels to remain below specified decibels. Others have a more vague standard.

The local police department can help you file a claim and may also help you secure the needed proof. Often, these disputes are resolved in municipal court . If that does not work, you can hire a lawyer and file a private nuisance law suit. A private nuisance usually occurs when one neighbor prevents an adjacent neighbor from fully enjoying use and benefit from his property.

While you can technically present such a case yourself, it is a real lawsuit and usually requires a real lawyer. While occasionally technical in nature, private nuisance noise cases may be required to bring about peace and quiet.

Many communities have dispute resolution programs. These are informal alternatives to costly litigation. Check with the local prosecutors office to learn whether such a program exists where you live.

If one neighbor is disrupting an entire neighborhood, the neighbors are often better served by forming one group and together hiring one lawyer to file a lawsuit against the offender. This saves money and, there is strength in numbers.

Plus if only one neighbor complains, that neighbor may be perceived or portrayed as extra-sensitive or, worse yet, simply crazy or just mean spirited. When its an entire community that is complaining, often the complaints take on a more genuine appearance.

You need to be persistent and patient with your noisy neighbors. While people have a right to live and make noise, there are rules of reason that always apply.