Can I Sue My Neighbor for Excessive Noise?
Weighing your options for dealing with a noisy neighbor
on June 2, 2022
Imagine it’s the middle of the week, and you have a busy workday tomorrow. You are already tired and stressed and want to get a good night’s rest. You get in bed early, but then around midnight, your neighbor starts playing loud music that jolts you awake. Your night’s rest is ruined, and you are even more frazzled than before.
Excessive noise is not just a nuisance — it can also be a health problem. Noise nuisances can cause stress and anxiety and even pack enough decibels to damage your hearing.
If your neighbor is causing the disturbing noise, suing them is possible. However, you may be able to solve the problem without taking your neighbor to court. Below are some options for dealing with a noisy neighbor.
What Is Excessive Noise by Neighbors?
We encounter many different types of noises every day, from cars to television. Not all of them are a nuisance. You know when noise is disturbing you, but what counts as excessive noise, and when can you do something about it?
There are several sources of rules and noise laws that explain what counts as excessive noise and protect your peace and quiet:
- Local ordinances. One of your best resources for combating excessive noise is local laws. Almost every municipality has a noise ordinance. These ordinances prohibit various kinds of excessive noise and set appropriate decibel levels and quiet hours. Some noises, like traffic or industry, are unavoidable in some areas. Many other noises, like lawnmowers or music, are acceptable at some times (for example, mid-afternoon) but not at others (for example, 6 am). It is relatively easy to find out what your ordinance says by visiting your local library or contacting your local government.
- State laws. Depending on where you live, there may be statewide laws prohibiting excessive noises or setting decibel levels for various activities or industries. A noisy neighbor could also violate some state laws against disturbing the peace.
- Homeowners’ association. If you live in a community with a homeowners’ association (HOA), your deed probably contains a section called “covenants, conditions, and restrictions” (CC&Rs). These restrictions apply to everyone in the community and often prohibit excessive noise and set quiet hours. You can familiarize yourself with these rules and use your HOA to enforce them.
- Lease agreement. If you are a renter of a house or apartment, your lease agreement probably provides for the quiet enjoyment of your home. Quiet enjoyment clauses enable you to get your landlord’s help against excessive noise.
What About a Barking Dog?
What if the disturbing noise is a barking dog or other loud pet?
A general noise ordinance would cover excessive noise from dogs or other pets. However, some places also have ordinances specifically about barking dogs. It is good to check if your location has a specific regulation and see what it says.
If you are dealing with a neighbor’s barking dog, an excellent first step is to inform your neighbor about the issue. Talking it out can often fix the problem.
However, suppose your neighbor doesn’t do anything about the issue. In that case, you can follow up by informing them about your local noise laws, including any about dogs.
If your neighbor continues to ignore the problem, you can ask local animal control to enforce dog or pet ordinances.
In some situations, you may need to call the police. However, police don’t often get involved in barking dog issues, so this would be a last resort or in case of an emergency.
Can I Sue My Neighbor for Excessive Noise?
Yes, you can sue for excessive noise. But whether you have a successful lawsuit or how much money you could get depends on the facts. To win a private nuisance claim for excessive noise, you will need to show:
- There is excessive or unreasonable noise
- Your neighbor is causing the noise
- This noise has disturbed your quiet enjoyment of your home
- You have asked your neighbor to stop but to no avail
If you are considering legal action, a good first step is to collect evidence. How loud was the neighbor? What kind of noise? How frequently?
A court’s determination that noise is unreasonable will depend on both the law and the specific facts of your case.
For monetary damages, you could file a lawsuit in your local small claims court. Check how much money your state’s small claims courts can award in judgment. The maximum can range from $2,000 to $25,000. How much you could get varies depending on the facts of your case.
Instead of monetary damages, you may want an injunction — a court order demanding your neighbor stop the loud noise. You can petition for an injunction with your local civil court.
Are There Other Options When Dealing With a Noisy Neighbor?
Because of the time and effort involved, suing your neighbor over noise is often a last resort. Before getting to this stage, consider these options:
- Talk to your neighbor. Depending on your relationship with your neighbor, talking things out could be effective. Explain the problem and why it is making your life hard.
- Inform your neighbor. If your neighbor ignores or refuses your request, let them know they are violating noise ordinances. Educate yourself on these ordinances first to know you’re in the right, and then give your neighbor a copy.
- Noise complaint. If warning your neighbor doesn’t work, you could file a noise complaint. Who you should file a complaint with depends on your situation. If you have a homeowners’ association (HOA), you might notify your HOA committee. As a renter, you could complain to your landlord. As always, collect evidence of noise issues. For example, you could ask other next-door neighbors bothered by your neighbor’s noise to sign the complaint. You could also take recordings of the noise levels and keep a log of incidents.
- File a police report. In some cases, getting law enforcement involved is necessary. If you have tried other options but the problem continues or worsens, consider calling the authorities.
Questions for an Attorney
Many attorneys provide initial free consultations to prospective clients. These meetings are a great resource for both attorney and client, allowing the attorney to hear the facts of the case and the client to determine if the attorney meets their needs.
The best way to decide whether an attorney is the right fit is by asking informed questions. Here are some good questions to ask during your initial conversations:
- How much do you charge for representation, and what are your billing options?
- Given my facts, what are my chances of a successful lawsuit?
- Have you handled cases like this before?
Finding the Right Attorney For Your Needs
It is essential to approach the right type of attorney for legal help—someone who can give you legal advice throughout your entire case. To do so, you can visit the Super Lawyers directory and use the search box to find a lawyer based on your legal issue or location.