What to Do When Your Neighbors Play Loud Music, Day or Night

Having neighbors that insist on blasting their stereo or constantly practicing the guitar can be a big annoyance, but is there anything you can do about it?

While it can certainly be frustrating and disruptive, they may be within their rights as a tenant. Before complaining, ensure you’re clear on your building’s noise ordinances and the local by-laws.

If the noise falls outside of reasonable limits, there are several steps you can take to address the situation, including contacting your neighbors, filing a noise complaint with your landlord, and potentially involving the authorities. Here’s what you need to know. 

Noise during the day vs. noise at night

Instances of loud music during the day may be treated differently than loud music that occurs throughout the night. Most cities have noise ordinances, and the guidelines around noise during the day are usually more lenient than those for noise created during the night when people are thought to be sleeping. Usually, 7 AM to 10 PM is considered daytime, and anything outside of those hours is subject to stricter rules.

That said, there are still rules about how much noise is reasonable during the daytime. Your local laws will outline the allowable limits for noises related to specific activities (such as construction, refuse collection, street vendors, power tools, etc.). There may also be rules around the amount of noise allowable within residential areas and multi-family dwellings. Google “[your city] + noise ordinances” to find the laws in your local area.

The noise limits are usually stipulated in decibels (Db), but unless you have a decibel level machine to gauge the volume for you, it may be impossible to tell if the loud music you’re dealing with is genuinely outside the allowable limit or simply beyond your personal tolerance threshold.  

Understand your building’s noise ordinances

Many apartment buildings have their own noise ordinances in addition to the local laws. Your building’s guidelines around noise should be clearly stated in your lease agreement. Before making any formal complaints, study your contract to see if the noise in question is going against the terms of your lease. 

Beyond that, it is within your rights as a tenant to be able to enjoy living in your rental without the disturbance of music or other loud noises. If you’re feeling bothered by regular loud music from your neighbors, you have a right to seek a resolution for the issue.  

Always document egregious noise

Keeping track of noise violations is the best way to exemplify an ongoing issue. This is especially key in case you need to involve your landlord or the police. Note the date and time of any instance of excessive noise. Also note the source of the noise and describe it (is it loud music from a stereo or someone playing the guitar?). Having detailed notes will help anyone investigating the issue corroborate your complaint with those of other tenants.

Speak with other neighbors to see if they’ve been bothered 

If you live in an apartment building, there’s a good chance that other tenants are struggling with the loud neighbors too. Before you confront the noisy neighbors or escalate your noise complaint, speak with other tenants to see whether they’ve taken action on the issue. 

The steps they have or haven’t taken will help you decide what to do next. If other tenants have already spoken to your neighbors and had no success, it might make sense to go directly to your landlord. If nobody has confronted the noisy neighbors yet, it might make sense to do so in one consolidated effort, rather than each confronting them individually. Depending on the situation, you may feel safer confronting your neighbors if you don’t have to do it alone.

So, speak with other tenants and compare notes on your experiences and the steps each of you has taken so far. Then, consider moving forward with the suggestions below. 

Confront your noisy neighbors

The offending neighbors may be blissfully unaware that you can hear the soundtrack to their lives through your walls. Before you escalate your noise complaint to your landlord, try speaking with your neighbors about the issue (unless, for some reason, you don’t feel safe doing so). 

Knock on their door and politely request that they turn their music down. With any luck, they’ll be apologetic and happy to accommodate your request. If not, there may still be room for negotiation. 

Similarly, the neighbors might not realize that you’re working from home or trying to rest after working a long night shift. You may have success convincing them to turn the music down if you share your situation. 

Depending on how your neighbors respond to your request, you might want to mention that you’ll be taking your complaint to the landlord if the noise doesn’t decrease. The prospect of getting in trouble with the landlord might be enough to quash the issue, even if your neighbors are initially resistant to your request.

Report the excessive noise to your landlord

If you’re unable or unwilling to resolve a noise issue with your neighbors direct, contact your landlord. As a tenant, you have a right to “quiet enjoyment,” and your landlord is responsible for ensuring that noise remains within acceptable levels.

Depending on your relationship with your landlord, you might be able to mention the noise issue in a casual email or phone conversation, or it may make sense to make a formal noise complaint. If you opt for the latter, use these templates to craft your noise complaint letter. 

It’s always wise to submit complaints in writing (via letter or email) to create a paper trail in case the issue remains unresolved. 

Again, your landlord is responsible for resolving noise complaints in order to maintain a pleasing ambiance for all tenants. Failing to do so is a lease violation, and you and any other tenants affected would have grounds to break your leases without penalty due to unsuitable living conditions. Reminding your landlord of this possibility might help resolve the noise issue more quickly. 

Consider contacting the police

Contacting the police should be used as a last resort when filing a noise complaint about loud music. Most noise complaints are your landlord’s responsibility, and unless the noise issue suggests illegal activity (such as violence), the police probably won’t prioritize your complaint. Even if the noise is technically breaking a local noise ordinance, police likely have more pressing issues to deal with. 

Beyond that, it’s worth considering how involving the police might impact your relationship with your neighbors. While their loud music is unacceptable, involving the authorities will likely permanently tarnish any potential for a relationship with them and may create uncomfortable tension. 

Remember that while police presence may make you feel safer, that may not be true for everyone in your building. Ask yourself if it seems necessary to escalate your complaint this far, especially if you’re new to the building and still getting a feel for the community.

All that said, if you believe there is a party going on with illegal activity such as underage drinking, or a potentially violent situation, contacting the police may be the best way to keep things from getting out of control.  

The Bottom Line

Legally, every tenant has a right to enjoy their apartment without experiencing excessive noise. If your neighbors are playing loud music day and night, there’s a strong possibility that they’re violating the terms of their lease. Ultimately it’s up to your landlord to ensure that all tenants can enjoy their units without this type of nuisance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t attempt to address the issue on your own by speaking with your neighbors directly. 

If your efforts prove unsuccessful and your landlord fails to resolve the issue, it may make sense to contact the police. But, before you do, make sure the noise complaints are well documented and truly fall outside the allowable limits. Remember, if your landlord fails to resolve an ongoing noise issue, you likely have grounds to terminate your lease without penalty.