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Use and Termination of Easements

You have a noisy neighbor, there are barking dogs, loud music or other unreasonable noise, keeping you up at night and agitated during the day. At some point, you want to pick up the phone and call the police department with a noise complaint. But, have you tried simply talking to your neighbor about their noisy dog? Maybe they're such deep sleepers that they don't even know how loud their canine friend can be. Even if you're sleep-deprived and cranky, it's important to take a reasonable approach to noise issues. Below are suggestions for what to do about a neighbor's noise when it becomes a problem.

Neighbor Noise and the Law: Basics

In almost every community, there are laws and ordinances that prohibit excessive, unnecessary, and unreasonable decibel levels of noise.

When you do find the local noise ordinances and state laws that apply to where you live, don't be surprised to find out that the laws set aside a certain time of day when it is supposed to be generally quiet.

In addition, a municipality, city or town may also have prohibitions on sustained noise levels above a certain decibel. Police will often investigate by placing a decibel meter near the property line and take a reading over a period of time.

How to Confront Your Neighbor About Their Excessive Noise

If you're already thinking about calling the police, you might want to stop and think about less-adversarial ways to solve the problem. In many cases, they may not be aware of how loud or distracting the noise is to their neighbors. Below are suggestions for how to address the problem, from talking to filing a lawsuit.

  1. Talk - Plain and simple. Rather than having a shouting match across the fence, try instead to ring their doorbell and ask to have a conversation about the loud noise.
  2. Give a warning - Give a warning to your neighbor and send them a copy of the local noise ordinances with the relevant parts underlined or highlighted. Keep copies for your records. Also, if you happen to live in a planned community or have a homeowners association that has a housing agreement, send a copy of the agreement with the relevant portions highlighted.
  3. Mediation - This is only necessary if you enjoy a good relationship with your neighbor and want it to continue. A mediator will invite you and your neighbor to sit down together and try to hash out a solution to the noise problem. These mediation services are generally available in most cities and sometimes are free or low-cost.
  4. Call the Cops - If nothing has worked, you should call the police. You can show law enforcement that you have attempted to solve the noise problem on your own, but that your neighbor continues to violate the noise ordinances. At this point, the police may come in and investigate. Your best bet is to call the police during a period when you feel the noise laws are being violated, or give the time period in which the violation repeats itself.
  5. File a lawsuit - If the police fail to investigate, or otherwise do not judge a noise violation, you can file a private nuisance complaint in small claims court. Most small claims courts are easy to navigate.

Suing Your Neighbor for Making Too Much Noise

If a neighbors' noise is bothering you and nothing to resolve the situation has worked, you have every right to file a lawsuit. Generally speaking, there are two different remedies that can be sought from such a lawsuit. If you want money damages, you could probably get away with filing a lawsuit in small claims court. However, if you seek a court order from the judge directed at your neighbor to cease and desist making the noise, then you will have to file suit in regular civil court.

In order to win your case in small claims court, you will need to prove that there is excessive and disturbing noise and that your neighbor is the source of the noise. Next, you will need to show that your quiet enjoyment of your home is being disrupted and that you have previously asked the person to stop making the noise. You will need evidence to prove your case. Evidence can be found in copies of documents requesting that your neighbors quiet down, witnesses, recordings of the noise and even your own testimony.

In most states, small claims judgments are limited to maximums ranging from $2,500 to $15,000. A good starting point is $50 to $75 per day that the noise disrupted you. If your job performance was affected you may be able to claim a higher amount.

Excessive Noise and Injury

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), noise of only 85 decibels (60 decibels is the sound of a normal conversation) can cause noise-induced hearing loss over time.

What Should You Do About a Neighbor's Noise? An Attorney Can Help

Disputes with neighbors should be handled with delicacy. This means that you'll need a detailed understanding of your rights and your neighbor's obligations under local laws and regulations. While it's always best to resolve disputes directly with your neighbors, sometimes it's necessary to work with a skilled, local real estate attorney instead.

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