Legal Remedies for Excessive Neighbor Noise

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The cliche advice to handle a noisy neighbor who constantly blasts music, shouts profanity, hosts loud parties or has untrained barking dogs is to “talk it out” with them.

That may work if you’re familiar with them and know them to be calm and peaceful. If you don’t know them, however, you could be walking over and introducing yourself to a gang member, drug addict, violent drunk or a sociopath. And this could be in any town.

What To Do About Noisy Neighbors

In an ideal world, we could all meet with our neighbors and have a friendly chat over the back fence to settle any disputes. Unfortunately, the world we live in is far from ideal.

The sad truth is that there are people out there who will simply do whatever they can get away with until they are threatened with punishment.

Asking nicely won’t get you anywhere with them. Fortunately, there are a number of possible punishments for frequent and intrusive noise, including eviction, a settlement in small claims court and even arrest.

At worst, if you were already looking to move, a noisy neighbor could be the ticket to exiting a lease early without paying any fees or forfeiting a deposit.

After my divorce, I moved into an apartment. The upstairs neighbors played music at all hours, slammed their door, and held parties on the patio til 4AM. One day, I left them a nice letter explaing that the recently divorced neighbor with a teenager downstairs was seeking quiet time during the healing process. It worked. They actually INSULATED their apartment and limited their patio time to a few occassions and began ending by midnight. Sometimes, we just have to ask.

– Lori Ballen
The cliche advice to handle a noisy neighbor who constantly blasts music shouts profanity, hosts loud parties or has untrained barking dogs is to "talk it out" with them.

1) Check The Lease Agreeement

If you live in an apartment complex or some other form of shared housing, the first step should be to check your own lease for the landlord’s policies on noise.

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If you own a home and are part of a homeowner’s association there may be a similar provision in your agreement.

Terms in a lease will likely be worded to describe the types of noise that you personally are not supposed to be making, but this lease is very likely a template that the landlord uses for all the other tenants and they are usually bound by the same terms.

Even if there is little to no language in the lease about noise issues, most municipalities have a “quiet enjoyment” clause that is legally implicit in all rental arrangements.

These clauses tend to apply more to noise caused by the landlord (such as doing construction at odd hours) than they do to noise caused by other tenants, but they are still worth looking at.

At the very least, the application of this clause combined with documentation of the noise, any noise terms in the lease, and the landlord’s failure to address the issue may provide sufficient legal grounds to break the lease early and move out without paying any penalty.

It may not be necessary to even invoke any clauses or laws, however. If the landlord is not a slumlord, it’s bad business for them to cater to troublemakers at the expense of good and respectful tenants.

Finding other nearby neighbors who are also disturbed by the noise to join in the complaint may put enough pressure on the landlord to threaten the noisy neighbor with eviction if they don’t stop disturbing the peace.

2) Find The Local Noise Ordinances

Every city or town has its own laws regarding excessive noise. They usually at least specify certain times as “quiet hours” and a certain decibel level that noise in residential areas should not exceed.

The best place to start looking for these ordinances is first at the city or town website. In some areas noise laws may fall under the jurisdiction of the county instead. If the websites do not have the information posted, the next best step is to visit a local law library.

If no law library is available, a librarian at a public library may be able to tell you where to look. Calling or visiting the county administrative offices is also a possibility, though one that may require some waiting in a line.

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The noise ordinances will spell out exactly what types of noise are prohibited, what the exact noise levels are and what times of day are designated as sleeping hours. With this information, you can begin documenting legal violations of the noise code.

Las Vegas Code Enforcement
Phone: 702-229-6615
Report Party House: 702-229-3500

Las Vegas Animal Control
Phone: 702-229-6444

Neighborhood Issues Complaing Form

Clark County Public Response Office (code enforcement):
Phone: 702-455-4191

Clark County Animal Control
Phone: 702-455-7710

Clark County online portal for complaints/concerns

Henderson Code Enforcement
Phone: 702-267-3950

Henderson Animal Control
Phone: 702-267-4970

North Las Vegas Code Enforcement
Phone: 702-633-1677

North Las Vegas Animal Control
Phone: 702 -633-1390

3) Document The Noise

Video recording is the simplest way to document noise. To establish the time, turn a phone with a clock on while filming it, or turn the television on to a “preview channel” or some other channel that displays the current time while filming.

Proceed to document the noise in a continuous shot without pausing the camera or turning it off.

A decibel meter can also be helpful in establishing that a legal noise threshold has been breached. They can be used in conjunction with the video recording to establish the decibel level of neighbor noise inside your house or on your property.

If they are kept in good condition they can usually be sold for most of their retail value once you are done with them.

When filming, stay on your own property or on public property, well away from the neighbor’s property so that they cannot claim that you trespassed. Also attempt to avoid filming windows where possible, so that they cannot later claim that you were attempting to invade their privacy.

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It is legal to film their property from your own or from public property, including filming the license plates on their vehicles and their house number for identification.

Once the recording is complete, an option to consider is uploading it to a video sharing site such as Youtube. Uploading provides a time stamp and can put social pressure on neighbors to behave, especially in neighborhoods with a homeowner’s association.

Ensure that the guidelines above (especially not filming windows) have been followed, and don’t identify the neighbor by name or go off on an angry tangent in the video description or comments. Simply identify them by the house number, street name and city.

If you don’t want your address made public, create an account specifically for this purpose that does not contain any of your personal information. On Youtube, the video can be marked as “private” if you just want the time stamp and the storage without giving the general public access to it.

4) Send a Formal Warning

A written formal warning to a neighbor should include a brief summary of the incidences of noise and what you’ve done to document them. Do not include video or audio, just mention what has been done to document specific violations.

Ask that they cease the specific incidents of noise and outline the next steps you intend to take if they do not. This can include involving the landlord or homeowner’s association, calling the police or threatening to take them to court.

If you have had some contact with the neighbor in the past and know them to not be violent or a substance abuser, you may want to also offer mediation as an alternative. Many areas have free and low-cost mediation services that can help to settle personal disputes. This hinges on the neighbor being at least somewhat considerate and rational, however.

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Keep a copy of this warning for yourself, as it will be needed if you go to court. A copy should also be delivered to a landlord or homeowner’s association as proof that the neighbor has been asked to cease their noise.

5) Contact Police

Generally speaking, you’ll find that the larger and more populated an area is (and the higher the crime rate), the less likely police are to respond to a noise complaint.

It may even be brushed off by a non-emergency dispatcher as “unimportant” or a waste of time. If officers do respond, it may take hours, by which time the noise has already ceased.

In a low-population area, police response may be viable to get noise stopped. But even if they can’t come out in a timely manner, it may still be worthwhile to try and get a written report from them, especially if you plan to go to court.

6) Take The Issue to Small Claims Court

Taking a claim to court may seem like too much of a hassle and an expense to bother with. But suits based on noise are fairly easy to handle in most jurisdictions and usually don’t even require hiring a lawyer.

Proof of a formal warning and legal recordings of the noise may be enough to win, and testimony from other neighbors and written police reports will make the case a slam dunk.

The actual process of filing the case will vary from area to area, but the starting point is the local municipal or small claims court. Check their website for details or make a personal visit to speak to a clerk. It’s important to document each individual incident of noise violation, as the judgment may be delivered on a per-incident basis.

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Showing specific damage is also important, such as inability to sleep leading to missing time at work or school, being unable to work at home, and physical or mental health problems caused by stress and lack of rest.

Each jurisdiction sets their own limits on total damages, usually somewhere lower than $10,000. A judgment forcing a noisy neighbor to pay out several thousand dollars may finally convince them to be respectful and considerate where no other method would, however.

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Lori Ballen, REALTOR®

Lori Ballen, Realtor

Hi! I’m Lori Ballen REALTOR®. My team serves the Greater Las Vegas area from Summerlin to Boulder City, and everything in between. You can reach us at 702-604-7739.

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