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Everything You Need to Know About Noise Laws

Most cities have noise ordinances that guide residents on what level of noise warrants an official complaint and what doesn't.

Most cities have rules on the books that regulate how much noise people can make and when. This applies to all kinds of noise, from construction noises to garbage pickups to noisy neighbors. If you're dealing with one of these things and it's making you desperately want to move, check to see if the kind of noise, amount of noise and time of day is prohibited by your city's noise laws.

Read on if you want to know how to find that out, and what you can do to get the noise to stop.

When you can complain

As a general rule of thumb you can assume that noise during business hours in weekday is acceptable to a point, while loud noises during normal sleeping hours is probably not.

But it's a lot more complicated than that! The biggest cities have noise ordinances that specify what's allowed down to the decibel level and time of day. For example in New York City any pet noise during the day that goes on for more than ten minutes is considered a violation. A dog barking for more than five minutes in the middle of the night is against the ordinance too. Los Angeles even has a special operations, "Noise Enforcement," team that does nothing but police noisy people for the benefit of their neighbors. You can call the team directly if someone is causing a disturbance outside of the allowed hours.

Can your landlord help?

Landlords often put terms in their leases to control noise coming from tenants so as to protect the other tenants. The most important thing for pretty much any landlord is keeping people in their rental units, so there is a good chance they'll jump to action if you complain politely to them about a noisy neighbor or even persistent construction.

If there is a term in your lease that mentions noise you'll have even more ammo for when you lodge your complaint.

Calling the city (AKA calling the cops)

Most cities actually have teams within their police departments that are responsible for regulating noise with fines and arrests. As a last resort you can make this call - just be sure to have already read up on the legal limits so you know that you have the right to make the complaint.

Next steps

Your city almost definitely has restrictions on how much noise you or your neighbor can make at any given time of the day and for what reasons. Get the jist of city laws before you make a bunch of noise or complain about someone who is.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.

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