Are you constantly getting complaints from your neighbors or landlord about noise from your apartment? Or on the flip side, are you worried that you may be disturbing your neighbors with noise generated by your activities inside your home?
In this article, we are going to discuss what is considered normal apartment, including the legal landscape around this topic and some tips on how to deal with noise complaints or issues. Let’s get into it!
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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A Little Understanding Goes a Long Way
The way that human society works, most people tend to live in close proximity to other people.
We congregate in villages, towns, and in many cases, super densely populated cities, where people from all walks of life live, work, and play, at times quite literally on top of one another.
That means that unless you’re lucky enough to live out in the countryside, you’ve got to expect some level of noise from your neighbors.
And whether you realize it or not, they’ll be expecting to hear some level of noise from you.
Of course, the style of building you live in makes a difference as to how much noise you can reasonably expect to hear from your neighbors.
If you live in a detached house, for example, you could reasonably expect to hear your neighbors in the garden on a pleasant summer’s evening, but you wouldn’t expect to hear them if they were indoors.
Apartments, of course, are different. In most cases, you have people living in units next to you, and in some cases above and below you. Walls and floors are often thin and you can expect to hear normal sounds of living coming from them.
So what’s normal and acceptable in that situation? It’s not always a clear answer, but we’ll tackle it next.
You might be worried that you’re being too loud, or you might be wondering if your neighbors are being noisy enough to merit a noise complaint.
Well, you’ve come to the right place to find out. Let’s get cracking!
How Loud Is Too Loud In An Apartment?
As I just mentioned, living in an apartment complex makes navigating noise issues particularly difficult. It’s about as close as you can get to actually living with, rather than next to, your neighbors.
You’ll share walls with other people, and you’ll share floors too.
With that in mind, you’ve got to be reasonable. You’ve got to expect to hear some noise from your neighbors as they go about their lives.
Because of this, the simple fact is that you will need to build up some level of tolerance for noise because even everyday tasks do create noise that travels in apartments.
You should expect to hear things like muffled music/tv/conversations, vacuuming, people moving about, showers running, and similar sounds generated by normal day to day activities. What is often viewed as too loud or disturbing is constant blaring music, partying at odd hours, or other loud noises that are outside communal norms for your building or area.
Ultimately, though, the search for an exact definition of what constitutes ‘too loud’ in an apartment will be a fruitless one.
What counts as ‘too loud’ varies depending on several factors. For starters, as I’ve alluded to earlier, you’ve got to consider what ‘normal noise’ would be for your area.
If you live in a generally noisy neighborhood, you might be able to get away with playing loud music all the time.
On the other hand, if you live in a quiet area, even a bit of moderately loud music might prove too much for some and be viewed as disruptive.
Of course, it also depends on the time of day. During the daytime, most people will be a lot more tolerant of loud noises.
However, if you’re hosting a party that rumbles on into the early hours, you’ll probably get yourself in some trouble.
Many apartment blocks have specified quiet hours. For example, quiet hours might run from 11 PM-7 AM.
Your lease may also be instructive here. In some cases, leases have specific provisions dealing with noise and what is acceptable or not.
What Does The Law Say?
If you look to the law for guidance on what constitutes normal apartment noise, you’ll find yourself sadly disappointed.
The US Noise Control Act of 1972 was enacted into law to establish a national policy around noise emission levels, but it doesn’t provide any specific guidance.
In essence, by passing the act Congress was declaring that it had a responsibility to protect the American people from things that could damage the public’s health and wellbeing, including inadequately controlled noise.
Rather than coming up with concrete protections, though, Congress simply outlined a vague desire to control noise pollution and committed to future research.
Many cities and localities do have ordinances to regulate noise pollution, which you can find online.
However, they are often convoluted and difficult to enforce outside of public spaces.
Know Your Decibels
Although there is no set decibel level that constitutes ‘too loud’ in an apartment or residential area, having a rough idea of how loud certain noises are might help to give you an idea of what is considered normal apartment noise.
Typically, indoor residential areas clock in at around 45 decibels for every day, ambient sound.
That is well below the 70-decibel threshold where hearing loss can begin if exposed to the noise for extended periods of time.
Regularly going over that threshold for extended lengths of time will probably land you in hot water with your neighbors.
To give you an idea of roughly how loud certain sounds are, 60 decibels is an everyday conversation, 85 is a food blender, and a rock concert will probably be 120 decibels or more.
An everyday appliance like the dishwasher or washing machine usually hits about 70 decibels, yet it shouldn’t cause any noise complaints provided it’s run during a sensible time of day.
You’ve got to remember that you’ve still got walls and insulation between you and your neighbors, so whilst they may hear the appliance, it won’t be unreasonably loud.
Loud Is Subjective
At the end of the day, we all experience sound differently.
One neighbor, for example, might find the occasional guitar session on a weekday evening completely tolerable, whilst another may decide it doesn’t constitute normal everyday noise and complain.
The best solution is to be friendly with your neighbors, understand what constitutes normal noise for them, and be prepared for a little give and take.
For example, your neighbor might tolerate your guitar practice at 8 PM, whilst you tolerate the occasional bark from their dog between 8 AM and 10 PM.
If you’re really concerned, though, either about the noise you are making or about noisy neighbors, you could invest in a device or an app to measure sound.
That way, you can either make a complaint armed with evidence, or defend yourself from noise complaints from overzealous neighbors.
Unfortunately, there is no objective answer to the question as to what is considered normal apartment noise, but hopefully you have been able to take away some of the key indicators of what is generally viewed as acceptable and how to tell what is appropriate in your situation.
In the end, the best way to live with your neighbor’s noise is to be on good terms with them, understand their habits, and get a feel for the kinds of noise they normally make.
You can tolerate any particularly noisy habits they might have, and they’ll do the same for you.