Dear PoPville – Looking for Advice on Dealing with Loud Neighbors

Dear PoPville,

We moved into our rowhouse apartment about a year ago and were pleasantly surprised by how quiet our neighbors were. Unfortunately that changed a few months ago when new people moved in next door who love to party, playing loud music and having large groups of people talking loudly on their back patio late at night – over the weekend AND during the week. We’ve tried talking directly to the neighbors, asking them to keep it down at night (they blew us off), telling our landlord, who spoke to their landlord, and even have called in noise complaints a few times, but nothing has seemed to get the message across.

Short of moving to a new place, we don’t know what else we can do. I’m all for people having a good time and like to go to a good party myself, but when its on a regular basis and keeps us from sleeping, it gets pretty exhausting after a while. It seems pretty ridiculous that we should have to go through the time, money, and effort of moving while they get to continue keeping everyone up at night having a good time… Any suggestions are welcome! Thanks.

59 Comment

  • Ambien? You’ve explored every possible avenue, other than the pharmaceutical one. It’s cheaper than moving!

    To clarify, have you only talked to them while they have guests, or have you talked to them during the day when they’re sober?

    • Don’t player hate… Insulate! (your house). New windows will allow you to sleep too. I live next to a VERY noisy restaurant in NW and every morning trash trucks and meat trucks alone prove to be annoying. You can’t expect the city to quiet down because you can’t sleep.

      • The OP is a renter, not an owner.

        • Textdoc,

          Does it matter if it is a renter v an owner? Just curious. If so, could you explain the reasoning?

          • You can’t be gentry if you aren’t landed. Derrr. . .

          • Renters won’t/can’t replace windows.

          • what landlord is going to put him/herself out tens of thousands of dollars to replace windows because his tenants are having trouble sleeping?

          • What Chalk said — if the OP owned the place, he/she might want to invest in new windows, but the “insulate” scenario isn’t really applicable for a renter.

            New windows are too expensive to be worthwhile for a renter to buy. And they’re expensive enough that the landlord might balk at being asked to provide them (unless the existing windows are in really poor shape and would need to be replaced soon anyway.

          • OK all, thanks for replying that being an owner might make the difference in replacing the windows. But why should an owner have to go through the tremendous expense (and to get noise insulating windows is really costly if they are to be effective). Most windows in DC would never ever pass the no-transmit noise test because they are so expensive. Why should an owner have to shoulder the cost and install new windows because they happen to live next to really inconsiderate neighbors? I also suspect that if the noise is so bad, it is also being transmitted through walls, you might be amazed by how sound carries. There are certain sounds that travel through walls stunningly well. If it’s a matter that you hear voices outside in the backyard/patio (not yelling and hooting) then the OP needs to give a little and realize some of the give-and-take of living in a city.

          • What’s all this talk of insulated windows? Some people like to have windows open at night, and shouldn’t be subjected to obnoxious noise late at night / early in the morning. Insulated windows wouldn’t help with that.

        • Then wait for the lease to expire, and move out to the countryside. The city is by nature noisy. If the neighbors were quiet, you’d begin to notice the fire trucks… Resistance to city noise is futile.

          • Ahh, the ever-popular false binary: deal with issues ABCDEFG that are supposedly part of “city living,” or move to the suburbs.

            Tons of us live in the city and deal with ordinary city noise. There’s a difference between ordinary city noise and NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBORS having loud weeknight parties.

  • Daily 6 AM outdoor excercise routines with blasting techno. Hopefully they’ll get the message in about a week.

    • I have a sneaking suspicion that this is our place you’re referring to, although we don’t listen to Justin Bieber. What neighborhood do you live in (if this is the OP)?

      • Even if you aren’t the OP’s neighbor… what’s the deal? Are you ignoring your neighbors’ complaints about noise, and if so, on what grounds?

        • After they came over and talked to us, we stopped playing live music in the evenings, but my roommate still practices drums for an hour or so every once in awhile (during the day). We have parties on the weekends (occasionally), and friends are outside sometimes, but this is normal for us.

          We’re university students — we try to do our best to keep quiet but sometimes it just isn’t going to happen. Also, when our neighbors came over to complain about the noise (which was justified at the time), one of them kept talking about how they were a lawyer (we thought they were insinuating legal action) and we felt as if we were being attacked for being students/interns and not “adults.”

  • Is the noise coming mainly from outside, or are you also hearing it through the walls?

    A white noise machine (or a white noise program on your iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch) might block some of it, but I suspect it won’t work as well for noise that’s coming through the walls as for outdoor noise.

  • DC enacted a new “noise at night” law last year. Basically, if you create noise that can reasonably be thought to be heard in someone’s residence after 10pm, then you get arrested (DC made it only an arrestable offense- no fine).

    But, I’ve never heard of it ever being enforced, probably because arresting someone for making too much noise is a bit overboard. So, the police can either enforce the law by arresting the person(s) after non-compliance, or not enforce it at all.

    • If true, this is the most ridiculous and Draconian law on DC’s books.

    • gotryit

      It is being enforced, but only in fairly extreme cases. I had problems with loud parties next door and the police would come and go with no effect. Until one night where the police came by and there were 100-150 people in and around the house / up and down the block. I think the fine must have been in the several hundred dollar range because there haven’t been any more parties of that size in a while. And even the smaller ones have shut down by 10pm.

      • I had to deal with this same thing at my last place. Neighbors were nasty, blasted music at all hours of the night. I had to call the cops too.

        What I was told is that the noise makers only get arrested if the cops have to come by 3 times *in one night* and the process resets itslef the next night. This is probably to keep people from calling the cops for whatever. In my case calling the cops and then telling the landlord I did that basically worked for a while. Good luck!

  • I’m not sure I advocate actually doing this, but I recall someone on PoP advising me to get my noisy neighbor’s landlord’s phone number and call their landlord each time I had a complaint about noise (i.e. at midnight, 1 a.m., 2 a.m., etc). Or perhaps for the loud disturbances coming from their patio — water balloons? Since they’re blown off your requests already, if it were me I would probably just begin calling the cops each time there was a disturbance, keep a log of the calls you’ve had to make, and use it to… actually I don’t know what I would use it for — but I think it would make me feel better.

  • I can totally sympathize. My neighbor, a crazy law professor, was routinely having out-of-control parties on Wednesday nights (I think some of these events were actually fundraisers as they were professionally catered and with live music, etc…). Anyway, after calling the police a number of times, I finally just went over to his house, introduced myself, and provided him with the updated DC “Disorderly Conduct Amendment Act of 2010.” This basically says that it is “unlawful for a person to make an unreasonably loud noise between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am.” (Yeah, I have a copy of it at my desk! haha!) Anyway, some police are not aware of the new policy, so be prepared to bring the code out if they give you trouble the next time you call, but definitely make your neighbors aware of the law. It was designed originally to protect the neighborhoods around GW and Georgetown from rowdy students, but the 10 pm rule can be and should be used anywhere! Two other suggestions for dealing with noise: turning up an air purifier and/or investing in a Marpac Dohm. Good luck.

    • Actually, a DC cop I spoke with said that all cops had to do some kind on online training when the law went into effect. So, they’re just choosing to not enforce it. It’d be interesting to FOIA the arrest numbers for the disorderly – noise at night offense.

      • Hmmm. That’s interesting. When I brought up the law on a 911 call, one of the operators insisted that noise violations could only be related to music, not screaming and yelling. At the time, I didn’t have the code handy, so I couldn’t rattle off the specific language, which is (in my opinion) wonderfully vague. Selective or non-enforcement wouldn’t suprise me in the least, but I would think DC could make a lot of money if they would start fining people for these noise violations. They already do a great job with parking enforcement collections, why not noise violation collections- especially when the police make a second trip? Anyway, hope things turn out well for the OP. Noise coming into your living space is a stressful situation for most of us.

  • The new noise law is NEVER enforced. My basement neighbor is a “DJ” and for a year now, I’ve been dealing with loud, blaring techno music coming from his apartment at all hours of the night during the week, and all entire weekends. Every time I call the police (sometimes twice a night), they merely give a warning and tell the “DJ” that if they are called again, he will be arrested. It’s never happened. The landlord is currently trying to get them evicted (since January 2012) for noise violations and non-payment of rent. And yes, I tried talking to them first, but y’know, he’s an “artist” and can’t be bothered with respecting other people.

    I’ve used white noise machines, ear plugs, fans and sleeping pills, but have yet to find a solution that really works. You could try soundproofing, but that seems like a pricey step to take.

  • Our neighbors have a dog that used to bark all the time – I tried talking to them, but they said the dog didn’t bark. I called the police, who would show up and tell them to quiet their dog down, which lasted 10 minutes after the police left. Finally, several neighbors and I started emailing the district police commander about the problem. After he heard from us enough times, he ordered his officers to start fining the dog owners when they got called about the barking. One $300 ticket later, no more barking dog.

    Another option, which I haven’t used but we were looking into for the dog problem, is the DC Courts Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division. Website is here:
    Brochure here:

  • Well since you know the name of the landlord who rented to them, I’d advise having a lawyer draft something called a “cease and desist” letter and send it to both the tenants AND their landlord. Basically, it’s a letter stating that an action that is taking place is unacceptable, and that the person committing that action must stop or else a specified reaction (usually a lawsuit) will occur. Include a copy of the criminal code for noise violations with the letter.

    Then, keep a diary for a month or two and document all of the days that they have parties, the times they start and stop, and file a claim in small claims court (only costs about $100) against BOTH the tenants AND the landlord for them to pay up for your rent for each day they made your home unlivable.

    Typically, being sued, even in small claims court, even if it never goes to court at all, is more than enough to stop a tenant from causing a problem. It is certainly enough, however, for a landlord to use to evict a tenant. If your actions as a tenant are leading to your landlord being sued, the lawsuit alone is often enough to void your lease.

    Otherwise, I am a HUGE fan of the 6am ultra-loud yoga sessions complete with Justin Beiber’s latest single on repeat. Sounds like they’re drinking at these parties, and nothing is worse for a hangover than Justin Beiber….

    • I don’t see what realistic good tying up the landlord does except just tie up the courts.

      • I don’t think we’re talking about tying up anybody here. It’s simply a legal threat as a means to an end.

        • Exactly. It’ll never go to court (most court filings don’t) but the real presence of a real legal action against them is enough to force a compromise. The landlord will probably threaten to evict them, which will either make them change their behavior or move.

          A neighbor of mine had a similar problem, and called the landlord (who was awesome) every time the tenants threw a party and said he thought he “smelled natural gas” near the apartment. Landlord used his power to enter “in an emergency” without notice to key in and kick everyone out while he waited for Washington Gas to come out (which at midnight is usually several hours). No access to the apartment meant no access to more booze or a bathroom, and it didn’t hurt that it was late autumn so it was cold outside at night, so the parties fell apart pretty fast. Tenants gave up pretty quick and moved within a few months.

    • Allison


  • write a note (include this post?) explaining your situation. or download white noise app.

  • We were having a small party a few months ago in a rowhouse in Petworth. This was the first party we had hosted in about 9 months, so we’re not typically big noise makers. However, we opened the windows to let in a breeze while playing instruments – thus allowing our music to be heard elsewhere I guess. At around 10:30 pm, the cops showed up and told us turn our music down – well it’s difficult to turn down live music. I protested (10:30 pm wasn’t that late to me on a Friday night) and they stated that we could be arrested if we didn’t comply. So we shut the windows and hoped for the best. The cops didn’t come back so I guess it worked. To answer your question though, we were told we could be arrested if we didn’t quiet down our music playing. I don’t see why the cops can’t do the same to your neighbors.

    • YES! If you are having a party with loud music, make sure that the music moves indoors and that your doors and windows are shut after a reasonable hour (in MtP I considered this to be 11-12 on a Friday or Saturday night). It makes a HUGE difference and your neighbors will appreciate it!

    • Were you singing a song you wrote about Pepco?

  • Great! I didn’t know about this law. We have neighbors who have a mooching son who periodically feels the need to loudly entertain his friends outside, late into the night. I guess this is how he stays in the good graces of friends to whom he otherwise provides NOTHING other than, perhaps, freebies from the drugs he deals from the alley. Obviously there are a lot of issues here, but it’s good to know that we can call the cops on his noise at 10pm.

  • call the cops. a few run ins with the men in blue will get their attention

  • Yeah, cops probably won’t arrest for this. Because it’s not that simple. When I was in NY, to make an effective arrest or write an Environmental Summons required a noise meter which only one guy was trained in how to use. My favorite part though was taking the a/v receiver and marking in Sharpie where the volume was set to when it was confiscated.

  • You’ve talked to them, you’ve talked to their landlord, you’ve talked to your landlord, you’ve called in noise complaints (to the police?) and nothing’s worked.
    It won’t change until the neighbor moves or you move. You can only control what you do.
    Face it – it’s time to move.

  • You can always call the Police and say that there are a large number of people gathering and it appears from the sound that a fight is eminent. That usually gets a quick response…be creative…don’t say they are terrorists but you can always say that they are talking in raised, animated voices but you can’t make out what they are saying. It works for me all the time…

    • So lying to 911 is alright, but lying to 911 about terrorists is not alright?

      • General lying to 911 will bring MPD;
        lying to 911 about terrorists may bring MPD and the whole Homeland Security complex —
        and who needs that?

    • Years ago some company came out with a collection of jeans called “Bad Idea” jeans. They enlisted several infamous B-listers who’d engaged in regrettable conduct as spokespersons. I remember one of them was Marla Maples, Donald Trump’s ex.
      If Bad Idea jeans still existed, HillBilly’s idea would be wearing them. Reporting false information to the police for the purpose of getting a quicker response will not solve your problem, it will get you arrested.

  • One question for the OP – You mention the fact that if you move, “they get to continue keeping everyone up at night having a good time.” Are other neighbors as upset about this as you are? And if so, have you enlisted them in this fight? Maybe multiple neighbors calling the landlord and/or the police would make a difference.

    Failing that, I have to say that Anon @ 3:56 has the best advice. Some people are just inconsiderate d$cks. Unfortunately, when the dice rolled you got a collection of inconsiderate d$cks for neighbors. It sucks to be driven out of your apartment but that seems to be the case here, unless you learn to live with the noise – which it sounds like won’t happen.

    • Agreed.

      Maybe the OP can give it a little longer and be vigilant about calling in noise complaints, having his/her landlord talk to the neighbors’ landlord, etc…. but if that doesn’t seem to be working, better to cut losses and move out.

      Yes, it’s unfair, and moving is a hassle… but it’s not worth it to stick it out in a bad situation just on principle if there’s no chance that things are going to improve.

  • Call the police every time and document all of the problems (you may want to record particularly loud instances). When you talk to the dispatch you need to tell them this is a repeated problem and ask that the officers issue a fine. If it still is a problem take your log and recordings to the commanding office for the shift and see if they can do more. If all of that fails take your neighbor and the landlord to small claims court. Also get a good set of earplugs.

  • I think it is often lost on folks that the most effective way to deal with noisy neighbors is directly and friendly. Introduce yourself, admit that we all sometimes make noise and hope everyone will be considerate. Maybe ask for an e-mail when people are expected over, or don’t be afraid to call down and ask them to quiet down. Don’t be rude or passive aggressive at first. Kindness goes a long way.

    Obviously this may not pay off in the end, in which case I have no advice because that sucks. But starting off being on the offense is never a good way to get what you want.

  • We have the exact opposite problem, we live in a huge group house and we have between 2 and 4 parties a year, which i admit are loud because its the guests of 7 people. Even without music the combination of that many voices is loud. Our neighbors can’t handle it. They get really angry every time we have a party. Yeah sure its loud, but that’s max 4 days a year; we are silent the other 361 days of the year (and we are an extremely quiet group house on normal days, quieter then our neighbors who have noisy children). We always warn them in advance and make them cookies in hopes that they won’t get mad, but they do without fail every time. The last time we had a party they gave back the cookies in a rage and said they would rather have considerate neighbors then cookies. We try to be as courteous as we can and we keep the parties to literally 2-4 a year only on weekends, so not many at all, but they have zero tolerance for any kind of noise. They have children who are noisy at 6am every day and we say nothing, and that’s every school day, not 2-4 times a year. A few years back my house had 2 parties one year (only two, no more) and the neighbors wrote a letter to our land lord and his employer complaining. I feel like sometimes there is just no way to win.

    • How late do your parties go?

    • While you may only have 2 to 4 parties per year, you admittedly say that it can get loud because there are guests from 7 people. How can you compare the noise volume to kids? If the children are that loud, then you have wall problems that transmit that noise. I would be hard pressed to believe that the noise from children would equate that from say 70 people, could be less, could be more. While there are kids who scream to test out their lungs, they don’t usually do it for 4 hours on end, do they? I would guess that the parties go late into the night, which would be problematic and understandable if it disturbs your neighbors. You may say you only have parties a couple times a year, as if it’s an allowable excuse in which to have mind-numbing noise parties. Maybe you say that in the hopes of garnering sympathy and that your neighbors should be tolerant and accepting. Isn’t it possible to have a big party and have music blasting for a couple of hours, say not past 11PM and then turn down the music/tv at that point. While baking cookies is a nice gesture, it doesn’t absolve you of being a courteous neighbor. Your neighbors, it sounds like, want considerate neighborhs, not cookies.

  • Our parties have never reached 70 people, max 40. Also they are pretty tame parties, not huge ragers or anything.

    I never said their children reached the noise level of 40 people, they have a lower noise level, but much more frequently. I was just using a random example to show that they are not always 100% considerate neighbors either. Their children obviously don’t make the noise of 40 people all in one sitting, but they make noise far more often.

    The first party was more of a bbq ended at 10 and they were angry. The second was later ended around 1ish so I could see how they were angry.

    We are considerate neighbors 90% of the time as are they, but if we are good neighbors most of the time shouldn’t they be understanding the very few times we aren’t, seeing as when they aren’t considerate neighbors, we are understanding. I just think it should be a give and take.

    Not trying to garner any sympathy, just ranting at my annoyance toward their lack of any flexibility. Open forum wanted to get my frustration out. I was also curious as to what other people thought. Would you get mad at your neighbors if they had 2 to 4 parties a year, i feel like that’s a lot less then the average group house. I believe that if we are good neighbors almost all of the time, that they should let it slide the few times we aren’t, as we would do to them.

    • I agree, to some extent, there has to be a give-and-take. If in your first example you had a BBQ that ended at 10 pm, which I think is reasonable, and your neighbors got mad, they probably aren’t the most flexible of neighbors and you have a point (I say this without knowing what the noise level was like or any other possible annoyance/disturbance). I think when noise pumps at the highest possible volume at midnight, 1 or 3 or 4 am, only getting louder as it gets later and later, I think that is totally obnoxious. Even if it’s done twice per year, it is really inconsiderate. You have no idea what the lives of other people are. People always say well it was on the weekends. Some people work on the weekends too. Only saying this because it’s true and to saying it’s the weekend so I can pump music at full volume is inconsiderate because you are not thinking of the possibility that some people work on the weekends. I have said it is a give-and-take, to some degree. Though there are cases where just plain out entitled self-centeredness, there are no excuses: no age, no weekend, no only a couple times of year excuses. But there is a huge difference between 20 or so people outside talking, laughing outside or with windows open and blasting your music at the top volume possible.

  • Honestly. Get a noise machine. You live in an urban environment- what do you expect? Grow up, or maybe join them. You could be living on an L line in Chicago and have your apartment shake every few minutes when a train goes by… same for NYC… or basically any other large city in the entire world. Shut your windows and crank up the ocean sounds. Maybe try Ambien and a glass of red wine.

    • I wholeheartedly disagree with that statement. The comparison is noise-level to noise-level. If you choose to live in an urban environment, there are certain levels of noise that one would come to expect, and noisy neighbors are just one of those things. If it’s not one loud neighbor, it’s an ambulance, bar, people walking on the streets, music from cars or another neighbor’s party. To be succinct: if you want quiet, move to the suburbs. When I moved into DC, I expected noise. I wanted noise and that urban lifestyle is exactly what I got. If you can’t handle the hum of a city, then that’s your problem. I have no sympathy for whiners and complainers, like yourself.

Comments are closed.