Neighbors Noise is Killing Me – What Can I Do?


“Dear PoPville,

I am at my wits end as to what to do with my living situation. I live next door (rowhouse condo) to three unruly undergrads who throw constant parties (sometimes multiple times a week) with numerous guests well past midnight. I’ve called the police, their landlord, the university and even spoke to one tenant’s parents whom I happened to run into one day during the school’s parents’ weekend. The police come about half the time, usually settle them down for a few minutes, but they simply wait for a while before cranking the music back up and reconvening the keg-stand chants. I sent a certified letter to the landlord (who lives in Virginia) threatening legal action, but I’m not even sure what legal action I have? Small claims court? Sue him to commence eviction proceedings on his tenants? Monetary damages? How bad does it have to be before the police will issue a citation? I need to wake up early for work and it’s been having a major detrimental impact on my quality of life. Any suggestions?”

58 Comment

  • Ugh, that sounds terrible. Have you tried involving the condo board? I don’t know how much they’d be able to do, but if the board threatens action/sanctions/whatever, that might have more pull with the landlord than your individual protest.

  • Look in your condo docs – there is typically a prohibition to creating a nuisance or affecting the quiet enjoyment of another owner’s unit. The right to enforce is typically held by the condo board, so I would start there.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Important question: is the offending house part of the same condo association, or do the offenders just live in a regular house owned by an individual? My reading of the post is that the OP lives in a rowhouse condo, which does not necessarily mean that the adjacent rowhouses are also part of the condo.

  • Have you spoken to the students themselves? Are they just assholes? I would believe that, of course.
    I told my young neighbors (who are NO WHERE NEAR as bad as yours) to please give me a day or two notice before parties, so that I can arrange for my light-sleeping child to spend the night at the grandparents. This seemed to make an impression, knowing the actual impact of their fun. They have fewer parties now, and often just the pre-party, then they leave en masse and take it elsewhere. If it hadn’t worked as well as it did, my next plan was to show up at their door midparty with a crying pajama’d toddler in my arms.

    • LMAO, thats great. Thats straight out of a scene of the movie ‘Neighbors’. It was surprisingly entertaining.

  • OP here: it’s a very small board (10 units) which really is inactive as the common areas are minimal (e.g., trash area, small walkway). I am a renter and I’d hate to bother my very old and dear landlord to push the condo board on my behalf — possibly because I’m positive she wouldn’t do so.

    • Like it or not, the Board is your next (and likely most effective) step. First, let the Board know of the issue. Next, identify the board members and where they live, and when you’re being kept awake, go knock on their doors and have them come listen to the racket.
      And your landlady needs to be involved. Ask her several times to take care of it, and if she won’t, break your lease and move out.
      I don’t mean this to come our snarky, but your reluctance to involve the two entities that will give you the best avenue for success (landlady and Board) is mystifying.

      • And – you called the University? Seriously? What on earth did you expect them to do?
        The University, as opposed to your landlady or the Board? Come on.

        • Many universities now have student codes of conduct that allow for the University to punish off campus behaviour.

        • We had an issue with some college students on our block, and we contacted the University’s Director of Student Affairs. She was extraordinarily helpful, and concerned for the University’s reputation in the community. From what I recall from our conversation, she meets with the students in question to discuss their behavior and their impact on the community. If they don’t show for their meeting, holds are put on their student accounts, preventing them from registering for classes, etc. We haven’t had a problem since.

          • Sorry, I misrepresented the person I referenced. She is a Special Assistant to the University President. In some universities, known as a Student Liason.

      • As previous board member/prez of a 12 unit condo, board members (all owner-occupying units) didn’t really care if renters have problems unless the owner/landlord pushes the issue. Of course if this bothers a renter I would have to think it bothers an owner too.

    • Have you talked to any of your neighbors? Are they as bothered by the noise? If you’re a renter, you generally have a right to quiet enjoyment and if you’re landlord can’t guarantee that, you should have a way out of the lease. And if your neighbors are also disturbed, it may be easier to get the condo board involved.

  • I got the impression that the OP lives in a condo building (converted rowhouse) that is next door to an undergrad party house (rather than being a condo neighbor in the same rowhouse), so the condo board isn’t likely to apply to a neighboring house.

  • Are you in the same Condo or a different one? The Board can fine them or the owner, depending on the rules. There should be quiet hours (usually 10 pm) to which they have to adhere. The Condo Board’s main line of defense is fines, most likely to the owner. DC is very tenant-friendly, so you’d need to see what a lease would enable an owner to do. If you live in the same building as the offenders, there;’s a a good chance that your lease looks like their’s.

    Chances are, they bother other neighbors in and outside your building–organize them. Have everyone show-up when they next have a party. help them write letters to the Condo Board, etc. The first rule of throwing noisy parties is to invite the neighbors–they broke the rule and you and your neighbors should make their lives as difficult as possible.

  • I had this very situation once living in a row house in Adams Morgan. Leave your house in the very early morning with large speakers resting on the common wall between you and your neighbors. On your way out, play something with extreme bass on repeat. Doesn’t even need to be very loud to have the desired effect.

  • And I thought my neighbor’s stompy feet were a problem! I sympathize with you big time. I am not sure what recourse you have- I’m a music teacher, not a lawyer nor a particularly litigious person…but I think you can sue for most anything. You might not win, but maybe the idea of actually having to go to court would be enough that the landlord would do something to alleviate your problem? I wish you luck, peace, and a good night’s sleep

  • this won’t help but it’d be funny: go to one of their parties then leave an upper decker in the toilet

  • Here’s what you do:

    After failing to force the TENANTS to move, manipulate ONE OF THE TENANTS into having sex with the significant other of ONE OF THE OTHER TENANTS. After they fight, which COULD end with a barbecue grill being rolled into the path of a passing car and injuring a professor. Then, acquire video evidence of TENANT hazing. Then, send the TENANTS a counterfeit letter from the university president enabling them to have parties again, so that they begin planning a massive end-of-the-year bash. Once the party is in full swing, the call the university to complain about the noise. The university will shut the house down and the bad TENANTS will begin adjusting to their new lives.

  • Have you tried talking to the people who live in that row house? If your first response was to call the cops and not knock on their door and ask them to quiet down you may have painted your self into the “crazy neighbor” corner. Not that its right on their part but I can imagine a fairly significant portion of the undergraduate crowd being all “she called the cops on us…..screw her.” Again, I am not condoning their behavior. I love my self a quiet evening at home and a peaceful sleep and fully sympathize with you.

  • OP again: the condo board is run by on a volunteer basis and only has the capacity to fine $50. The landlord has intimated that it’s not a problem that she’s willing to get involved in at least with the Board/directly with the owner of the unit. I’ve spoken three times with three of the tenants — once in front of his parents during parents weekend; he smirked and his parents looked like they were about to fist bump him for standing up for himself. Parties continued and the owner has promised that he would speak to them (again). At this point, I am basically seeing if there is a means to sue the owner of the condo for allowing his tenants to encroach on my property right, if that makes sense.

    • Your landlady can say she’s not getting involved all she wants, but she doesn’t really have that option. Send her an email telling her your right to quiet enjoyment is being infringed upon, and asking her directly to take action. If she doesn’t respond in 2 days, send it again. If she doesn’t do email, send it certified mail. Act accordingly, based on her response. Also, you should contact the DC tenants’ rights group, which will have some very good resources.

    • Communicating with the offenders is getting you nowhere. At this point, you need to lobby your landlord to let you out of your lease.

    • Tell the landlord you plan to end your lease based on this issue and see if she changes her mind. You have the right to quiet enjoyment of your unit. Or, withhold you rent until she does something and keep it in an escrow account.

  • If the offender residence is in your condo association, proceed as others have said about reaching out with condo board.

    If offenders are adjacent to your condo association, one recommendation is to familiarize yourself with the DC noise control ordinances (e.g. 20-27), and then meet with your local police lieutenant to discuss how they can enforce it.

    Even if they don’t have the decibel meter with available to them they issue a disorderly conduct citation. (Maybe $250 ticket first offense?)

    • I second reaching out to MPD on a non 911 basis. Look up your PSA ( and reach out to the Lt assigned to your PSA.

      They will likely pay more attention if you have a log of parties (time/date), calls to MPD and when they came out, ect. If you don’t have this, you want to start this anyways if you are considering legal action. If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.

  • Talk to a lawyer, not a forum. You’ve clearly taken the initial steps you can think of. Only a lawyer is going to know what the best route legally will be. That said. Is the rest of the building students? May be best to just find a way out of your lease and re locate.

    • If you find or can recommend a lawyer willing to take the case please let me know.

      • I’ve used DC Tenant’s Rights Center (it’s a private practice) for an issue with a former landlord. They are priced reasonably enough that a consultation may be worth it.

  • Noise problems like this are the worst. (OK, maybe there are worse things, but persistent noise from inconsiderate neighbors is very, very bad.) Some realities: the partiers don’t care about your plight. The police are not effective in dealing with party noise, as you’ve found. You really have 2 options: get the condo board to do something effective or move. All condo board members are volunteers. And many aren’t very savy. But who says their fining authority is limited to $50? If the bylaws say that, the bylaws can be amended. At a well run condo building, the board will establish rules about noise and they’ll fine violators. Don’t you have other neighbors who hear the noise? Involve them, or the board might wonder whether you’re being overly sensitive.

    • From my understanding, condo bylaws are actually difficult and can be expensive to amend as they are filed with the government. Condo documents – house rules or whatever they are called in that building – are often what is actually used to regulate things like noise, fines, etc. and can be easily amended and usually (though check with the actual bylaws) can be controlled pretty exclusively by the Board in terms of enforcement. Which goes back to contacting the Condo Board…

      • The bylaws normally authorize the board to issue rules and collect fines. OP said there’s a $50 limit on fines. My point was that if the $50 limit appears in the bylaws, amend the bylaws. If it appears in the rules, amend the rules. We’ve amended the bylaws a few times in my building. Not easy, but do-able. You need a 2/3rds majority (or whatever they say is needed) and you file the amendment in the DC land records, which is not expensive.

        Of course, OP doesn’t have lots of influence over the board because OP doesn’t own and therefore isn’t a member of the condo assoc. OP needs support from his/her landlord and from other owners, and if the problem is as described, that support should be there.

      • yup. and condo bylaws have to be approved by mortgage holders (banks or whatever)

        • In some cases, first mortgagees get to approve an amendment to the bylaws; in other cases they only get notice.

  • I’ve have had the same problem, it’s miserable and took a couple years to resolve. My situation also had a roof deck and bottles involved. The landlord can easily put an end to this by getting involved. Some just don’t want to, plus it could end up costing them money. Be persistent. Call and email their landlord/PM consistently. When you call the police, request that they be cited. If they are not, contact the police station and talk to the watchmen supervisor and explain the situation.

    Speaking to the students is usually futile. They will say whatever you want to hear. Plus you shouldn’t have to confront an undergrad party at 1 a.m.

    It’s a difficult situation to resolve, particularly if their landlord is not cooperating, but you are going to have to follow through for a while or it’s just going to get worse as they get more comfortable.

  • Do they have another neighbor on the other side of them? Have you talked to that neighbor? Maybe if several people complain to the landlord/etc. it will make more of an impact.

  • hammers

    I’d probably burn their house down if it weren’t attached to others….rowhouses are just the worst.

  • If they are really undergrads, are they of legal age to drink? I would press that with the DC Police or the Alcohol Board; that they are having parties and serving to minors…rather than the noisy neighbor angle.

    Perhaps I am naive on the issue. Seems like bars and liquor stores card anyone who looks a day under 50, for fear of selling to minors, so I am guessing the enforcement is tough?

  • You should probably move. Honestly, if you’re living close to a university campus in a known location for student housing, I don’t think you have a reasonable expectation for there not to be parties. I sympathize with your annoyance at the disturbance, but you probably should have thought about your neighborhood when you decided to live at this location.

    • Then again, there are literally like 8 universities in the DC area (I might be underestimating actually). And then all the graduates who stay to find work but still act like they’re in undergrad. I don’t think there are many places not known for student housing…..

      • LOL, there are 19 colleges/universities in DC (,_D.C.). So that’s a pretty ridiculous suggestion. No one better live in Shaw, U Street corridor, Columbia Heights, Brookland, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, Tenleytown, NoMA, etc. because you might end up living next to undergrads that party!

      • +1 It’s impossible to avoid college kids, interns, etc. in this city. Then again, age doesn’t always solve the problem. The 30-35 year olds who live next door to us in a row house throw ragingly loud parties several times a month, but there is a younger house a few doors down that I’ve never heard a peep from.

    • “if you’re living close to a university campus in a known location for student housing”
      I don’t think OP ever said this was the case. Or did I miss it?

  • I’d think you’d get the furthest by continued harassment of one of the parents. Every time they wake you up, you wake their mom or dad up.

  • I wear ear plugs every night. I can hear my alarm clock and any alarms, but I usually don’t hear my roommate coming in, noises on the street, this really annoying garbage truck that likes to pick garbage up at 4am, drunks fighting cabbies, etc..

    I know it’s not the best solution, but this might help.

  • This is what I would do. Next time you call the cops, tell them to come to your door, then explain the situation to whichever of the two cops seems smarter. Find out if he works regularly in the area. If he doesn’t ask him to call the guy who normally works in your area. Then, the next time there is a problem you call that same cop back to the party house.

    Cops have to deal with these things all of the time, but they are just going to brush it off as a once in a blue moon party unless they understand how regular it is happening. Call the same cop each time there is a problem. Eventually they will get aggressive and really shut the parties down.

    Get the cops information. Ask for them specifically when you call 911.

  • There’s also the option of social media shaming. If these are undergrads, they will be looking for jobs soon. Post pics and bids on the available sites and make sure to tag the students by their full name. Most employers are checking those sites when hiring. Make sure the loud a-holes know you’re doing this.

  • Try the EPA, they have regulations on noise pollution and are not afraid to ticket. We had neighbors who were very loud and refused to quiet down. Police did nothing. So we called the EPA and they ended up recieving 2 $500 tickets. They moved out shortly thereafter.

  • At Georgetown University, students get in serious trouble with the university for noise.

    The DC noise law is after 10pm, noise past the property line can be an arrestable offense.

Comments are closed.