Washington, DC

noise
Photo by PoPville flickr user Ted Eytan

“Dear PoPville,

I live in a small condo building and we are neighbors with a church. Our buildings do not share a common wall but instead there is a small maybe 8-10 foot wide “alley” between our two buildings that is patio space and a majority of the windows to all of our individual units are along this wall facing the church.

The church is also rented as an event space, most recently to an all-day punk rock festival. Because of the close proximity of the two buildings, as well as the lack of insulation in the church’s walls and windows facing our unit (which have window AC units which let the sound go straight through) means that this concert was extremely disruptive to all of the residents of our building, with some taking decibel readings inside their units approaching 100 or higher for 10 straight hours, to the level that even the lyrics and comments made by performers on stage were intelligible through two sets of exterior walls into our individual units.

So my question is – is there a legal limit to the level of noise that a neighboring building can create in a residential neighborhood? The police were called, and while sympathetic to our situation, they said they couldn’t do anything about it unless it was between the hours of 10pm and 7am. Some building residents found online noise ordinances stating the noise cannot be over 60 decibels at a property line – but no real way to enforce this. The music and noise in question is in no way related to church worship – and because the structure was not built as a concert venue and is quite old it does not have the same levels of insulation you would find at a typical music venue.

Just trying to find out if there are any laws or ordinances about disturbing the peace in a residential neighborhood, or if there are any agencies that we can contact to prevent this from happening again. Living next to a church I understand that it is reasonable to expect to hear music from the church services (which we can also hear, albeit at a much lower volume) but the all day concert venue is a new level of nuisance. And maybe they are totally in the right – just wanted to see if anyone knows what the laws governing this matter are, or if anyone has had a similar experience and has found a successful method of resolution.”

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