Neighborhood Noise

Noise pollution is not visible to the eye, tends to be highly subjective, frequently occurs when the “perpetrator” is not home to control it, and often goes away before it can be confirmed by the police. In addition, it is inherently a low priority for a police department. As a result, many suffer noise pollution in silence, thinking that it does no good to complain or that others will not agree that it is a problem. Yet studies show that people consistently rank noise as an important quality of life issue. When noise levels are consistently high, humans suffer from stress and stress-related illness.

Perhaps our biggest concern is that over time, as noise pollution becomes more prevalent, our expectations of how quiet our neighborhood should be will go down. We complain less, and just try to live with it-to the detriment of our quality of life, our health, and our neighborhood.

 Are noisy neighbors breaking the law?

You bet. Almost every community prohibits excessive, unnecessary, and unreasonable noise, and police enforce these laws. To find your municipality’s noise rules, look up the local ordinances.

Most local noise ordinances designate certain “quiet hours” — for example, from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays and until 8 or 9 a.m. on weekends. So running a power mower may be perfectly acceptable at 10 a.m. on Saturday, but not at 7 a.m. Some universally disturbing sounds are commonly banned or restricted. For instance, most cities prohibit honking car horns unless there is danger. This means that the daily early morning tooting across the street for the carpool is a violation. Dogs and motorcycles may also be singled out.

Many towns also prohibit sustained noise that exceeds a certain decibel level. The decibel limits are set according to the time of day and the neighborhood zoning. When a neighbor complains, police place decibel level monitoring equipment on an estimated property line and take a reading.