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Neighbor noise disputes

Most communities have rules against excessive noise, and you can make a neighbor noise complaint if your neighbor is violating your local ordinances.

David Thomas Nazzaro | Dec 23, 2017

Noisy Neighbor in San Mateo, California

Legal Recourse Against Noisy Neighbor The most effective weapon you have to maintain your peace and quiet is your local noise ordinance. Almost every community has one. In San Mateo this is Ordinance 4.88.350 - General Noise Regulation. It reads, "Notwithstanding any other provision of this ordinance, it shall be unlawful for any person to willfully or negligently make or continue, or cause to be made or continued any unreasonably loud, unnecessary, or unusual noise which disturbs the peace and quiet of any neighborhood or which causes any discomfort or annoyance to any person of normal sensitivity residing in the area. The factors which shall be considered in determining whether a violation of the provisions of this section exist include the following: a) The sound level of the objectionable noise. b) The sound level of the background noise. c) The proximity of the noise to residential sleeping or hospital facilities. d) The nature and zoning of the area from which the noise emanates and upon which the noise impacts. e) The number of persons affected by the noise sources. f) The time of day or night the noise occurs. g) The duration of the noise and its tonal, informational, or musical content. h) Whether the noise is continuous, recurrent, or intermittent. i) Whether the noise is produced by a commercial or non-commercial activity." In addition to the City Ordinance there is the state penal code. Your noisy neighbor may be violating a criminal statute under California Penal Code 415-Disturbing the Peace. Under California Penal Code 415, it is illegal for a person to do ANY of the following: Unlawfully fight in a public place or challenge another person in a public place to fight; Maliciously and willfully disturb another person by loud and unreasonable NOISE; or Use offensive words in a public place which are inherently likely to provoke an immediate, violent reaction. Actions that can result in a disturbing the peace charge include playing music at a high volume to disturb neighbors. Depending on the circumstances, and your neighbor's past criminal history, disturbing the peace can result in an infraction or a misdemeanor charge. An infraction is punishable by a fine of up to $250. A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to three months in county jail and a fine of up to $400. A misdemeanor disturbing the peace conviction will also appear on their criminal record. So it is possible under certain circumstances, that the police could arrest your neighbor. Usually an arrest would only occur if the behavior repeats, or your neighbor is acting "maliciously." What Steps Should I Take? There are several steps to take. The first is, to approach your neighbor and politely inform them of the problem. Sometimes that is the end of it. If that does not work there are several options available. Demand Letter If approaching your neighbor did not work, or was not feasible, one option is to send them a "demand letter." You can write this yourself or hire an attorney to write one for you. A "demand letter" written by an attorney is likely to be taken more seriously and may be very useful if you end up in mediation or small claims court. The "demand letter" should spell out exactly what the problem was, when it occurred, how it is impacting you, and what you want done about it. It should be sent via US Certified Mail. Keep copies of the letter and the receipt. Mediation If a "demand letter" did not work, the next option is mediation. In mediation, you and your neighbor work with a neutral third person. Unlike a judge or an arbitrator, a mediator will not take sides or make a decision but will help you and your neighbor come to a solution. Mediation is particularly useful in cases involving neighbors because it is designed to identify and resolve not just the immediate problem but also any tensions and unresolved issues that led up to it Small Claims Court If talking to the neighbor and/or sending them a "demand letter" did not resolve the matter, another option is suing for nuisance in small claims court to recover money damages. Getting a small claims court to order your neighbor to pay you money can a very effective way to solve this problem. The benefits of suing in small claims is that it is easy and inexpensive and you do not need a lawyer, because lawyers are not allowed in small claims. The basis of the nuisance claim is that the noise produced by the neighbors interferes with your legal right to "quiet enjoyment" of your property. In the lawsuit, you should ask for a monetary figure that represents adequate compensation for the disturbances you have suffered. You will need to provide proof of the disturbances and explain how they have interfered with your quality of life. You will also need to provide proof of your earlier attempts to obtain relief by other means, such as letters or calls to the police. In court you can present testimony from witnesses, audio and video recordings, photographs, police reports and the testimony of other neighbors. Whether or not you are monetarily compensated for your trouble, the lawsuit may be enough to get the attention of your neighbors and/or their landlord, ending the noise disturbances. Regular Court To get a court order telling your neighbor to keep the noise down, you will have to sue them in regular court. This can be a time consuming and expensive option. Like in small claims, you will need to provide proof of the disturbances and explain how they have interfered with your quality of life. You will also need to provide proof of your earlier attempts to obtain relief by other means, such as letters or calls to the police. In regular court you can present testimony from witnesses, audio and video recordings, photographs, police reports and the testimony of other neighbors. Again, whatever the outcome the lawsuit may be enough to get the attention of your neighbors and/or their landlord, ending the noise disturbances. Additional Advice One thing you can do is video or audio record the noise when it happens. And keep a log of the dates and times the disturbance occurs. Also note your "damages" such as lost sleep. If you do go to Court, to maximize your chances of winning and obtaining compensation from your noisy neighbor or, at the very least, an end to the noise, consult with a lawyer as soon as possible

Robert L. Puckett Jr. | Apr 29, 2017

Obligations of Landlord when tenants cause excessive noise in multiunit apartment.

1. Multiunit Apartment Building. Landlords have no responsibilities beyond the rented premises. They do not police the neighborhood. Landlords do have an obligation to provide the tenants with the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the rented property. Usually this means no interference from the landlord. However, this can include taking actions against another tenant for causing excessive noise. This guide addresses the issue of when your neighbors are causing noise that disturbs your quiet enjoyment of your rental unit. 2. What constitutes excessive noise. Usually, the measure of excessive noise is the legal measurement as enforced by the police. Local ordinances sometimes speak in terms of measurable sound levels called, "decibels." Such measurements are applied around airports and concert venues. Only so many decibels of noise are allowed to exist during certain times of the day. Usually the test is if a police officer can actually hear anything from so many feet away from the unit, perhaps from the street. Circumstances will vary based on the location of the apartment building and the surrounding neighborhood. 3. Public vs Private Distrubance If the police find the noise excessive, allow the police to do their job in dealing with the offenders. If the noise is determined to not be a "public" disturbance, it may still be a private disturbance. Your first step is review your written lease. The landlord has an obligation to enforce the written lease the same against all the tenants. Failure of a landlord to press a lease violation against your neighbor may be violation of your lease with the landlord. This may give you grounds to prematurely terminate your lease or sue for a reduction of your rental obligation. 4. Build your case. The landlord needs actual notice of the noise problem and must catch your neighbors red handed. Recorded examples of the noise are not as good. A police officer as a witness is the next best thing to the landlord being there in person. If the landlord agrees the noise is excessive and warnings to the tenant are being ignored, then the landlord should seek termination against the noisy tenant for violation of the written lease. If the noise is not deemed to be criminal activity by the police nor a private disturbance by the landlord, you still have the right to sue the other tenant in civil court, seek a restraining order, or to prematurely terminate your lease. In all these cases, you will have the burden of proof to persuade a judge or jury to stand in your shoes, hear what you hear, and also agree that the noise has disrupted your ability to REASONABLY enjoy the premises you have rented.

Frederick Laurence Koberlein Jr. | Sep 12, 2014

Noise Ordinances of Cities and Counties in Florida

Measuring Noise Levels Two common methods of measuring noise levels are by: (1) subjective (nuisance) measurements; and (2) performance based measurements. Subjective/nuisance measurement based codes have in some cases been found to be unconstitutional. This is due to their lack of specific wording, and not clearly stating what in fact is a violation. The Florida Supreme Court did provide guidance in this area when it decided State v. Catalano, during 2012 and, therefore, most ordinances passed after the Florida Supreme Court's ruling should withstand a constitutional attack to the subjective component. The performance measurement based codes are codes which have more often been upheld by the courts. They are based on a very clear and specific statement of what is a violation. Performance measurement based codes contain very specific guidelines for enforcement. They usually also contain a table which will state the allowable decibel levels and mention the use of decibel meter readers by enforcement officers. Defining the Noises Noises which classify as disturbances are regulated by the respective local governments noise ordinances. For example, often a noise disturbance is sound that meets any of these three criteria: (1) Disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities; (2) Exceeds the sound level limit set forth in the ordinance, as measured by a sound level meter; and (3) Is plainly audible, which is defined as noise that can be heard a minimum of 200 feet from the property line of the source of the noise - This type of noise includes amplified music, musical instruments, televisions, radios and non-amplified human voices ("yelling, shouting, whistling, hooting or generally creating a racket"). Exemptions are often made for special events and permitting processes are written in the ordinance or the ordinance refers the reader to an area where permits are covered. Penalties for Violations Penalties vary but may not exceed $500/offense. The most often seen penalties are: 1st OFFENSE: Warning Notice, in effect for 365 days, no fine. 2nd OFFENSE: Within 365 days of the Warning Notice, issue a Civil Citation with a $250 fine. 3rd OFFENSE: Within 365 days of the first Civil Citation, issues a Civil Citation with a $500 fine 4th OFFENSE: Within 365 days of the second Civil Citation, issue a Civil Citation with a mandatory court appearance, and a fine to be determined up to $500

Michael Francis Brennan | Aug 28, 2014

Overview of the Different Ways to Hold Title to Real Estate

Individually This one is pretty self-explanatory. One person owns the real estate, and should something happen to them, the property would pass according to their estate plan, or if they had no estate plan, then according to the intestacy laws of the state in which the property is located. Disregarding homestead laws, this could have huge implications for some cohabitating couples. Take the following example: Jack and Jill, an unmarried couple, have made the decision to live together. Even more significantly, they have decided to buy a nice two bed-room condo in the city. Jack, being self-employed for only a few years has trouble qualifying for a loan, so Jill applies, and is approved for funding on her own. She then purchases the condo for both of them to live in together with the understanding that it belongs to both of them. Fast forward a year, and Jill is killed in a tragic car accident. Jack, distraught, finds out that Jill didn't have a will, or any estate planning for that matter. As her estate moves through probate, he finds out that under the intestacy laws of their state, property belonging to individuals who die without a will goes to their siblings by law. Not good for Jack. Since Jack and Jill were not married, Jill had no estate planning done, and she owned the condo by herself, it is now the legal property of her siblings as tenants in common, and not Jack. It's doubtful that is what anyone wanted, even Jill's siblings, but it illustrated the dangers of owning real estate and not appropriately planning for what may happen should the owner die. Tenancy in Common Tenancy in common is a way for two or more people to hold title to property. As tenants in common, individual owners may own any percentage of the property. For example, Jill's three brothers in the above example would own the property 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3. But, say that one of her brothers, Jeff, decides that he'd like to gift his portion of the property to his two kids, who split Jeff's interest 50/50. Now, the property is owned 1/3 by brother 1, 1/3 by brother 2, and 1/6 by each of Jeff's kids. Even though the owners all own different percentages of the property, all are allowed to use the entire property. That means that all of them are free to enjoy weekend getaways at the city condo without having to obtain permission from the other owners. An interest in real estate held as a tenant in common is freely transferrable, whether by gift or sale during life, or by bequest upon death. A nice feature, no doubt; however, it can also have some negative consequences. For example, say that one of Jeff's kids sells his 1/6 interest in the condo to a friend from college. The friend, like the rest of the owners, is now allowed to use that condo without approval of the other owners. A potential problem since he has a tenancy to throw wild parties and isn't exactly a clean individual. All of a sudden, the consequence of holding the property as tenants in common is that the other owners are forced to put up with this crazy college friend trashing the condo and building a negative reputation amongst the other condo owners in the building for all the noise complaints he receives. Joint Tenancy Similar to a tenancy by the entirety, a joint tenancy is a way for two or more individuals to hold a piece of property. In a joint tenancy, each individual holds an undivided interest in the property. The main differentiating feature of a joint tenancy over a tenancy by the entirety is that, upon the death of an owner, the deceased owner's interest in the property automatically passes to the other owners by operation of law. This feature, called a right of survivorship is extremely beneficial from an estate planning perspective, especially for unmarried co-owners of property who would otherwise not inherit from each other upon death. So, in our example of Jack and Jill, a joint tenancy ownership of the condo could have prevented Jack from getting kicked out on the street upon Jill's death. Instead, even though Jill had no will, and the state intestacy laws said that her property passes to her siblings, the condo, help in joint tenancy with Jack would automatically go to Jack and Jack alone. Tenancy by the Entirety Like a joint tenancy, a tenancy by the entirety is a type of shared ownership. While most states recognize tenancies by the entirety, not all do. The important differentiating feature of a tenancy by the entirety is that it is only available to married couples (so, not Jack and Jill unless they tie the knot). Like a joint tenancy, an interest tenancy by the entirety passes automatically to a surviving spouse upon death of the other. Just as important, tenants by the entirety cannot transfer their interest in the property without the consent of each other. Owning property with other individuals can carry significant consequences depending on how the property is titled. That's why it's important for all co-owners to research the potential ways title can be held and, if appropriate, discuss their situation with an attorney who can advise them on the potential benefits and drawbacks of taking title one way over another in their state.