General Question

figbash's avatar

How do I deal with this upstairs neighbor issue?

Asked by figbash (7468points) July 6th, 2009

I live in a very old apartment building with only 4 units, where noise transfers pretty easily. My landlady has been very ill, so I worked with her to show and rent the apartment above me when it became vacant. I had a few prospects, but found a very nice, younger couple who seemed professional and quiet.

During the showing, the guy mentioned that he was going to school for guitar. When I made a concerned face, he assured me he would not practice from home. I said okay, and iterated that if he needed to practice here, this wouldn’t be the best arrangement for them and it would be best not to rent the place. I explained that at least a few tenants worked from home. He told me not to worry because he had two other places to practice.

Guess what? It’s the third week they’ve been here and he’s been practicing loudly, every day, almost all day on his electric guitar. It’s so loud that it sounds like it’s in my livingroom, which is a problem since I work from home. I wrote a nice email explaining that the practicing was an issue, that myself and people on the other end of my phone could clearly hear it, and that my understanding was that he wouldn’t be practicing here.

They wrote back saying that they would try to add some egg crates and cut down on the noise, and apologized for disturbing me, but they basically told me that he would continue to be practicing from home, frequently. They said they’d be ‘conscious’ that I was below them. In other words, too effin’ bad.

I’m not quite sure how to handle this. Because of the closeness of the apartments, I really need to have a good relationship with them and I don’t want to screw that up – but this situation pisses me off since it was clear that he had planned on practicing here all along without regard for how this would impact others.

Any advice on what I can say or do while still being diplomatic and not coming across as a total bitch? I want to call them out on not being honest about their intentions, and I also want to tell them that there’s a high likelihood practicing here will not work, but without damaging our relationship.

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35 Answers

Darwin's avatar

Talk to your landlady about how she has handled noisy tenants in the past, and check out the lease to see if there is a noise clause. I know you say she has been ill but she still may have advice from her past dealings with tenants who were either noise problems or liars.

Why on Earth can’t the guy practice without the amplifier?

sandystrachan's avatar

Buy the guy a headphone jack and set of headphones , i use them alot when its late or people are sleeping . Failing that get him kicked out or report to the police , get his gear removed .

JLeslie's avatar

I know if you own a property there are laws for you to be able to have “quiet enjoyment” while in your dwelling. Not sure if these laws are in every state actually? But, I don’t think you want it to be a legal thing yet.

Can you agree on some set times maybe that the noise won’t disturb you? And, possibly does the lease have a noise clause? If it doesn’t, add one in for the future.

You could find out when he sleeps and BLAST the radio with Dolly Parton all night to get back, so he will get the hint. Lol!

figbash's avatar

@Darwin: I know… I suggested that he practice with headphones and that idea got shot down immediately for some reason. I’m trying to handle as much of this as I can, since my landlady is so ill that we’re concerned she’s going to sell the place any day now. I wanted to sort of handle the conflict myself without dragging her into it.

sandystrachan's avatar

@Darwin If its an electric guitar you need an amplifier or notes and sounds don’t sound right . Solution if he must play at home : It should be low enough for him to hear , without causing disturbance to others . If it has to be loud ( there is never a real reason for it to be loud at home . unless he is a dick ) wear headphones he might even get a better sound from that , than he would from his amplifier turned up soo loud .

Darwin's avatar

Well, if he won’t compromise you need to figure out how to either make it such a pain to him that he will move, or find grounds for eviction.

Every time he does anything that crosses any local ordinance, call the cops.

@sandystrachan – My brother used to practice without his amp and still did just fine. No, it doesn’t sound like a performance, but it is possible to work out the chords and the fingering anyway.

peyton_farquhar's avatar

Wow, what assholes. Do what you can to get the point across that their behavior is intolerable and that they are being selfish and immature. If they don’t clean up their act, they need to find a new place to live.

DeanV's avatar

Got any small children in the building? Go get them to complain…

Is the guy deaf, or does he have hearing loss? He may not know how loud he is…

I say be blunt with him. Explain first how the sound is going around the complex, and then tell him that if he can’t control himself he may be looking for a new place to live. Nothing wrong with recording him from your place and showing it to him, either, if he “Doesn’t know how loud it is”...

You may just be lucky he’s not in a band.

charliecompany34's avatar

write a letter to the landlord as long and as passionate as your detailed question. the pen is mightier than the sword.

bezdomnaya's avatar

@charliecompany34 If the landlady reads it as closely as you read the detailed question, the poster is in serious trouble.

tinyfaery's avatar

Unless a provision for no practicing and no loud noise was written into the contract, there is not much you can do, legally. You did have an oral agreement, but those are hard to prove. Remind the guy that he said he WOULD NOT be practicing. If he denies it or disregards you, then the landlady is going to have to get involved—since she owns the building.

SeventhSense's avatar

It seems like this guy pulled a fast one on you. I saw that one coming like a Mack Truck in a drive thru. Aside from you and the other tenants convincing the landlady to toss him, the only other option is to move. I definitely comiserate with you because I’ve had noisy tenants upstairs from me at different times and it’s torture.
I think the best bet is form a unified front with the other tenants. Good Luck.

DeanV's avatar

I sense an angry mob is in order?

Supacase's avatar

Is it disturbing the tenants in the other two apartments as well? If so, have they tried talking to him?

susanc's avatar

Go back to what @JLeslie said. Check the lease. If the “quiet enjoyment” thing is in there – this depends on what state your lease forms serve, but we have that phrase in my state too, so I suspect it’s pretty universal – then the guy has signed away his right to do this, and even a dick has to abide by a signed agreement. If he won’t, evict him.

It would be best to have all three of the other tenants confront him as a group.
Don’t try to be nice. Be decent and clear, and don’t get let him distract you with complicated irrelevant thoughts. If he signed the “quiet enjoyment” thing, he has to comply. If he won’t, get a court order (easy) and then call the cops. They will help you boot him out.

Tink's avatar

Make noise to bother him too, but he will probably just drown it with his guitar…
Or like dverhey said, make children complain or run aroud that area where he is and bother him

figbash's avatar

Yeah, well, I definitely want to take the high road and not retaliate by making noise of my own. Once you start doing that, you have no idea to what depths people will take it, and I just don’t want to live in a hostile environment. I’ll check for the quiet enjoyment clause, for sure.

Tink's avatar

@figbash Oh well, your choice :) Good Luck!!

Darwin's avatar

If it is an older building and you have access to his fuse box, replace his fuses with smaller ones, so he blows them when he tries to play. That might make him move on his own.

quasi's avatar

What a jerk, there is no reason that he shouldn’t be able to practice with headphones.
Hopefully there is something in the lease. If not, knock on his door everytime it happens, he may get tired of the constant reminders to be quiet, it would ruin his precious practice time.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Tink1113
“Counter noise” never seems to work. Often it’s totally misunderstood as well and just aggravates other people.

Tink's avatar

@SeventhSense
Yes I know, shame on me

SeventhSense's avatar

Hey, I’d be all for it if it worked. I’ve just banged on the walls and ceilings (while seething) far too many times. :(

Tink's avatar

I’ve “accidently” rode over people yard because “I didn’t” stop my noise

SeventhSense's avatar

How about trying to get relief for TEN YEARS!

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, yet another reason to use professional help when renting apartments. A verbal promise is never worth the paper it’s printed on. Once you have tried to be polite, and I presume reminded him of his promise, it’s time to get tough and pull out the local sound ordinance. Measure the decible and tell him if he continues to exceed it, he will be evicted.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

Find a reason in the lease for which he can be evicted… there is probably something in there that states the reasons that it could happen. If the landlady was smart, she gave herself plenty of room to do as she pleases with regards to kicking tenants out. Surely there is some little rule he’s broken.

Definitely do not renew his lease.

JLeslie's avatar

In my leases I had the right, and the tenant had the right, to give me/them 60 days notice and break the lease without penalty. I risked tennants moving out early on me, but at least I had warning, but I could get rid of them too.

maryleedy's avatar

Hmmm, can I offer a flipside? This will be like pulling a star out of the sky, lol, but what kind of music does he play? Is it like hard rock, soft music but loud, heavy metal, etc? Would be nice if all the residents get together with him and talk about the kindof music he plays and what kind everybody likes. Maybe a compromise of what TYPE of music is agreeable for him to play. (I think some Journey songs would be great for nighttime relaxation)

This could be effective for 2 reasons – he gets to practice playing what others like to hear and in turn he’ll play it a little bit lower. He gets to practice and hone up his skills to play various music and everybody gets to listen to a lower/softer sound quality.

Now, if you want to reach for the moon, lol, offer to have a building BBQ where he can show off his tunes instead of hiring a DJ. He just might be willing to lower it a bit knowing he has other outlets to show off than upsetting everyone like he’s already doing.

I can actually picture this one in my mind. If that don’t work, evict him and let the police help you with it. :-)

Judi's avatar

If you live in California, ask the landlady to give them a form called a “Three day notice to perform or quit.” It basically says, you have three days to knock it off, or we will start eviction proceedings. It usually works. If the landlady has basically hired you as their “agent” then you can send it if you have her OK.

Ashalah's avatar

You dont live in Iowa City do you?

figbash's avatar

Ugh. I discussed it with him, he apologized and explained that he would make sure he was quieter. I pressed him on the fact that he said he wouldn’t be practicing here, and he just kept avoiding the question.

He seems to have turned down the amp but it’s still noisy, it’s almost every day during the daytime, and now he’s added piano and doing scales. Holy crap I’m going nuts. I can’t let this go too much longer without saying something to him to let him know I can still hear it.

I thought about just talking to him in person, but I never see him, and I don’t want to go out there and bang on the door.

What can I say in an email that will be blunt, but not-confrontational? Once again, I want to work toward a peaceful solution and don’t want to be aggressive, litigious or retaliatory, but I want to be firm. I just can’t risk creating a hostile relationship with him and I want to be diplomatic. Any advice on what to say?

Judi's avatar

You need to knock on rhe door and say “that’s to loud”.

JLeslie's avatar

Call the cops.

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