How to Deal with Your Noisy Upstairs Neighbor


I think I’m about to go crazy. For the last 4 days, I haven’t been able to relax (or sleep) due to my noisy upstairs neighbors. It honestly feels like they have been watching me, and every time I sit on the couch or lay in bed, they decide to go to town. I can’t wrap my head around why someone would walk so much inside a 600 square feet apartment. At times, it feels like they are training to run a marathon – inside their own apartment.

My apologies. Training to STOMP a marathon.

I’m not sure if they just moved in or if I just hadn’t noticed it before, but now I can’t un-hear it. Ironically, my hearing seems to have gotten even better and every whispering coming from above my head will make my heart race. NOT AGAIN. My body automatically starts reaching for my broom (which I don’t even bother putting back in the closet anymore), and before I know it I’m hitting it against the ceiling.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably going through something like this too. I’m truly sorry for you. I get it – it’s frustrating and you feel powerless.

Honestly, I’ve also been on the other side of this story. Before I moved to my current place, I used to live on the last floor. I had it so good and I didn’t know it. One day, at my old place, I had someone knocking on my door. It was one of my downstairs neighbors, and he politely asked me if I could possibly be more mindful of noises, especially stomping-related ones. I was caught off guard. “What do you want me to do? Float around?”

I obviously didn’t say that, but I thought so. I nodded and he went away. After a couple of weeks, I got a call from the leasing office asking me to quit stomping. My initial reaction was to feel offended again, but I realized maybe I WAS, in fact, being loud and I should do something about it. I bought a pair of slippers, and they never complained about it again. So simple, but it makes such a difference for your neighbor.

Now that I’m at the other end of the spectrum, I’ve been doing some research on how to go about it. Clearly, hitting my broom against the ceiling wasn’t the best alternative. I’ll try to present you with what I’ve found, and hopefully, this will help you to act toward a more peaceful and silent life.

Most Common Noises

The first thing you need to do is to identify which noise is bothering you the most. Start writing a little journal with the times and rooms where the noises are happening. It will come in hand later on, and you will be able to identify the main issues. Different problems will require different solutions. Frequently, what will happen is you get so frustrated with a certain noise that you start getting upset by ANY noise. If you live in an apartment complex, you need to know you won’t be able to avoid every single noise. So right now, you need to pause, take a deep breath, and think about which one of the following noises is bothering you the most:

Kids + Sugar = Certain Stomping

Your Upstairs Neighbor is Stomping

Personally, this one is my pet peeve. It seems like it also comes at the top of the overall list of complaints. These are the reasons why I find it extremely frustrating:

  • The noise is not constant, so you can’t get really used to it;
  • Sometimes it’s so bad that it actually shakes your walls;
  • It could be avoided by a simple solution.

There are also two different types of stomping: kids and adults. The one caused by kids is usually not so intense, but it is more frequent. It is usually caused when kids are running and jumping, so it will probably happen in 1 to 2-hour blocks. Adults, on the other hand, are heavier and will make louder noises. You also need to understand that people who are on the heavier side of the scale will involuntarily make louder noises as they walk. It’s just physics, and there’s no real way to get around it.

However, In the heavy majority of the times, adult stomping is caused by people who touch their heels on the floor before the rest of the foot. All of the person’s weight is put on that one heel, and that’s why it can actually shake the walls. That’s also why it can help to wear slippers, as it naturally corrects that weight distribution.

Your Upstairs Neighbor is Yelling Watching Loud TV

The first thing you need to do here is actually to decide whether your neighbors are yelling or just talking. Be honest! If they are just talking and you can hear it, that’s very unfortunate because it just means that your building has really poor sound insulation. It’s unreasonable to expect your neighbors not to talk to each other.

On the other hand, if they are actually yelling then you shouldn’t need to keep up with it. If it happens during after-hours, you will have a stronger case and you should do something about it.

I’ve also included media sounds in here because the same applies to it. If your neighbors are watching TV at a reasonable level and you can hear, there’s not much you can do. However, if they are blasting music and/or having a party, the situation is completely different.

Your Upstairs Neighbor has a Barking Dog

If you live in a dog-friendly community, this is something you’re exposed to. In case your little furry enemy keeps running around the house, there’s not that much you can do. If the dog is a barker, then you’re right to address the situation. It’s not guaranteed that it will get better, though. At the end of the day, there’s only so much an owner can do in order to control his or her dog. If you do move into a dog-friendly community, there’s a risk you naturally take on.

Your Upstairs Neighbor has Too Much Fun in the Bedroom

This one wins the most awkward situation award by far. You lay in bed, turn all the lights off, and turn the tv off. Suddenly, you are able to hear the end of your neighbor’s successful date night. Your initial reaction will probably be to think “oh, good for you buddy.” One hour later, when the action is still going on, you’re debating if their humans or actual aliens.

While this can be pretty annoying and any solution might have some awkwardness involved, it shouldn’t be too hard to deal with.

What Does the Law Establish?

Unfortunately, there is no federal law that regulates noise levels and hours. When it comes to this topic, legislation is created and enforced by local and state offices. What that means is that you’re going to need to do a little research to find out what laws apply to your case. A simple Google search saying ‘noise ordinance law ________ (<– fill in with the name of your city)should give you the answer.

In my case, I had to visit the website of the Los Angeles Police Department, where they have a Frequent Asked Questions section. In Los Angeles, complaints about noisy neighbors must be dealt with by calling the non-emergency number of the LAPD at (877) 275-5273. Issues relating to barking dogs, on the other hand, need to be solved by the city’s Animal Care and Control Department.

Noise ordinance laws address different zoning areas (residential, agricultural, industrial) and establish the limits of noise allowed at specific hours of the day. Limits are usually higher during the day and lower at night, which is known as ‘quiet hours’. Most residential areas will establish quiet hours somewhere between 10 pm and 8 am. Outside of quiet hours, noises considered to be at a disturbing level are also prohibited.

Violations of noise ordinance laws are usually addressed to the local police. They will most likely conduct a site visit, which can or cannot be followed by a citation.

In addition to that, if you live at an apartment complex, you need to check your leasing agreement to see what the rules are in regards to noise levels and hours.

Steps to Deal with A Noisy Upstairs Neighbor

Now that you have identified the main source of noise and you know what the rules are, it is time to move on to the solution. As you can see, the law usually addresses noises related to dogs barking and loud parties, but they are not clear about stomping and sex-related noises. After reading several opinions and articles, I’ll share below what are known to be the best practices related to these issues.

Address the Situation

By addressing the situation, I don’t mean grabbing your broom and hitting the ceiling (like I did). While you may be very upset and even angry, try to calm down and not make any decisions. Knocking on your neighbor’s door and telling him how he’s a terrible neighbor – and how his fat feet are keeping you awake all night – will not help at all.

It is much easier to get things done if you try to address the issue in a nice and polite way. You need to assess the situation as a whole and see if you feel comfortable speaking face to face. Sometimes you might leave in a sketchy apartment complex, or you might have heard your neighbor yelling aggressively before, and in that case you probably shouldn’t meet them. A great alternative as well is to write them a brief letter. What matters in this initial step is that you are giving them the benefit of the doubt, and trying to solve the issue without much drama.

Regardless of the method you choose to address the situation, you need to make sure you address the following points:

  • What you’re talking about (what noises, when, which room);
  • It sucks that the soundproofing is this bad, but you know it’s not their fault;
  • You’re trying to solve the issue on your end;
  • You know they have their life, but you would just really appreciate if they could keep you in mind;
  • Say thanks.

A sample letter would be something along these lines:

“Good morning!

I hope you’re doing well. I’m your downstairs neighbor, and I’m just writing to ask you a little favor. For the past few nights, I wasn’t able to sleep or study because there have been some sounds of heavy walking, especially around 10 pm in the living room and bedroom areas. It’s really a shame that the soundproofing if not great in the building, and I know this is no one’s fault. I’ve already purchased earplugs and a white sound machine so hopefully it should help me stay asleep. I understand you have your schedules and this is just one more thing to think about, but I would really appreciate if you could keep me in mind.

Thank you very much,

Best regards,

John.”

Don’t expect the change to be immediate, but hopefully things should change. If you’re comfortable enough to speak to them face to face, just try to make sure you come in from this perspective. Give it some time and see if it works.

Control What You Can

In the meanwhile, there are some other things you can do as well. If the sounds happen usually when you’re watching TV or playing videogames, you can always use headphones. I know it’s not the best idea, but it will help.

Earplugs

If the main issue is when you’re trying to fall asleep, then you can try purchasing both earplugs and white noise machines. If you’re a heavy sleeper, you can try purchasing foam earplugs. These Flents Quiet Control ones are the best ones and have great reviews. Apparently some people are pretty passionate about earplugs, and they claim that these are the best ones they have ever tried. The reviews claim that they are a little shorter than normal (which makes them nice for sleeping), softer, and they seal very well.

The Mack’s Ultra Soft ones have pretty good reviews as well, but some users claim that the recent design has changed and it’s not as good. Amazon has good prices for both options.

Personally, foam earplugs don’t work for me. Once I tried silicone earplugs, I could not go back to the foam ones. They seal your ears so much more, and they last a lot longer. They are not as comfortable, but you get used to them. I honestly prefer to wake up rested with a sore ear than not sleep at all. Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone is the brand I have been using for a long time and I think they are great.

White Noise Machine

When earplugs are not enough, you might want to give it a shot at a white noise machine. These will produce a nice, soothing, constant sound that will block keep you from paying attention to any stomping, yelling, or barking. I’ve looked at several websites and reviews, and the one machine that comes in at the top of all of them is the LectroFan. It contains 20 different sounds and you can also adjust the levels of sounds depth.

Another option is the Big Red Rooster machine. It does come in at a lower price, but the reviews are not as great. If your neighbor is not too loud, you might give this one a shot and save a little extra money.

Speak to Management

After you try the first two steps, the next move will be to involve management. Remember, you need to give your neighbor a chance to adjust to a new lifestyle. At the end of the day, you’re asking them to control their kids in a new way or even WALK in a different way. If after a couple of days nothing has changed, you want to contact your landlord or the leasing office.

You should tell them the steps you’ve taken already in order to fix the issue, but that unfortunately nothing has happened so far. If you have been keeping a noise journal, tell them when and where the most severe noises happen. Tell them how much this is affecting your life, and ask them politely to do something about it. In most cases, landlords are interested in keeping both you and your neighbor as tenants so he will try to solve the issue.

Call the Cops

If nothing else works, it might be time to involve the police. Don’t just go ahead and call 911, but first see which number you’re supposed to call. Like I previously mentioned, different issues will need to be solved by different organizations (police, Animal Care Center, etc).

Once again, explain the steps you’ve taken towards solving the issue and present them with your noise journal. By proving that this has been going on for a while and that you have been proactive about it, they will take it more seriously.

Complaints related to parties, yelling, or dogs barking are more easily solved. Cops can show up and shut it down immediately. Issues related to stomping are slightly more complicated because it’s more subjective and there’s only so much they can do about it. You still want to give it a shot and see if cops can solve the issue.

Sue Your Neighbor

If nothing else works, you can actually sue your neighbor for noise ordinance. You can sue them in small claims court and request that the court for money damages. Suing in small courts is very inexpensive and doesn’t require a lawyer. In order to win a case, you will need to prove:

  • There is excessive and disturbing noise.
  • The person you are suing is either creating the noise or is the landlord and therefore responsible.
  • Your enjoyment of your home is affected.
  • You have asked the person to stop the noise.

Use can use your noise journal, police reports, and email exchanges with your landlord in order to strengthen your case. You can sue them usually for around $20 per day in which the noise disturbed your life. If the noise was extremely severe, you can bump that number to up to $100 per day.

I hope this guide was helpful to you and that you can now take the steps required for a more peaceful life. Be patient, but try to act on it. Unfortunately, just reading this article will not stop the noises. Be respectful, but you have the right to ask for a noise-free living. Good luck!

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