Letter to the editor: Find the best way to deal with noisy neighbors

When you live in an apartment community, sharing is everything. Residents usually share amenities like parking, swimming pools, laundry rooms and gym equipment, not to mention those shared walls, walkways and stairwells.

Being so close to your neighbors has its benefits, but sometimes it has its pitfalls, too. One of the most common complaints is noise. Barking dogs, loud music, crying children — all can be unwelcome, especially at night. So what should you do when it just gets too loud?

Encinitas has a noise abatement and control ordinance that sets a standard for acceptable levels of noise. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the ordinance is not merely a weapon to be used against an obnoxious neighbor. It also protects citizens from unreasonable complaints.

Generally, the rule is that any excessive noise that disturbs or annoys a reasonable person of normal sensitivity is probably a violation of the ordinance. Noise limits in Encinitas are stricter between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 or 8 a.m. Police or public safety officers may have special equipment they can use to measure the noise level (usually measured in decibels) to determine whether a resident is violating the ordinance.

That said, it may be difficult to get a quick response to a noise complaint from law enforcement. Police have limited resources, and they’re often focused on responding to more serious crimes. It may take hours for police to respond, at which point the problem noise may have already subsided.

If you have a problem with a neighbor, it may be more effective and neighborly to speak directly to them about it, or leave a note. Many well-meaning residents are simply unaware of how much their neighbors can hear. Going directly to the source is up to you, though. Trust your instincts: If you don’t know your neighbor well, or the problem is a rowdy party or a domestic dispute, you may want to skip the personal contact and go straight to police or your landlord.

Landlords and property managers can be especially helpful in these situations. Many leases include “house rules” or other clauses that require residents to keep noise levels down. This makes it easy for the management to enforce a quiet, peaceful environment for everyone’s benefit. Even without this specific language in a lease agreement, a landlord or manager can usually help address the situation. Have you checked your lease?

Don’t forget to consider your own noise and how you would like to be treated if a neighbor felt uncomfortable. As anyone who lives in a multifamily community knows, mutual respect is the foundation of a peaceful and pleasant coexistence.

-Molly Kirkland

Kirkland is director of public affairs for the San Diego County Apartment Association.

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