Noisy questions for residents

What is acceptable apartment noise?

For the Resident Support Services team, variations on this question are a weekly occurrence. In an academic community, there is almost no limit to the variability in peoples’ work, study, and research schedules. Sound travels easily between apartments, and residents are sometimes bothered by their neighbors’ normal living noise during quiet hours. Some residents work or study at home during the day, and they have a different set of concerns about noise. The lease states that quiet hours are to be observed after 10 p.m., until 8 a.m. daily.

“Normal” or acceptable noise is anything that is associated with day to day living. Going up and down stairs; walking in an apartment (for adults) or running (for toddlers); babies crying; use of water (in the kitchen and bathroom); opening and closing doors; cooking; conversations at normal voice levels. As an example, it is not “normal” or “acceptable” noise if someone is running a vacuum cleaner, or playing amplified music during quiet hours.

In the city of Madison, construction noise, recycling and trash vehicles, buses, and other loud noises are all allowed from 7 a.m. on. We are fortunate to be able to request relative quiet prior to 8 a.m. from some of our contractors, they aren’t always able to accommodate that. Even for those who are able to adjust their schedules, some noise should still be anticipated. Starting or backup sounds from trucks is a good example of something that should be expected.
When it is not quiet hours, vacuuming or practicing an instrument are added to the list of things that you can expect. Children playing inside or outside are also acceptable, as are music or television played at a reasonable level.

My neighbor comes home at 3 a.m. I understand it is their right to shower, but it wakes me up! What am I supposed to do?

The most effective thing for you to do is to create “white noise” near where you are sleeping. There are white noise machines that simulate wind, rain, ocean, or other noises – but running an electric fan is usually just as effective, and often less expensive than purchasing a machine. Some residents find earplugs helpful, either with or without the white noise. It is easier to discuss concerns with a neighbor you already know. You will need to seek out their understanding rather than telling them they cannot make “normal” noise, and it is much easier if you already know one another. You may want to start by acknowledging that their noise is not unreasonable if it is from day to day living, and then explain your situation.