Apartment Community Etiquette: Noise Levels
February 01, 2022
While apartment living has many benefits—community amenities, urban lifestyle, on-site maintenance, and much more—it can come with a set of trade-offs for renters. One of those trade-offs is the potential for excessive noise that comes with adjoining walls, noisy neighbors, and even some of those community amenities. Unwanted noise can be especially prevalent in apartment communities in urban settings, with the sounds of city-living such as sirens, honking cars, and construction.
As such, etiquette experts from a 2020 Washington Post article stress that renters should have a realistic baseline for apartment living, including the potential for noise disturbances. And considering broad remote work and school mandates over the past couple of years, the frequency and volume of noises may be higher, so many renters’ baselines have required adjustment.
Even though you may have moved into your dream apartment with realistic expectations, the barking dog next door or rumbling trash chute across the hall may have you thinking that you might explode if your upstairs neighbor slams the door one more time. In turn, you may be asking yourself: “Do I make that much noise?”. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to ensure you’re a model citizen in the noise category within your apartment community.
What is Proper Apartment Noise Etiquette?
1. Take Inventory
Before regulating your own noise, you have to make sure you’re aware of all the potential sources. The most common noise issues (and resulting noise complaints, in some cases) are human-generated, and they run the gamut. They range from exercising and shoes stomping on hardwood floors to lively Zoom calls with coworkers or discussions with your spouse. Horseplay inside or screams in the pool can be disruptive if you have kids. Additional noises from outside your apartment to be conscious of include loud voices in the hallway or stairwell, slamming doors, and that convenient, albeit loud, trash chute. There are also noises attributable to non-human sources, such as barking dogs, TVs at high decibel levels, sound systems playing loud music, appliances like washers and vacuums, alarm clocks, and HVAC units.
Once you’ve taken inventory, you can put your noise levels to the test. The apartment noise etiquette experts recommend turning the TV to your normal volume and then going into the hall with your door closed. If you can hear it, the noise level is too high. Similarly, start your dryer or dishwasher and then step outside your front door. If you can hear them, then the neighbors you share walls with would probably prefer if you didn’t run them at 11 pm. If you’re friends with your neighbors, you can even ask them if your workout videos or Tuesday virtual hip-hop class are too loud.
3. Decorate Your Apartment to Dampen Sound
Whether you’ve identified some potential noise issues, or you want to be extra courteous, there are some strategic tweaks you can make to your apartment layout and décor that can help reduce the risk of loud noise from your apartment. Consider which walls you share with other renters and avoid placing TVs or speakers on those walls. Place rugs in high-traffic areas with tile or hardwood floors. Hang heavy door and window curtains to help dampen noise—both out and in. Plants, acoustic panels for soundproofing, and even some artwork can also help dampen noise.
4. Follow the Rules
Every apartment complex has policies related to noise, which are typically detailed in your lease agreement. These policies are in place to ensure “quiet enjoyment” for all residents, which is the right to undisturbed use and enjoyment of a property by a renter. Check your lease or with your property manager to understand the policies surrounding quiet hours, community amenities, and outside visitors. Because there are no steadfast laws against noise violations, the lease agreement is the primary way management can enforce property noise ordinances.
5. Be Proactive
If you’re currently apartment hunting, then it’s not too early to be thinking about apartment noise. When touring apartment buildings and viewing units, take note of where they are located in relation to potential noise sources. If you’re worried about external noise problems, consider an apartment on the top floor and away from the elevators, dog park, clubhouse, playground, and dumpsters. If you’re worried about the noise issues you might cause, consider apartments on the first floor and apartments that share fewer walls.
For more help dealing with loud neighbors, read our related article or reach out to your apartment community’s property management team.