Noisy neighbors are a nationwide problem. Almost everybody can tell a story about living next to a noisy neighbor at some point in his life. So is noise an actionable problem? Definitely. Most cities and towns have noise ordinances that prohibit loud parties, screaming kids, honking horns, barking dogs and loud music-especially during late night and early morning hours.

Who do you complain to about noise problems?

If talking to your neighbor does not solve the problem, then you should call the police and lodge a complaint. The police will either contact the neighbor about the noise problem or, if the problem is chronic, they may use decibel monitoring equipment to gauge whether your neighbor's noise level is in violation of the law. Most municipalities have a noise ordinance that limits the permissible level of noise (in decibels) and the hours during which certain decibel levels are not allowed.

If you live in a condo or planned community, try contacting your condo board or homeowner's association before you call the police.

What if none of this works?

You can try mediation, or you can take the neighbor to small claims court and sue her for a financial settlement for disturbing you. You will need to take your case to a regular court if you are more interested in getting your neighbor to stop making the actual noise (called and "injunction")-although the financial damages incurred by your neighbor in small claims court may encourage her to quell the noise.

My neighbor's son practices his flugelhorn for an hour each afternoon. Is this an issue that I should take up with the police?

No. Since he is practicing during the day, this is not an actionable problem. You may want to ask your neighbor to try to keep the noise down, but there is really nothing that you can do to make this problem go away. On the other hand, you would be entitled to call the police if you hear the flugelhorn late at night or in the early hours of the morning.

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