The Personal Approach
Rather than going in guns blazing, phoning environmental wardens and the police, sometimes the personal approach is best.
Asking your neighbour to tone down their noise can be a very effective means of solving the problem. Depending on the type of neighbour you are dealing with, it pays to phrase your request carefully.
Try not to be defensive, or to attack them verbally or otherwise(!). Try to phrase your request in conciliatory tones, by framing it in such a way that they see things from your perspective. If they play loud music for example, you could compliment them on their HiFi system, before asking them if they could perhaps turn it down a little in the evenings.
Always be polite – although nuisance noise can make you feel like doing a lot more than politely requesting that they stop, there is always the possibility that your neighbours have no idea they are disturbing you – and for the reasons outlined above, it’s better to inform them in a friendly manner, since they might stop making noise and neighbourly relations will therefore survive intact.
Depending on the area you live in, unknown neighbours may be approachable in the way outlined above – suburban housing schemes and upmarket cul de sacs generally fall into this category.
But what about the unknown neighbour in a more anonymous location?
Living in a block of flats with little or no sense of community, where neighbours are all anonymous individuals, can be a foreboding experience when one of those neighbours is causing excessive noise.
In most cities, older tenement and flatted properties are frequently like this – the only contact between people living in the same building is the odd nod while passing on stairs and the occasional sternly-worded notice about rubbish collections on the main door.
In the case of unknown neighbours in such situations, particularly in less safe areas of cities, it is worth putting a note through the front door of the offending neighbour, generally following the guidelines above.
If you are genuinely concerned about any reprisal, simply writing the note without any name or address is a good strategy. If you live in a large block of flats then the offending neighbour will have no idea who sent the note.
Unfortunately, many people live in a state of isolation from and fear of their neighbours. If you are uneasy about your neighbours, their intentions, what their reactions and/or retaliation might be to your complaint, then do not approach them.
Neighbourhood noise is often accompanied by other antisocial behaviour such as threats, vandalism, bullying and worse. If you feel you are at risk from this kind of behaviour from your noisy neighbours, it is better to let the authorities handle the situation entirely. Getting into heated arguments with noisy neighbours isn’t advised; with lots of anti-social individuals, things can quickly escalate beyond just nuisance and noise.
Such behaviour affects the community as a whole, and thus it is the community’s responsibility as a whole (and therefore the authorities as protector of the community) to deal with the problem. Do not put yourself at any risk.
If you do find yourself subjected to this kind of behaviour, simply walk away, return to your home and contact the police as soon as possible. Your local police station is the first point of contact, but if you feel alarmed or scared by your neighbour’s behaviour then dial 999 immediately for police intervention.
Remember, the police are trained and authorised to deal with antisocial behaviour, and it is their duty to do so. When in doubt, let the police handle the situation.
Send a Letter
Along with informing unknown neighbours about the disturbance they create, notes or letters are a good way of maintaining distance with a neighbour who has either ignored your polite request for peace, or who visibly/audibly intends to disturb those in neighbouring properties.
Neighbours who are antisocial or who you generally intuit will be unreceptive to any kind of personal approach may respond better to a more formal physical letter. Letters also act as a kind of semi-formal ‘lodging’ of your complaint with the offending party.
If you later have to escalate the situation to involve the authorities, being able to show them that you tried to tackle the situation amicably by producing a copy of the letter you sent will demonstrate your previous attempts at solving the problem, and in some cases will make the relevant authority more receptive to your requests for intervention.