Pets, loud music or vacuum-cleaning – there is a long list of household sounds that can create a noise disturbance and cause disputes among neighbours. Let us fill you in on the facts of what actually qualifies as a noise disturbance and what you can do about it.
Not every type of noise qualifies as a statutory nuisance. For example, noisy children or crying babies must principally be tolerated by their neighbours. However, this presupposes that parents admonish their children to keep it low during designated quiet times. With these parameters duly considered, neighbours may raise the issue of a disturbance. Similarly, barking dogs are not considered a noise disturbance, not even during the designated quiet times. But incessant barking does qualify as a violation. People listening to music will have to keep the volume down to the acceptable indoor sound level. Playing musical instruments is legally tolerated for up to three hours on workdays before 10:00 pm, and for two hours on other days. Using power drills and vacuum cleaners is a different story, as they may only be used outside the designated quiet times. Especially drilling during the quiet times can result in hefty fines of up to 5,000 euros – or indeed of up to 50,000 euros for drilling on Sundays and bank holidays.
Before you do anything else, it makes sense to talk to your noisy neighbour first. To make your point regarding the noise level, invite your neighbour into your apartment. Only if you cannot come to terms amicably should you contact the housing management in the next step. Prior to getting in touch with the management, however, you should keep a log sheet to record the times during which the noise is generated. The document should provide detailed evidence, including date, time of day, and duration of the noise nuisance. It should also describe the type of noise at issue. Also recommended is citing witnesses in your log sheet, such as other neighbours, friends and visitors, who sign the log to confirm their testimony. The log sheet should generally be kept for a period of several weeks to ensure that you have sufficient evidence to substantiate your complaint if necessary. If the offending neighbour fails to cooperate with the housing management, you may call the police in the event of an acute noise disturbance or report the neighbour to the municipal public order office, which may impose a fine. If none of these measures prove effective, you may press charges for noise nuisance. Before taking such a step, however, you should note that pressing charges may require additional testimonies as evidence. This is the case, for instance, if a complaint is filed with the municipal public order office. Another option is to take legal action before a civil court. This may result in a court order against your neighbour to pay contractual penalties in case the noise disturbances persist.
Principally, the liveability of a given dwelling should not be compromised. In a first step, the landlord should therefore be given the chance to remedy the problem – for instance by issuing a written warning to the neighbour. If the landlord fails to find a permanent solution, the tenant has the right to reduce the rent by a proportionate amount. The actual amount depends on the duration, location and level of the noise nuisance, among other factors. If the noise nuisance by the neighbour persists despite all steps taken, the landlord may give notice to terminate. This, again, will require the submission of a noise log.