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Dealing with noisy neighbors

There is a growing problem of neighbors attacking each other—verbally and physically—over disputes about noise. Some fights have even escalated to murder. So, how can you dial things down with noisy neighbors without risking your life?

Attorney Scott Fisher says noise is actually the number one complaint between neighbors.

"I've seen noise disputes that range from simple problem of playing a stereo loudly in an apartment complex to construction projects that are seemingly endless. They might be occasional noises, like loud parties on a weekend, or even a week day night. It might involve musical instruments being played. There are some people who are not bothered by the sound of footsteps from a level above them, where to other people it's just enraging," says Fisher.

Loud footsteps are, in fact, a problem Fisher had to deal with recently in his own condo complex.

"I have an upstairs neighbor who recently installed a hardwood floor," says Fisher. "I had a long conversation with my neighbor to let her know what my experience is. I took off my lawyer hat, and just acted as a reasonable neighbor in trying to come up with some kind of solution."

Author Linda Marr turned the frustration she felt with her noisy neighbor into a satirical book called Dear Neighbor.

"In it, I get my revenge by doing everything I really would have liked to have done to this neighbor. Except that it's illegal in the United States," says Marr.

Linda says her efforts to speak with her neighbor failed, so she tried to find a way to live with the noise.

"I would do anything to block out the noise. I bought a floor fan and that didn't do it, so on top of that I added a noise machine. And that didn't do it," says Marr.

Linda contacted her landlord, but her complaints fell on "deaf" ears. Unable to tolerate her noisy neighbor any longer, Linda moved.

"He was the worst neighbor I've ever had," says Linda.

Fisher says before noise drives you from your home, you may want to pursue a legal solution. He suggests you document the dates, times and duration of noise incidents for a week or two and then contact a lawyer to help you.

"Often times we'll start with a letter," says Fisher. "We identify in this letter what the problem is, and identify possible solutions to this problem. If the demand letter fails to work, then there are other remedies that we have. We can engage the services of a mediator."

Fisher says it's important to remember that when you have neighbors, you can't expect to live in complete silence. But you do have rights. And if you have a legitimate noise complaint, more often than not the law will be on your side.

Fisher also suggests talking to your neighbors before throwing a party at your home. Tell them what day it's happening, and even invite them over. But also keep an ear out for your own guests—if things get too loud, tone it down.

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