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How to ask a noisy neighbor—or even your landlord—to keep it down

  • Problem-solve noise in a collaborative way, like saying 'this isn’t just your problem, it’s our problem'
  • Diffuse the situation is by listening to what your neighbor is saying, no matter how hard that may be
Freelance journalist and editor Evelyn Battaglia
By Evelyn Battaglia  |
January 16, 2024 - 9:45AM
how to deal with a noisy neighbor NYC

You shouldn't have to put up with all-night ragers, but having that conversation can be tricky—especially if the culprit is your landlord. Breathe deep, stay calm, and be reasonable. 


We live in a private house on the first floor, and my landlord, who lives above us, throws frequent parties with loud music that go on for several hours. I know tenants can lodge a complaint against other tenants, but what if the offender is your own landlord? Do I have any recourse? How do I approach this?

Whether you rent or own your New York City apartment, you may experience being kept awake by your noisy neighbors. However, that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it all the time, but it is a tricky conversation if your landlord is the culprit. 

“We all know that noise complaints can escalate, so if the person can approach the noisy neighbor in a more friendly, collaborative way, that’s a better approach,” says Michele Kirschbaum, director of programs at New York Peace Institute, which offers free mediation services for disputes in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including harassment, civil or criminal matters, and noise complaints, the majority of which are caused by loud music and kids running around, she says.

[Editor's note: A previous version of the article ran in January 2019. We are presenting it again with updated information for January 2024.]

Starting with validations like “I know it’s hard to keep the noise down,” “We live in crowded NYC,” or “The walls are thin,” are helpful ways to normalize the conversation before explaining how the noise has impacted you or your family, Kirschbaum says. 

“Try to problem-solve it in a collaborative way—this isn’t just your problem, it’s our problem,” she says. If you or your neighbors haven't already contacted your landlord, she suggests reaching out together. Consider treating noise as a building issue, like a need for more insulation. 

When speaking to your noisy landlord, it’s best to broach the subject gingerly.

Starting with compliments is a key negotiating tactic, like explaining how much you love the apartment, except for one problem. If they continue listening, you can explain what’s going on with the noise and ask if there’s any way to soundproof or maybe agree on hours for, say, drumming sessions. 

Take a look at your lease, and see whether there are restrictions on the hours for noise, which is obviously something that would tip in your favor in the house rules.

When and how to broach your neighbor

Kirschbaum recommends not addressing the noise when it is happening as “you’re probably upset, and you may not put your best face forward and might come across as hostile,” she says. 

In the meantime, you can file a 311 complaint (and remain anonymous if you like), but doing so “can be considered an aggressive act,” Kirschbaum says. Know that 311 noise complaints go to your local police precinct, and officers may respond if they don't have a more immediate emergency.

If the noise is intolerable and must be addressed, take a deep breath, stay calm, and try to be reasonable “because you get more out of folks when you’re collegial,” says Kirschbaum. 

How to ask a noisy neighbor—or landlord—to keep it down
General tips for broaching noise
  • Try to avoid addressing the noise while it is happening and you are upset.
  • If the noise is intolerable and must be addressed, stay calm and be reasonable.
  • Otherwise you can file a 311 complaint and remain anonymous if you like.
Specific tips for a noisy landlord
  • Start with compliments, like explaining how much you love the apartment.
  • Explain what’s going on with the noise and ask if there’s any way to keep it down.
  • Steps could include soundproofing or agreeing on certain quiet hours.
What to do if the other person is aggressive 
  • Diffuse the situation by listening to and acknowledging what they are saying.
  • If the conversation turns threatening, it might be time to involve a mediator.
  • Going the legal route can be expensive and there's no guarantee of success.

What to do if your noisy neighbor is aggressive

The best way to diffuse the situation with a noisy neighbor is to reflect—and listen, no matter how hard that may be, says Kirschbaum. This is especially true if the noisemaker is your landlord. 

“If someone is becoming hostile to you or is angry at you, say that you hear what they’re saying, you understand what they’re saying, and that you acknowledge the fact that they seem to be very angry, but want to work this out,” she says. 

Should their hostility intensify, however, “you might not feel safe, so you have to judge whether or not you’re going to continue in that kind of conversation if it’s becoming threatening,” Kirschbaum says. 

At that point, it might be time to involve your landlord or a mediator, who can invite the landlord (or property manager) to come in with both of you to solve the problem, she adds. Of course, if the landlord is the culprit, a mediator is definitely in the cards. 

Even if the issue goes unresolved after such a meeting, just having both sides air their grievances “does a lot to calm things down and ease up tensions, and the door to communication has been opened,” Kirschbaum says. 

While she’s seen “things tone down a little bit” after these meetings, some residents decide to go the legal route. Be forewarned: These cases can be expensive, and there’s no guarantee that you’re going to win.

Instead, if the situation continues, your only option may be to find another place to live. (If you own your apartment, you will want to take the matter to your co-op or condo board.) 

If you’d rather not leave, you can always invest in soundproofing your own walls or buy some heavy-duty noise-canceling headphones.

—Earlier versions of this article contained reporting and writing by Nikki M. Mascali.

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Freelance journalist and editor Evelyn Battaglia

Evelyn Battaglia

Contributing Writer

Freelance journalist and editor Evelyn Battaglia has been immersed in all things home—decorating, organizing, gardening, and cooking—for over two decades, notably as an executive editor at Martha Stewart Omnimedia, where she helped produce many best-selling books. As a contributing writer at Brick Underground, Evelyn specializes in deeply reported only-in-New-York renovation topics brimming with real-life examples and practical advice.

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