I Finally Read the Atlanta Noise Ordinance
After I decided that a tennis ball attack wasn’t the right approach to dealing with my neighbor’s noise and I released the stress, anger and anxiety in healthier ways, I started to search for ways to bring quiet to my home.
Let me back up and explain how I got here…
At 3 am on Tuesday, I found myself knocking on his door to ask him to turn down the bass. He ignored me. The next morning I woke up to a text message from him telling me to not contact him about his music again. He was tired of hearing about it.
I responded by saying that after dealing with this for over four years, what I wanted was a solution. I was equally tired of talking about it and just as tired of not being able to get some sleep. I’d done everything that I could - buying him foam for his subwoofer to sit on and hopefully absorb the reverberations (didn’t work), buying myself earplugs (didn’t work), trying to blast brown/white noise in my place (didn’t work). There had to be some solution where I didn’t have to be affected by his bass and where he could also enjoy his music.
He ignored me.
I didn’t get upset, because I knew that now that I’d decided to get over the anger, I’d get the solution that I needed to have a peaceful home.
I thought about buying a subwoofer myself. (Not to be obnoxious, but to try and get the sounds to bounce off of each other so that it wouldn’t have an impact in my unit.) Then I worried that it would affect someone else, so I tossed that idea aside. I thought about buying foam bass absorbers and placing those in the corner of my unit hoping that it would absorb it on my end. But after stumbling across yet another article saying that blocking bass was a futile attempt, I let this idea go.
I read many forums where people all across the country were dealing with this and losing their collective minds. The general feedback was that if your neighbor was unwilling to do anything about it, then your best option was to move. I’d thought about moving and spent hours researching places I could move to before realizing that I was being hasty and that idea didn’t feel good. I had a right to peacefully enjoy my home as did the thousands of other people that were going nuts in their apartments.
I could feel the frustration starting to build up again, so I stopped for a second and asked the universe to point me in the right direction. Very quickly, the answer was to look up the Atlanta noise ordinance. In the four years, I’ve dealt with this issue, I’d never thought to do it.
When I looked at the noise ordinance, it was a eureka moment. It says (emphasis mine):
WHEREAS, it is therefore the desire of the Atlanta City Council to fully revise its Noise Ordinance so that its provisions are easily enforceable, easily understood by the public, and protect the health and welfare of the citizenry and the individual's right to peaceful and quite enjoyment; and…
(c) Restrictions for areas within apartments, condominiums, townhouses, duplexes, or other such residential dwelling units. Except for persons within commercial enterprises that have an adjoining property line or boundary with a residential dwelling unit, it is unlawful for any person to make, continue, or cause to be made or continued any noise in such a manner as to be plainly audible to any other person a distance of five feet beyond the adjoining property line wall or boundary of any apartment, condominium, townhouse, duplex, or other such residential dwelling units with adjoining points of contact. For the purposes of this subsection, "noise"shall mean human-produced sounds of yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling, singing, or mechanically-produced sounds made by radio-receiving device, television, stereo, musical instrument, phonograph sound amplifier or other machines or devices for the producing, reproducing, or amplifying of sound, or any combination thereof. For the purposes of this subsection, "property line or boundary" shall mean an imaginary line drawn through the points of contact of (1) adjoining apartments, condominiums, townhouses, duplexes or other such residential dwelling units with adjoining points owned, rented, or leased by different persons; or (2) adjoining common areas or adjoining exterior walls. Said property line or boundary includes all points of a plane formed by projecting the property line or boundary including the ceiling, the floor, and the walls…
Plainly audible means any sound produced by a noise source, which can be heard by any person at prescribed distances or locations. Measurement standards shall be the auditory senses, based upon direct line of sight to the sound source, provided however that auditory senses may also be used to determine the location if direct line of sight to the sound source is blocked. Words or phrases need not be discernible and low frequency sound reverberations are included.
This was amazing news to me. Not just because there was a noise ordinance that was clearly in my favor (I was beyond thrilled that it mentioned low-frequency sound reverberations), but because they realized that it was a health issue.
In addition to the very real stress I could feel from people in the different forms, I found a few studies that backed up the effects. A study in Denmark showed that neighbor noise annoyance was significantly associated with eight different physical and mental health symptoms such as pain in various body parts, headache, fatigue, depression and anxiety(1).
I was glad that in Atlanta, this was recognized, even if it was just on paper for now.
The next day when my neighbor started with the music again, I called the police. He had turned off the music by the time they arrived, but they spoke with him. Of course, this made him angry and he blasted music after they left and the next day. However, the next day the bass stopped. I don’t know what they said to him or how he finally addressed the noise on his side, but it stopped. My home is indeed peaceful again.
The right to be peaceful in your home cannot be understated, especially right now. There is so much happening in the world, that it’s more important than ever to enjoy where you live. The solution to someone infringing on your personal space should not mean that you have to move. Yes, there will be some noise when living in an apartment or condo building. The dog at the end of the hall barks anytime someone passes his door, I hear things dropped on the floor from upstairs all time and I hear the occasional pleasure moan. Those are normal everyday noises. What’s not ok is someone playing music (or bass) loudly for hours and at all hours of the night. That’s not reasonable.
I’m hopeful that my issue is finally resolved, but after reading the noise ordinance, I’d already decided that this was an issue that I was willing to hang my hat on (I think I’m using this phrase right). For anyone dealing with this, instead of moving, I urge you to find out the noise ordinance in your city and get them to enforce it. Health depends on it.
(1) Jensen, Rasmussen, Ekholm. Neighbour noise annoyance is associated with various mental and physical health symptoms: results from a nationwide study among individuals living in multi-storey housing.