Note to Noisy Neighbors: Do You Have Any Idea What I Can Hear at Night?

September 22, 2011 | By | Comments (9)

This week’s etiquette question comes from a reader in Florida named RSFan999, who lives year-round in a condo complex with paper-thin walls. Guess what she hears at night?

“When the married couple whose master bedroom and bathroom walls are adjacent to mine are here (for half the year), I hear the man snoring and also peeing many times throughout the night,” RSFan999 wrote. “To me, this is revolting; way too much information!”

To me, as well, RSFan999. Let me interrupt your story briefly to say that I shuddered in sympathy the first time I read your note. And now, back to your dilemma.

“I get so upset for half the year, that I feel like sleeping on the sofa in my living room. But why should I have to do that?” RSFan999 wrote. “I would sound-proof my bedroom and connecting master bath, if I could afford it. The neighbors could probably afford to sound-proof theirs, as they have (at least) two residences. I’m too embarrassed to speak with them about this. I ignore them when they’re here.”

What RSFan999 wants to know is whose responsibility is it to make the noise stop?  The answer is: the condo complex should upgrade the units’ walls. Approach your homeowners’ association—and make a request in writing. The association members, who own units themselves, may be experiencing similar problems at night. If enough residents have the same complaint, you may see action.

Know, however, that undertaking a big job like this is not your neighbors’ responsibility anymore than it is yours; they, like you, bought their home assuming that four walls and a door meant privacy. Sound-proofing is expensive, and it’s unlikely in this economy your neighbors feel any richer than you, even if they do have another home.

You will be doing them a favor, however, if you stop ignoring them. Ring their doorbell while proffering a plate of cookies, introduce yourself and then, if they invite you in for a cup of coffee, bring up the topic during conversation: “Have you ever noticed how paper-thin the walls are? Our bedroom and bathroom walls connect, and I imagine that you hear me moving around at night.”

This will get them thinking. While it probably won’t prompt your neighbors to spend money to sound-proof, it will alert them, in a kind way, to the fact that you can hear everything. In the future, they may try to be quieter to ensure privacy—theirs, as well as yours. They may even buy a white-noise machine to muffle sounds. You should invest in one, as well.

What would you do in this situation? Have you ever been able to hear your neighbor’s snores through the wall?

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