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My neighbor that lives in the apartment below mine repeatedly makes ridiculous complaints of us making noise which include "being able to hear our fan" while we use it during a hot summer night, or that we are "talking too loud" when we are talking at a normal volume in our own rooms. It it important to note that his roommate has no issues with our supposed noise, just him.

A conversation with him last night began with him hammering loudly on our door with his fist and ended in him punching our door before storming off, and given that he seems to have very little control of his anger, my roommates and I are worried he might physically lash out. Given that he did not punch the door hard enough to leave physical evidence, what legal action can we take against a potentially violent neighbor to ensure the safety of my roommates and myself? Can this be considered a form of harassment?

Edit: I sent an email to the management company regarding his behavior informing them that I wanted it on record that I notified them in case something happens again and nothing was done on their part. But since "he complained first" we are in jeopardy of being evicted, because if he complains again we would be in violation of our lease agreement (which states we cannot annoy, disturb, inconvenience, or interfere with the quiet enjoyment of another tenant).

I looked up the noise laws for my city, and they state that the noise must be loud for a "reasonable" person of "average sensitivity." I definitely feel that my neighbor does not meet either of these criteria, but is there a way to go about showing this?

  • Have you talked to the landlord? Odds are there have been other problems with this tenant. – Patrick87 Oct 30 '15 at 20:45
  • @Patrick87 Yes but the fact that "he complained first" I guess trumps our desire for a safe environment. We have just been informed that his most recent complaint has caused us to violate our lease agreement and we were threatened with eviction. – Brandon Thomas Van Over Oct 31 '15 at 0:14
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    How did his most recent complaint violate your lease agreement? You have a right to do normal things in your apartment. If he is unreasonably sensitive to the sounds of your normal activity that is his problem. If your landlord claims you're in violation, what provision are you in violation of, and what have you done to violate it? His behavior is certainly harassment if it persists. Next time he does something like that, call the police. – phoog Oct 31 '15 at 7:36
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    Where are you? You need to look up your jurisdictional law for PFH (protection from harassment), which some jurisdictions have, while other's only have (PFA's) protection from abuse. Obviously, a PFA doesn't suit your circumstances...that is really pertaining only to domestic violence/stalking/physical bullying and usually requires physical violence or eminent threat of same. – gracey209 Nov 3 '15 at 17:42
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    Also, send a certified letter to your landlord explicitly outlining every single instance of harassment. That way they can't ignore it. – gracey209 Nov 3 '15 at 17:42
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Short Answer

I would take a two prong approach.

  1. Prioritize safety first.
  2. Then get evidence.

Safety

Firstly, regarding the safety issue, I would get some form of judicial order of restraint (e.g., restraining order, order of protection, no contact order, etc. depends on jurisdiction.) Often times you can just go down to the courthouse and obtain a Temporary Restraining Order ex parte (without notice to the restrained party) and pro se (without counsel) on the same day.

You just need to fill out some forms and swear a statement before the commissioner in my jurisdiction. There are even people at the courthouse who will help guide you through the procedure (mostly volunteers for Domestic Violence prevention). A permanent restraining order can come later. But this should at least address the issue of the counterparty showing up at your door. If he does so after you get a restraining order (and have him served with it), you can call the police and have him arrested for violating the restraining order even if he does nothing else wrong.

Evidence

Secondly, I would build a legal case. If you search google for the term decibel meter you will see that you can purchase one for about $70-$80. (Or there are probably some phone apps you can download too.) You might want to get one, then measure the decibel levels next time your neighbor complains or just in general.

Record on video the measurement in various rooms of the apartment then compare that to what the law says. If you are under the threshhold then your evidence would be the video and (maybe, if you can swing it) the testimony of his roommate. Although since he's the roommate and has to live with the guy that might be an iffy proposition.

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  • This was very helpful, thank you very much :). – Brandon Thomas Van Over Nov 4 '15 at 5:01
  • In New York, at least, it's not possible to get a restraining order just like that. – phoog Nov 4 '15 at 6:17
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The neighbor shall not assault you. Open the door and tell her to take up noise complaints with the Landlord, not directly with you. If your neighbor then assaults you, call the police and report the assault.

Note: Assault = Intentionally putting another person in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. No intent to cause physical injury needs to exist, and no physical injury needs to result.

This is not legal advice.

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