Upstairs neighbor and clarinet

JaretwomanJanuary 12, 2004

Hey everyone...I was wondering if you could give me some advice as to what to do about my upstairs neighbor. Every Monday (sometimes sunday) she holds clarinet lessons for some children from about 4pm to 9pm. Since she lives directly above us, so the sound from the clarinet goes directly down and fills our living room. We have tried to ignore it and turn our television up, but even that has not been enough to drown the noise out. When we asked if there was any way to suppress this, the woman claimed that this is part of her income and can do nothing about it. Now, I'm not totally unreasonable, and i try to understand that....but in all fairness, she signed the same lease my husband and I did....the one that states no loud music (of any kind) is permitted. I even called my management office to explain the situation and they just told me how my neighbor was a part of a local orchestra, so thats why we kept hearing music and that they can't do anything about the noise because it doesn't occur after 9pm (although my lease does not say anyhting about certain times) They also stated that if we "wanted to" (in a rather annoyed tone) we could come down to the office and file a formal complaint. I don't want to cause any trouble for my neighbor, I simply want her to be a little more considerate of her neighbors. I love my apartment and plan to move in a year and a i dont want to move out now....I just wonder if anyone has any suggestions as to what i can do to peacefully change this. Thanks a lot for your replies.

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"Every Monday (sometimes sunday) she holds clarinet lessons for some children from about 4pm to 9pm. Since she lives directly above us, so the sound from the clarinet goes directly down and fills our living room."

How good or bad are the students? If it's 5 hours of beginning squeaks and squacks, you have my sympathies.

Once a week, and ending at 9PM? You would have a hard time getting action out of management. If you want it to STOP, you will have to do the formal complaint. If you are unwilling to put your names on the complaint, the management will ignore you.

If she doesn't have carpeting, ask her to use an area rug to soak up the sound a bit, you can wear earplugs on Mondays, and maybe move earlier.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2004 at 8:23AM
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I am not writing this so you can get your upstairs neighbor in trouble, but I see two very large flaws in both her logic and that of your management company.

' is part of her income and nothing can be done about it." Hmmm..... as long as it relates to a person's ability to earn a wage, she can break the rules of the lease. Interesting. So, if she wants to start breeding animals in her apartment to earn a living, that would be okay too?

'.... part of local orchestra .....' - So what! That doesn't make it right.

I like Lazygarden's idea about placing an area rug (assuming there is no carpeting right now). Or, if I were you, I'd find something else to do on Monday nights that takes me out of the apartment. No one should have to leave their own dwelling so a neighbor can infringe upon their rights, but this does not sound like a battle that will be easily won.

But if her business catches on and she starts doing this more than once a week, a formal complaint is definitely in order.

Who moved in first? You or her? I ask because her lease may be different in wording (i.e., the 9:00 PM thing mentioned by your management company). If you don't have anything in your agreement mentioning a time frame, and she moved in before you, then, most likely, her lease would not mention a timeframe either. If she moved in after you, it may have that 9:00 PM stipulation. I only mention this in case you need to duke it out with the management company. I expect the person at the management company only came up with this because he/she did not want to deal with it.

Another thought. Do you have floor vents in your apartment? If so, she probably does also. Ask her to cover the floor vents to help prevent the sound from traveling through the venting to your apartment.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2004 at 8:51AM
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"Your right to make noise ends at my walls."

I don't know if anyone else ever said that so I'm going to take credit for it. My point being, that I see about seventeen things wrong with your neighbor's response to you.

"This is part of her income and can do nothing about it." So: she takes no personal responsibility for disturbing the peace of you and your husband and, presumably, the other residents of your building? Tell me again exactly where the noise is coming from? Oh right: HER APARTMENT!!!

"The management office can't do anything about the noise because it doesn't occur after 9pm (although my lease does not say anything about certain times)." Are they saying that this woman is to get special treatment, that she is above the rules? Oh, wait! There AREN'T any noise rules according to what you said. So why does it matter if you're hearing noise before or after 9:00 p.m.? You're hearing it. Period.

Aside from the noise, the biggest problem I have with this is that the woman is running a business out of her home. Does your city allow this? Is she licensed? I wonder if the building's owners know that this tenant has regular paying visitors coming to her apartment? Is the building insured in case one of those little children falls down the stairs or trips on the front porch? Can you say "lawsuit?"

Okay, so I admit that I shoot first and ask questions later on issues like this. lol Perhaps you're actually content to let it go until you move out in another year and a half. But if not, I hope I've given you some ideas on how to get some results.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2004 at 6:44PM
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Hello, its me again. Thank you for your replies so far. She moved in here first (I believe) since that has pretty much been going on since I moved in a year and a half ago. I have in the past just found other things to do on Mondays...I figured I would give in for the sake of peace...but now my husband must be up at 5 am due to a change in his work schedule, which makes this all even worse. He has to wait until 9 to sleep, which for me would be enough sleep time...but not for my poor husband lol. Also, yes, the floors are carpeted,and my goodness these poor children are awful!!! I almost went to the one mother's car and asked her if she knew just how horribly her daughter played lol. I would demand a refund! Honestly though, I hear the kids going through their music scales for nearly two hours, stopping halfway through after hitting a sour note, then starting over again. Heck..I'd go up there and give a standing ovation if the child could play hot cross buns! Oh well...I'm going with the formal complaint. I really dont know what else to do...and MJ, you brought up some GREAT points I never thought of...If management refuses to do anything, I will be sure to bring up all of these points. Thanks again!!! And hey..I'll still take suggestions as to what to do if you've got any :)

    Bookmark   January 13, 2004 at 1:22AM
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The point about running a business in a residentially zoned area might work ... although many cities specifically exempt music lessons and some other businesses because the generate little traffic.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2004 at 7:12AM
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When my nephew was younger he took up the saxophone at school. His mom insisted he not play it in the apartment after school because it was loud. He did promise he wouldn't. So she comes home from work one day and there he is wandering through the complex playing the saxophone. I don't think he really got the gist of what she was saying :). Not that this helps but I thought it might bring a smile to your face.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2004 at 3:00AM
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I still say you should pursue the insurance angle even if the city exempts her on the business-in-her-home issue.

The best way to get results from most people is to hit them in their pocketbook. *IF* the building owner doesn't know about this woman's actions, *IF* the owner is not insured to cover such liability, you probably have your best shot at getting the music lessons (hence, the noise) to stop.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2004 at 8:31AM
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I completely sympathize. I live in a ground floor apartment and my neighbor upstairs frequently plays his guitar. The apartment is carpeted but every noise they make up there comes down into my apartment. In the case of the guitar playing it sounds like he is literally playing it in my living room. No amount of TV volume or loud music can drown it out. Besides the fact, I do not want to have my TV or music extra loud.
I have spoken with my neighbor about this and he is apologetic and the only times it has gone on beyond 9pm - he has courteously asked me if it's ok. What can I say?
I think it's stupid that apartment leases do not outlaw musical instruments all together. Just like surround sound systems! UGH!
I do feel for you - and for your husband. Just focus on that wonderful day when you will move out. I hope to have that day come later this year for me, after three years of living in a paper mache building!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2004 at 3:34PM
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Yes see if your area is zoned commercially.
I don't know if a multi-family dwelling means automatically zoned commercially. I would call city hall and ask for the zoning commission, see what they say about the zoning thing. If I were you I would make love to my husband for 2 hrs hours and scream my head off, next join a local yodeling company and hold meetings after love making. Along with smashing the broom against the ceiling in between. Sounds like a fun date huh?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2004 at 1:59PM
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I don't mean to be umsympathetic, but it would not surprise me if the landlord does not define a single, unamplified musical instrument as "excessive noise."

And having people come to your home by appointment may mean she skirts any "non-commercially zoned" regulations. It's not at all the same as being "open to the public." You'd have the same sort of problem if she were giving lessons out of the goodness of her heart, as a volunteer thing--or if she had a lot of friends. The only difference is that she's charging money for it, and I don't think that's a big enough issue in and of itself to trigger the zoning ban.

I don't think the insurance angle is going to do any good, either--it's an apartment building; it has liability insurance for any and all visitors that might come to visit YOU or anyone else in the building. The fact that one person is charging for clarinet lessons won't change anyone's liability, which is probably already covered. Certainly not the building's! Possibly hers, but even then probably not. She's entitled to have people come to visit her; the money is not even part of the issue.

People have a right to live in their homes. You do, and SHE does. And to do what makes them feel "at home," for the most part.I have to say I do NOT agree with this statement: Your right to make noise ends at my walls

That is not true. Not in an apartment. Sorry, it's not. Not even in a house. You are going to be aware of the other people around you.Sure, they shouldn't be unreasonable, but if the walls, etc., are thin (as they are for the lady w/ the guitar-playing neighbor who says she can hear EVERYTHING they do), that does NOT mean the other people in your building need to tiptoe around. They should live normally--no surround sound, no loud amplified music, esp. late at night.

It's a bummer that her clarinet interferes w/ your husband's sleep, but she could easily argue that she stops in time for him to get 8 hours of sleep, and that if he needs more than 8 hours, it's not HER responsibility to provide for people who fall outside the norm. Folks whose requirements are more stringent than the norm are on their own; they need to make choices to accommodate their OWN needs and not expect others to do so.

I'm wondering if it would be easier to live with if it wasn't the whole darn evening. Would it help if you could persuade her to spread them out--say, Mon. & Wed., but less time each day?

The other possibility is to say to management, "if you won't make things change, then you owe it to me to let me out of the lease." And do whatever necessary to document that they do indeed have an obligation to let you break the lease because they won't eithe rmove you within the complex or intervene to end the noise.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2004 at 12:29PM
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Just one quick thing on the zoning part as it relates to a business. The business does not have to open to the public to qualify as a business that violates zoning ordinances. One of my neighbors quietly ran a business out of his garage where there were only early morning deliveries of supplies to his home. Then he would take those supplies and sell and deliver them in commercial areas. It was against the zoning ordinances to have this business, but everyone turned a blind eye until one person in the neighborhood (who always makes it a point to complain about most everything) reported him to the city. He was forced to remove his business. So, 'open to the public' foot traffic may have no bearing. This woman is operating a business out of her home. She may be in violation. She may not.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2004 at 2:09PM
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I would look into the business aspect of it, too. That was my first thought when I read your post.

Sorry, but, 9PM is too late for music lessons in a residential building, even if running a business out of her apartment is legal- which I doubt.

This is an apartment building, not a music or rehearsal hall.

If you can't wait it out, do all your research and then go to the management office with all your documentation- laws governing home business, lease stipulations, conversations with the offender, etc.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2004 at 3:15PM
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"It's an apartment building; it has liability insurance for any and all visitors that might come to visit YOU or anyone else in the building. The fact that one person is charging for clarinet lessons won't change anyone's liability, which is probably already covered."

It's the same thing as paying for car insurance. If you have a bad driving record with lots of accidents, your premium is higher. If this woman's visitors fall or get injured in any other way while on the property, the owner's insurance premiums are bound to go up.

It's all about the money and who's paying for what. I don't know of any building owner who would actually enjoy paying *more* money for liability insurance. You want to get the owner's attention, this is a good way to do it.

I also don't see how teaching music to children could make anyone feel more at home (or how this falls under the definition of "normal living"). Does the woman need to hear music? She can put on headphones. Does she need to teach? She can volunteer at a local school.

Fall outside the norm? There are fewer and fewer people working a standard 9-5, M-F job. Many people work from home (and do it quietly!). Many people work the night shift and must sleep at other times. Many people work weekends. How do you define "normal?" These people's right to enjoying peace and quiet in their own homes should not be exploited just because they don't fall into a traditional definition of "normal."

    Bookmark   January 25, 2004 at 5:43AM
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Good god, I am so thankful some of you people are not my neighbors. I'm not a loud person. I have a trombone, but don't practice it. I have odd hours for my job, frequently leaving at 4:45 in the morning and not getting back til 9ish. I have people over for dinner parties. All these things could probably really piss off my neighbors downstairs, but they haven't. And why? Cause I talk with my neighbors. I live in a house that's divided into two flats, with mine on top. The downstairs neighbors are a family with two small children. When I moved into my apt, I went downstairs and introduced myself to them. Once I was settled, I invited them up for drinks one evening. When I have a party, I let them know so that they can plan accordingly. We talked about how they can hear me walking around in the morning getting ready for work, or in the evening, but that they didn't mind. Which is why I don't mind that on the few days when I get to sleep in past nine on the weekends, I can hear their kids playing downstairs. It's all about being neighborly, and being part of a community. Talk with each other. If you feel the need to completely isolate yourself, buy a houe out in the country. Geesh.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2004 at 12:46PM
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I gotta say I agree with Madison on this one- though bad clarinet would push the limits of even my good nature- treble drives me nuts, and out of whack treble's worse.

but if a relationship had been in place when your husband's schedule changed... she might have been willing to drop her last class of the evening, so he could get to sleep...but obviously, no one's bothered nurturing anything more than an awareness that neighbors exist....and I do have to observe that you have no comments that would indicate that there are any other people in the building, much less what their reaction is to the music teacher...

nor is a year and a half into this situation the time to be bringing up a formal complaint...that's like arguing with the car dealer about the warantee after you've already bought the car.

bad on your landlord for not warning you... bad on your neighbor for not finding a better place to practice- and obviously lying to the landlord about her students...

but bad on you for not dealing with the mountian while it was still a molehill.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2004 at 11:55AM
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I'm not so sure the clarinet lady is lying to her landlord; I got the impression that the landlord knows and doesn't mind.

I still say the insurance angle is not gonna get you that far. She doesn't add THAT much risk to the building's liability insurance. What, she has 5 visitors a week, regularly, plus friends over now and then? That's just not an increased risk to an APARTMENT building. Lots of people go through that door every day. And if they keep the building, steps, walkway in good shape, shoveled, whatever, they're probably just not worried.

I think the noise issue is really your only leverage. And if the landlord refuses to define it as "extreme," you're out of luck, and your only course may be to get them to let you out of the lease so you can go somewhere else.

And as for sleep, "normal" is 8 hours. At night. If you can't sleep through the daytime noises of an apartment building, you'll have to go somewhere else. Your problem, not the landlord's, and not your neighbor's.

I'm sure that clarinet practicing is really hard--especially for such a long block of time. I think *that* is the biggest issue to discuss pleasantly with the neighbor.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2004 at 10:25AM
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I've been the "student" in a similar situation. My harp teacher lived in an apartment and 1 night a week would give lessons. Shame on your landlord for not letting you know about this before moving in. They should let you out of your lease for that, if you wanted to move. But I would suggest explaining your husband's situation to the neighbor and asking her to cut out the late night lesson. I really feel for you, I once had a downstairs neighbor who was an operatic singer and he would sing and play his grand piano for 8 hours on Saturdays (not to mention at other times). As in your situation, it wasn't at night, so the landlord wouldn't do anything. I ended up moving out. -Good Luck!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2004 at 3:43PM
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Hey everyone :) The evil clarinet lady saga has ended lol. The playing has stopped. The regional manager of the building finally got ahold of the complaint and did somehting about it! Apparently, she had a whole new story for him...something about having friends over to "practice" their instruments....anyways It has ended(for now) And I want to thank you all for your help again.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2004 at 7:48PM
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Hee hee... I was waiting to see what would happen. That's great! :)

    Bookmark   January 28, 2004 at 11:06PM
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y'know, this is my problem w/ the gripes on this forum:

The evil clarinet lady saga

She's not an EVIL clarinet lady. What a sour world, when every disagreement or difference must be cast in such harsh, judgmental terms!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 1:42PM
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It is unfortunate when beneficial activities such as children receiving music education lead to noise problems.

However, noise can be a nuisance regardless of the intentions, and can be easily by perceived as "evil" by the victim.

Common sense would dictate that practicing an instrument in an apartment is dicey, especially when it is done commercially. The "clarinet lady" should do the responsible thing and conduct buisness at a suitable location.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2004 at 2:44PM
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Talley Sue,

I took the "evil" as just a joke. (Note the lol after the sentence.) I'm sure Samantha was just venting, after all, that's what this forum is for, isn't it?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2004 at 9:49AM
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Evil clarinet lady is what I would call her on a nice day.
And @#&*%$**$#! on a other than nice day.
Well jokingly.
I like the approach of say what you mean and mean what you say...ex, Dr.Phil to name one doctor says people over talk what they mean.
For an example- on the way to the airport a horrendous thing happened. I was was stuck in rush hour.
Horrendous is your arm getting ripped off in a moving car, horrendous is your mother being murdered.
Horrendous is Not rush hour.
The use of the word evil in society is no big deal.
Yet It is one of the strongest words you can say along with HATE.
Use it carefully eh?
Catch 22 I say.
My opinion means nothing my opinion means something.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 3:43PM
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While I know we aren't getting the whole story (like what exactly happened between the clarinet teacher and the landlord), I do feel a little bad for the students. They have potential lost their source of musical education.
And if you think beginning clarinet players are bad, you better thank that she wasn't teaching beginning violin. I think justifiable homicide would have been your defense.

Also, as a music player it is a pain in the butt when you live in an apartment. Depending on your instrument you feel like you can't even practise when it is convient for you (say because of the hours you work) and you KNOW that everyone else can hear you. There is not always another place to go.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2004 at 1:12PM
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Glad it was resolved. I was going to suggest cooking liver and onions every session and piping the smells up there. My DS suggested YOU start giving bag-pipe lessons!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2004 at 11:45PM
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Unbelievable! First of all - and this is a fact - the Clarinet teacher wasn't running a "business" as music lessons don't fall under that category!!! A dance studio yes, but in court cases a music teacher doesn't. Personally I think that the private teacher should have taught in a 2nd bedroom so as not to disturb neighbors in the living room below. I'm a professional musician, and when I look for a place to live it must (MUST) have a situation where I can teach yet not disturb my neighbors as that is simply unacceptable to have music piping for hours on end. I don't want to hear my neighbors and I don't want them to hear me either.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2005 at 5:49PM
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I just wonder how Samantha's lease specifically addresses the issue. In my apartment complex, the music teacher's activities would be in violation of no less than three different lease provisions:

1) "Resident shall not conduct any business... on the Leased Premisis.

2) "Resident shall not permit... musical instruments on the Leased Premisis to disturb the neighborhood or occupants of the building containing the Leased Premisis at any time."

3) "A musical instrument, typewriter, radio, television, or stereo shall not be operated in a manner that is disturbing or annoying to other residents.

Blummy is right that giving music lessons for pay may not be strictly interpreted as "running a business" by a court, but it really wouldn't make any difference in this case. In my complex, I can tell you for sure that if these two parties were not able to reach a mutually-satisfactory arrangement on their own, there is no doubt that the music lessons would be shut down by management.

I know for a fact that some people in my complex run businesses out of their apartments. As long as no one is disturbed in the process, everyone looks the other way. But let one person complain, and management will put that resident "out of business" in a quick hurry.

People that live in apartments need to accept that a certain level of noise from their neighbors is inevitable. It is normal for people to make noise in going about their lives. But those neighbors need to understand that there are just certain kinds of activities that may not available to people that live in apartments, and accept it.

Glad to hear that the problem has been solved, Samantha!


    Bookmark   April 11, 2005 at 9:13PM
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What an interesting and hugely complicated mess (most of which has been resolved at this writing)...

My mother is a piano teacher. I live with my mother. I raise my 10-year old son in the house where she has been teaching for approximately 120 years...god bless 'er.
About 20 or so years ago, she moved her teaching digs out of the basement and into the living room. Suddenly, there was NO escaping the sound (well, one room), and we live in a 2000 sq.ft house. Don't get me started about what constitutes noise and what doesn't where 'proficiency' is concerned lol...

(I'm always amused by the flyers which come out to schools advertising private music lessons provided by some 20-something fresh out of music school: "lessons to be conducted in YOUR home." --yeah, 'cause guess how many roommates s/he has?)

An aside: if we, as children, ever so much as horsed around on the main floor while my mother taught (after school), we were in for 'a pounding for pounding,' if you will.
When my brother temporarily moved back into the house and set up office in the basement last year, he'd alight the stairs after I'd been frolicking with his toddler and inform us: "It's pretty loud..!"

Sound is so weird -- families with children often seek out basement apartments because they know their childrens' thumping will not disturb the neighbors, and yet airborne sound, though it is designed to travel up, can be halted by buffering devices like a subterranean basement that has no open connection to the rest of the structure or acoustical tile. So sound is often worse, no matter what, if it travels downward through the floor than if it takes its natural course....

    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 12:35AM
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