America is a nation of laws. This is occasionally tested historically, as it was by a recent demagogic president (Trump) who thought himself above the law. And by the invasion of our Capitol that he fomented on 1/6, when a thuggish band of Insurrectionists tried to destroy our democracy.
But I write today about a different kind of house invasion; certainly not as serious as the one on 1/6 in which our glorious Capital was sacked; but, nevertheless, one that erodes the sanctity of our homes, and creates emotional distress that impinges upon our quality of life. A kind of violation that’s also very much illegal.
There is a civil statute which prevents your neighbor from disturbing your “right to peaceful and quiet enjoyment of your property”—be it a condo or rental unit. That’s why it’s OK to call the police if your neighbor sees fit to blast loud music at all hours, yell and scream on a regular basis, or—in homes where the floors aren’t reinforced by concrete—to walk in a hard, stomping manner that causes grief to the folks downstairs.
My wife and I are painfully aware of this because, over the past 2 years, we’ve been victimized by all three such “noise bullying” events: from the tenants below, and above our third floor Hoboken apartment.
In the case of the tenant below, she happens to be…(wait for it)…the head of the building’s management! Despite the Kafkaesque nature of this situation, after she brazenly ignored our concerns, we took her to court—twice—before the problem was solved.
Now we continue to suffer at the hands (or feet) of our loudly stomping upstairs neighbors. After I called the police, a young man who supposedly lives there threatened me in the street; warning me, in an ominous tone, that he “knows people” and I had “better watch it.” The chaotic sounds above our heads, a violation of our peace which includes loud stomping, the constant moving of furniture, and a ball being thrown around, got so bad one night, my wife and I had to flee to a hotel.
In my conversations with folks around Hoboken, including in the real estate community, I discovered that noise abuse is more widespread than I thought. There’s also a social class dimension. Where wealthy folks live, noise bullying isn’t tolerated. The offending parties must modify their behavior or face eviction. Because my wife and I live in a Section 8 building, however, where poorer folk reside, the issue isn’t taken as seriously.
Is noise abuse in need of a Rosa Parks moment? Possibly. I’m very close to filing a lawsuit against the building where we live, to galvanize support for other beleaguered noise victims out there. In the Bible, Jesus said to “love your neighbor as yourself;” not “disturb them at all hours so they can’t get a good night’s sleep.”
Your reactions are welcome at email@example.com.