This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!
Question: Our neighbor recently turned their backyard into an outdoor living space and most nights the family and dog are outside making a racket. Do you have any advice to quiet them down? How will this impact our resale value?
There’s no great solution to dealing with noisy neighbors, especially if they’re not explicitly breaking county ordinances, like throwing a rager at 2 a.m., that ACPD or Code Enforcement can enforce. In most situations, these are your best steps…
Step 1: Try to be neighborly
Your neighbors may not know they’re bothering anybody, so kindly make them aware. If you’re comfortable doing it in person, drop by their house one evening with some treats for the kids and appeal to their pathos by letting them know you’re a light sleeper with an early morning start. Maybe they can cut their evenings short by an hour or tone down the games they’re playing. If you don’t feel comfortable making an appearance, drop some treats off with a letter expressing the same message. The key here is to not storm over in the middle of the evening demanding them to quiet down.
If it works, the next week, send a nice thank you note saying how much you appreciate it and you’re glad you have such great neighbors.
Step 2: Notify your Association
Many Arlingtonians live within an Association (condo or HOA) with specific quiet hours. Each Association handles and enforces complaints differently, but most will first ask if you’ve attempted to resolve the issue yourself first. As a member of my condo board, I can speak first-hand to the difficulty of proving and enforcing noise violations, but generally a formal notice from the Association of a complaint is enough to get a noisy neighbor’s attention and encourage a behavior change. The majority of people do not want to be bad neighbors.
Step 3: Call the Police (but please don’t) or Code Enforcement (business hours)
Calling the police should be reserved for the absolute worst cases where county law or ordinances are clearly being broken. I would not recommend involving the police in your situation and, remember, police cannot enforce Association laws (private). There’s no coming back from calling the cops on somebody and it’s an easy way to make matters worse, especially if steps one and two weren’t followed first.
- Arlington Max Noise Levels (pg 5): note: “Daytime” means the local time of day between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on weekdays and between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on a Saturday, Sunday, legal holiday
- Zoning Boundaries (referenced in above noise doc)
- Arlington Noise Control Site (links to detailed maps of major zoning areas like Rosslyn, Clarendon, and Pentagon City at the bottom)
- Who to call/when
Will it Impact Resale Value?
I highly doubt your noisy neighbors will impact the value of your home. Most buyers visit a home once or twice for maybe 20-30 minutes before making an offer, so the nuisance would have to present itself during that small window of time and occur in a way that makes the potential buyer think that it’s a regular occurrence that will negatively impact their enjoyment of the property. In your case, a potential buyer (likely a family, based on the info you provided me) may even consider it a positive factor to hear children playing in the neighborhood.
For most of us Arlingtonians, we live on top of each other and don’t get to pick our neighbors. Can any of the readers share a story or strategy they’ve used to successfully manage noisy neighbors?
Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.