Do you know what time your local by-laws say you have to be quiet? Most municipalities have by-laws that govern noise levels. What do you do if your neighbours complain?
We can all agree that we deserve the right to peace and quiet in our homes. There is a saying “Good fences make for good neighbours”. One of the challenges is understanding what your rights are on either side of the fence.
When I was growing up, my neighbourhood didn’t have fences. We would create an ice rink in our back yard and join ours with the people next door to make a large skating surface. Families would come from all over the neighbourhood to skate together and many a game of hockey would be played. We eventually had to put some time limits on the hockey so that the rest of us could skate. There was a general expectation that it was lights out about 11pm. Today, there is a chance that people would complain about the noise in the middle of the afternoon and you could receive a ticket for noise infractions. That’s if you didn’t receive a fine for building the rink without a permit in the first place!
Many noise by-laws today have few, if any, time of day allowances. In many cases, it’s a matter of interpretation. Do you know what your rights are?
Time and Space
Once upon a time, we built our homes with a little distance between houses. You could make a space in the back corner of the yard to sit around a small fire and share stories. One of the neighbours might even bring out a guitar and play some music that we could sing along to. Today, the back corner of our yard may be under our neighbour’s bedroom window. Those neighbours may be in their 80’s and have a different perspective on time than our teenage children.
When our kids were teenagers, the evening didn’t even start until 10pm. When as little as three of them gathered around a fire, their voices alone could be heard in the neighbours bedroom window if it was open. Add a radio or a guitar, even at low volumes, and there was the potential for disagreement. Lucky for us, that neighbour was reasonable. They commented that “we live in a city and there needs to be some understanding”. Although, my wife and I were sitting by that fire with two friends when the neighbours called out the window and asked if we could tone it down a little. That’s when we realized that we had been talking for hours and it was 2am! It was our turn to be understanding.
Space in the city is limited today. Smaller lots create more opportunity for municipal taxes. Surprise! We have much more crowded living today. Make sure you know your rights and then, be reasonable when you enforce them.
Every city and town has their own values as a community. By-laws are a reflection of those values. The problem is that they are usually created in reaction to a problem that may only affect a small portion and if it wasn’t your issue, you likely didn’t notice it happen. Keeping up to the changes is near impossible but ignorance of the law is no excuse. Have you ever had that experience where you call in to complain about an issue only to find that the law was changed and you have no legal leg to stand on? Conversely, someone complains about something you or one of your kids did and you had no idea you were breaking the law?
I would bet that noise infractions are one of the highest complaints. Be quiet lest you disturb your neighbours. We all assume that running saws and jack hammers after 11PM is a no no. Did you realize that in many cases you may have to get an exemption to make that kind of noise at 3PM? We have become less tolerant over the years and most municipal by-laws reflect that.
Make it a great day!
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