California Noise Complaint Laws

••• yellowpicturestudio/iStock/GettyImages

Related Articles

In California, laws exist to protect residents from excessive noise. Under the state's Health and Safety Code, all Californians are entitled to a "peaceful and quiet environment without the intrusion of noise which may be hazardous to their health or welfare." In some cases, if a person believes he is the victim of noise, he may file a nuisance claim in civil court.

Noise Complaints in California

California Penal Code Section 415: Under Section 415 of the California Penal Code, it is illegal for any resident to knowingly make loud and unreasonable noises that disturb another resident. If a person is found guilty of this crime, she may face up to 90 days in jail and/or pay a fine of up to $400.

Tenants' rights : In California tenants have the right to peaceful enjoyment of their home. So before bringing a lawsuit, it's sensible to work with the landlord and all appropriate local agencies that are responsible for enforcing noise regulations. Landlords have a duty to ensure noisy tenants don't violate local nuisance regulations or prevent other tenants' peaceful enjoyment of their premises.

Under the California Civil Code, a nuisance is "anything which is injurious to health, including but not limited to the illegal sale of controlled substances, or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property."

Read More: California Noise-Disturbance Laws

Getting the Landlord to Help

To enforce her rights, a tenant should let her landlord know she is being affected by excessive noise and ask for the landlord's help in dealing with the violation. The tenant should give her landlord all evidence she has of the noise disturbance, such as written requests to the noisy tenant to stop, recordings of the noise, witness statements and copies of complaints made to all appropriate local noise regulation enforcement agencies.

A standard lease agreement normally includes a nuisance clause that makes it a breach of the lease if a tenant disturbs or annoys other tenants in the building. The landlord has a duty to all tenants in the building to enforce the lease against the offending tenant and must take all steps necessary to reduce the nuisance. In extreme cases, this may mean evicting the offending tenant. In rent-controlled jurisdictions like San Francisco and Berkeley, a nuisance is a rightful cause for eviction. A landlord may be held accountable if she doesn't take action against the offending tenant after being informed of the disturbance, even though the landlord is not responsible for the noise herself.

If the landlord and outside agencies cannot resolve the issue, the tenant can consider bringing a lawsuit against the offending neighbor. A money judgment may be effective in resolving the disturbance.

California Local Ordinances

While the state Health and Safety Code sets out general laws for the state, many cities and counties in California have their own local laws to protect residents from excessive noise, thanks to the California Noise Control Act of 1973, which gave cities and local communities the power to set their own noise ordinances.

Under these local laws, people can take action to deal with noise disturbances, such as noisy neighbors and dogs. Many localities have specific quiet times, during which loud noises are prohibited. Generally, a local ordinance prohibits loud noises between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. on weekdays, and 11 p.m. or midnight until 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sundays and holidays.

Noise Complaints in San Francisco

In San Francisco, loud noise is prohibited inside all residential properties, defined as properties that have at least one dwelling unit and have been approved for human habitation, between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Anything higher than 45 decibels of sound during these hours is excessive and in violation of the ordinance.

Noisy neighbor in San Francisco: San Francisco regulates noise that can be heard outside of a residential property. A resident is in violation of the ordinance if a television, radio, record player, musical instrument or any other machine or device can be heard beyond 50 feet from the property line between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. To make a complaint about a noisy neighbor in San Francisco, call the non-emergency police telephone number: 415-553-0123.

Noisy dogs in San Francisco: In San Francisco, a barking dog is defined as "a dog that barks, bays, cries, howls or makes any other noise continuously and incessantly for a period of 10 minutes to the disturbance of any other person." The city's noise ordinance places a duty on animal owners and guardians to remove any nuisance created by their dog, and they are in violation of the ordinance if they maintain a barking dog on the premises. If two people who are not related to each other and who live within 300 feet of the noisy dog sign a complaint about the disturbance, the dog owner may be fined up to $500. To report a noisy dog in San Francisco, call the nonemergency police telephone number: 415-553-0123.

Noise Complaints in San Jose

While there are no specified quiet hours in San Jose, there is a noise ordinance that makes it a violation for any person to "disturb the peace, quiet and comfort of any neighborhood by creating therein any disturbing or unreasonably loud noise."

Noisy neighbor in San Jose: In San Jose, "the playing or operating of any radio, phonograph, orchestra or other musical device or instrument in a manner that is disturbing or unreasonably loud to a reasonable person outside the facility or unit from which the noise emanates" is considered prohibited noise. To complain about a loud party in San Jose, call 311 or 408-277-8900.

Noisy dogs in San Jose: In the city of San Jose, animal owners must not allow their dogs to "habitually disturb the peace and quietude of any neighborhood or person, by howling, barking, crying, baying, or making any other noise." To report a persistent noisy animal in San Jose, contact Animal Care & Services: 408-794-7297.

Noise Complaints in Los Angeles

Los Angeles’ noise ordinance, established in 1982, sets out permissible hours for construction, deliveries, trash pick-ups and nightclub music. For instance, permitted construction hours are Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturdays and national holidays between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. No construction is allowed on Sundays, unless it is carried out by residents. In Los Angeles, any nightclub noise level that is five or more decibels higher than the ambient noise level on any other occupied property violates the local ordinance.

Noisy neighbor in Los Angeles: If a noisy neighbor is the problem in Los Angeles, for example by having their television, stereo or radio too loud, the LAPD recommends contacting the local police station. Another way to make a noise complaint in Los Angeles is to call 877- ASK-LAPD (275-5273). In most cases, the issue can be resolved by a local law enforcement officer attending the scene of the party.

Noisy dogs in Los Angeles: A dog noise complaint in Los Angeles should be directed to the city’s Animal Care and Control Department. The LAPD advises that this should be done in writing, providing the name, address and telephone number of the complainant, as well as contact information for the owner of the dog and a description of the nuisance. Contact details for all Los Angeles Animal Care and Control Centers can be found on the LAPD website.