Excessive noise is not good for the health of Texas residents, and the state is aware of the harm it can cause. While the state of Texas has some limits on noise pollution under its disorderly conduct laws, municipal noise ordinances are far more extensive. Texas municipalities have their own laws that differ from place to place.
Private and Public Nuisance Complaints in Texas
A nuisance in Texas is a “condition that substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of land by causing unreasonable discomfort or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities attempting to use and enjoy it.” When deciding if a nuisance is substantial, a court reviews:
- Nature and extent of the interference.
- How long the interference lasts and if it reoccurs.
- Additional factors as to how it interferes with the daily lives of others.
A condition that would irritate a reasonable person may be a private or a public nuisance, depending on the circumstances. If it causes issues for the general public, it is a public nuisance.
If it interferes with a specific individual, it is a private nuisance; loud noises can fall in either category. Individuals or businesses bothered by loud noise in their area can contact local law enforcement for assistance to make a noise complaint.
Disorderly Conduct and Loud Music Laws in Texas
Texas state law covers loud noise under disorderly conduct laws that protect the public from unreasonable noise. An individual knowingly or intentionally commits disorderly conduct in Texas if:
- They make unreasonable noise in a public place other than on a shooting range, or near a private residence that they have no right to occupy.
- Act of disorderly conduct occurs near a private residence or in a public place, and produces prescribed or offensive consequences near the private residence or in the public place.
- Offender makes noise exceeding 85 decibels after a peace officer or magistrate warns them about noise laws.
Disorderly conduct in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor. This charge carries penalties of up to $500.
Texas Counties and Noise Ordinances
Counties in Texas do not regulate noise pollution. However, several Texas cities have adopted ordinances on loud noise, per Texas Local Government Code Chapter 51, which grants them the power to do so.
Various bills on county noise ordinances have been presented in legislative sessions, but so far, none has passed.
Austin’s Noise Ordinance
In Austin, individuals may not make noise or use sound equipment in public between 10:30 p.m. and 7 a.m. They cannot play a musical instrument or otherwise make noise that is audible to an adjacent private residence between 10:30 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Individuals may not operate gravel, rock or sand equipment within 600 feet of a church, hospital, hotel, motel or private residence between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless they have a permit. A person cannot operate a vehicle’s sound equipment that is audible or causes vibration in excess of 30 feet at any time.
Businesses in Austin must also follow noise ordinance guidelines. They cannot make noise that has a decibel level of more than 85 dBA in excess of their property line between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. If the business is a bar or restaurant, the establishment can have loud music only if it does not exceed a decibel level of more 70 dBA at its property line.
If an individual is at a private residence, they may not use equipment producing sound that is audible beyond the property line of the residence between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. in excess of 75 dBA.
El Paso’s Noise Ordinance
These are some factors covered by El Paso’s noise ordinance:
- It is illegal for an individual to produce noise discernible beyond the property line where the sound is produced that exceeds 70 dBA between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. If an individual produces noise from exterior loudspeakers, it may not interfere with the comfort, peace, repose or sleep of a person’s reasonable sensibilities.
- It is illegal for an individual to operate power equipment outside so that it produces a sound exceeding 70 dBA between 10 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. This sound may also not interfere with the comfort, peace, repose or sleep of a person’s reasonable sensibilities.
- An individual may not operate or permit someone else to operate drums and other musical instruments, a television, a phonograph, or other machine or device reproducing sound or vibrations within or around a motor vehicle in such a manner as to unreasonably disturb others. It may not interfere with the comfort, peace, repose or sleep of a person’s reasonable sensibilities.
- Equipment used in commercial construction or alteration, demolition or repair work cannot be used between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in such a manner as to unreasonably disturb others. It may not interfere with the comfort, peace, repose or sleep of a person’s reasonable sensibilities.
Houston’s Noise Ordinance
In Houston, individuals may not produce sound or allow activities producing sound beyond their property lines. The decibel levels must not be in excess of:
- 58 dBA at night between 10:01 p.m. and 7:59 a.m. for residential property.
- 68 dBA at anytime for nonresidential property.
It is also illegal for motor vehicles to create overly loud noises. This includes such noise as rattling, grating, grinding or other unreasonable sounds. Furthermore, vehicles cannot amplify sound beyond 15 feet from the motor vehicle’s nearest external point. Houston’s noise ordinance carries fines of up to $1,000 per offense or per hour.
- Eric Torberson: Texas Noise Violation
- Collin County Tx: Texas Counties Have No Authority to Regulate Noise
- City of Austin: Chapter 9-2 Noise and Amplified Sound
- City of El Paso: Chapter 9.40 Noise
- City of Houston: Chapter 30 Noise and Sound Level Regulation
- Texas State Law Library: Noise & Nuisances
- Texas Law Help: Bad Neighbors: What Is Nuisance?
- Texas Local Government: Local Government Code Title 2 Oroganization of Municipal Government Chapter 51 General Powers of Municipalities
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.