Dear Metro: "My noisy neighbour is constantly singing, and it sounds awful"
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My Auckland home for the last 13 years is a terrace house separated from the neighbours each side by single thickness concrete block walls. About four years ago the neighbouring house on one side was let it to a woman who at first played a piano in the early evening. This music was well performed, not too loud and pleasant to hear.
Around two years ago my neighbour decided that she would embark on launching a vocal career. The horror of a repertoire of screeches, squeals, screams, and shrieks in the key of fingernails down a chalkboard is exacerbated by the death by a thousand cuts slaughter of a song played repeatedly 30, 40, 50 times for hours on end. The level of noise is never loud enough to make a noise complaint to authorities even though it is piercing and often continues after 23:00 on Friday and Saturday and after 22:00 the rest of the week.
One night at 23:30, unable to bear the aural artillery any longer, I knocked on my neighbour’s door. Louder and louder until the door opened. There stood the explanation of why the noise she was making was so bad but she didn’t know it. She was kitted out with wireless over the ear headphones and a wireless microphone! Politely I asked her to stop “singing” so late at night.
Over more than a year I have twice more politely asked her to cease late-night renditions, and to generally tone down the act. But no, the torture goes on and on.
Can I break the woman’s heart by telling her directly that her vocalising is even worse than Florence Foster Jenkins at her very worst? Or, do I have to continue wearing earplugs?
Dear Too Loud,
I understand the impulse to tell this tormenter how awful she is, I really do. But insulting a person about something they clearly value and embarrassing them in the process is not a great way to get them to do what you’d like. No one responds well to antagonistic remarks, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep being overly polite, if she’s perhaps not quite picking up on how disruptive she’s being.
Maybe this seems cowardly, but I would advise leaving a constructive but strongly worded note for her. Firmly outline how disruptive you find her daily activities, suggest a time frame or noise level she could operate within (is she home during the day? Maybe she could sing while most others are out?) and kindly but decisively ask her to change her behaviour. You don’t have to tell her she’s awful, stick to the unemotive fact that she is too loud. That’s reasonable – insulting her isn’t. A note has the added benefit of being written down and therefore able to be revisited, giving her the ability to process what you’ve said in privacy meaning she has more time to reflect on her behaviour and hopefully change it.
If that doesn’t do the trick, well, I hate to advocate being a snitch, but is there a body corporate which governs your apartment complex? If the noise isn’t quite enough to justify a police complaint, maybe there’s some sort of petty middle manager with enough authority to enforce some peace and quiet from your neighbour.