Air conditioners, lawnmowers and barking dogs . . . summer noises can lead to sleepless nights and conflicts with neighbours. But before getting into an argument, learn the rules that you and your neighbours must follow, and how you can solve conflicts through citizen mediation.
1 - Laws, building rules and municipal by-laws deal with neighbourhood noise.
The rules depend on whether you live in the city or the country, in an apartment building or a single-family home, etc.
2 - The law doesn't specify the time when noise must stop.
The Civil Code of Québec says that neighbours must put up with "normal neighbourhood annoyances." No matter what time it is, you must be a good neighbour. You also have to put up with some inconveniences, for example chairs scraping the floor at dinnertime.
3 - You don't have a right to complete silence, but . . .
Some background noise is normal in any neighbourhood. But other noises are not normal. It depends on these factors:
- whether the noise is repetitive (recurring)
- how long it lasts
- whether it is unpredictable
- whether it leads to serious consequences
A judge will also consider where the home is located and the community or local practices.
Residents complain about noise coming from a shooting range that has been around for decades. A judge might decide that shooting sounds are normal during the day, but not in the evenings or during the annual construction holidays.
A judge might also decide that loud music from a bar 150 metres away that makes a house shake is unacceptable.
4 - Take time to read your building's by-laws.
Are you a tenant or a property owner? Your lease or condominium by-laws might have rules about noise. Read them before asking your neighbour to lower the volume on the television . . . or before throwing a flamenco party in your living room!
5 - Check your municipal by-laws.
Some municipalities have by-laws about when loud activities are permitted. Make sure you know the rules before starting demolition work at the crack of dawn, or before yelling at your neighbour for mowing the lawn when you're trying to sleep.
6 - Citizen mediation: a simple way to settle problems with neighbours.
You don't always have to call the police or go to court to settle a problem with a neighbour.
There are mediators in most parts of Quebec who can ease tensions and help neighbours solve their conflicts .
Citizen mediation is often less expensive, less stressful and gives better results than going to court.
To Learn More
The websites of the Équijustice (French only) and of the Association des organismes de justice alternative have information on mediation as well as resources to help you find a mediator (in French only).