Friday, July 15, 2011

DC Police Advise Neighbors about Noise and Smoke Problems from Next Door

The Metropolitan Police in each district maintain a listserv to report on police activities and allow citizens to ask questions about law enforcement issues. Recently the Second District listserv had a question from a neighbor asking about the noise from an adjoining apartment, and another question from a neighbor suffering from smoke pouring in from the wood-burning smoker grill next door.  We thought the advice could be useful to others.

Noise Question

I have been experiencing constant and endless disturbances from my next door neighbor in my condo in Ward 2. These noise disturbances range from hammering at 12:30 AM to loud parties that last until 2:00 AM. I have gone to the board a number of times and they held only one hearing against her at which time she was charged a mere $25 fine. The disturbances have been ongoing since 2007 and my relationship with my neighbor has soured and at this point I believe that the noise is almost intentional since she knows the board will not do anything.

I don't want to continue calling the police since it seems a waste of taxpayer money but I'm not sure where else to turn. The manager of my building told me that if I have further issues with my neighbor that I should file a complaint against my neighbor with the City. I'm trying to avoid legal action but there is a Noise Ordinance and quiet hours (10 PM to 7 AM) as well as bylaws that state the responsibility of the Unit Owners to “avoid unnecessary noise.” and clearly hammering at 12:30 AM goes against both the bylaws and DC Municipal Code. Additionally, these incidents have been witnessed by a number of other residents and staff. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can get the Board to enforce their own bylaws and adhere to the Municipal Code or just general advice on how you would proceed? Are Condominiums regulated by something? Thanks in advance.

And the police response:

You have every right to contact the police on this matter. We in the Second District, given the high volume of apartment/condominiums in the area, tend to get multiple complaints for noise. Our officers have been briefed on recent changes in the law that makes disorderly loud noise a crime for which a person may be arrested. That said, it is typically in everyone’s best interest to exercise discretion when investigating such crime but in your case the offender’s actions might merit a less tolerant response. I would like to refer you to the lieutenant who is responsible for the area in which you live so please contact me directly at victor.braschnewitz @ or call 202-369-9880 or 202-715-7355. Moving forward, it would be of great benefit to develop a strategy which is best facilitated through the lieutenant for your area.

Lt. Victor S. Braschnewitz

And now the smoke problem:

One of my backyard neighbors has an outdoor kitchen and part of that is a huge, handmade wood-burning smoker/grill/stove. When he cooks on it, it produces a huge amount of smoke, far in excess of what
an ordinary grill produces. The grill has no chimney and the smoke just pours out.

This smoke fills up my home and irritates everyone's lungs, including two of us who have asthma. My neighbor informed me the same thing happens in her house when this neighbor cooks outside.

The Fire Department has indicated to me that, because the smoker does not qualify as an "open fire" they cannot do anything (as it does not pose an immediate fire risk) and informed me that I should contact the police department instead to open an investigation.

It is widely recognized that smoke inhalation is a dangerous health risk.

Is there anything the police department can do to rein in this air pollution?  This is not a third world country after all. Thanks.

And the police response:

When this situation arises again please dial 911 and give the Telephone Receipt Clerk the specifics of what is going on and that you would like a patrol car to come out and check out the situation. A member of the police department would have to witness the problem so that we could attest to the circumstances.

Prior to this you may be able to contact the Mayor’s call center using 311 from your home phone. They can direct you to resources inside of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs that may be able to begin to address the situation.

Lieutenant Alan E. Hill
Manager, Patrol Service Area 202
Second District

A citizen sent in a separate response suggesting that there were environmental air quality laws that could be applicable, prompting Lieutenant Hill to follow up with a second message saying that he had found some additional resources and inviting the smoke-bothered citizen to email him off-list for names and contact information of authorities on this problem.


  1. I have been dealing with a loud neighbor and his gf for over 2 and a half years now - our units share a wall in the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. They are wall-bangers, stompers and door/cabinet slammers as well as yellers. I have tried getting help from 3 different managers throughout the years in our condo and each one has suggested something different, from recording the noise, to emailing them, talking to my neighbors personally which I have done EVERYTHING and it never stops. I've been told that unless another staff member or resident can corroborate the noise that there's nothing to be done. We are consistently and daily scared awake at night and in the early mornings by random loud wall bangs through the bedroom wall, stomping and door/cabinet slamming after 11pm, sometimes at 3-4am, and almost EVERY morning b/w 6am-8am. No one can hear these noises as they are far into our units mostly in the bedroom and are over very quickly - not like a loud tv or party which goes on and on. PLEASE HELP!!! I'm in DC upper NW in Van Ness East Condos and I've lived here with NO issues with other neighbors for 10 years minus the last 2.5 that they moved in!

    1. That's hilarious, I'm also very near van ness and have the same unit arrangement, though instead of a couple our problem is a neighbor's child, every morning including weekends starting at 6am pot banging quake inducing stomps and ?wall stomps?

      Anyway, best of luck with your situation's resolution.