DC Homeowners: Beware of City’s New Noise Law

by UrbanTurf Staff


DCist reports via The Georgetown Dish that a new DC law went into effect late last week that doubled existing fines and maintained that violators can be arrested for making excessive noise.

While news of this new law was brought to the attention of DC’s blogosphere last night at a Georgetown ANC meeting, enforcement will not be limited to Hoya house parties or the inebriated masses outside Third Edition. Anyone (including a home owner) in the city that a police officers deems is making excessive noise between the hours of 10pm and 7am is subject to a fine of up to $500 (doubled from $250) and can be put into jail for up to 90 days. Whether or not the person is fined or put in the slammer is up to the discretion of the officer.

If you are curious how reasonable noise levels are defined by the District here is a quick chart:


So, at night, a residence can not exceed a noise level of 55 decibels. To put that into perspective, 55 decibels is essentially the level of a normal conversation or someone working at a typewriter.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc_homeowners_subject_to_citys_new_noise_law/2935


  1. janson said at 4:31 pm on Tuesday February 1, 2011:

    What’s a typewriter?

  1. JohnDC said at 4:31 pm on Tuesday February 1, 2011:

    Does this pertain to dog barking? I have 2 neighbors who leave their dogs out day/night all year long and they just like to howl

  1. SimonF said at 5:23 pm on Tuesday February 1, 2011:

    It sounds like this is mainly targeted at college kids. The idea of being fined $500 because your neighbor called you in for having a large dinner party sounds very uncool.

  1. Nick said at 5:33 pm on Tuesday February 1, 2011:

    I would like to see them enforce this. Previous noise ordinances in the city have included decibel limits and very clear definitions for “excessive”. I have a feeling anyone with a halfarsed lawyer could easily beat this. Of course, then you have to PAY the lawyer so that would suck…

  1. Anonymous said at 5:45 pm on Tuesday February 1, 2011:

    Does these fines pertain to CSX trains as well?  If enforced, this could close the DC budget gap completely!

  1. anon said at 6:49 pm on Tuesday February 1, 2011:

    the train question is good one—I wonder if Metro will be subject to fines when they run ventilation that emits an astonishing noise level towards my residentially zoned block.  Or when their buses transmit recorded messages at each stop.  I’ll raise it with my ANC rep if it persists.

  1. pqresident said at 12:11 am on Wednesday February 2, 2011:

    I suspect these limits do no apply to non-commercial amplified speech, aka megaphone wielding preachers and animal rights protestors.

  1. anon said at 3:27 am on Wednesday February 2, 2011:

    Yeah, right. We’ll see how serious they are about “Noise Ordinance”. There was an incident not to far from where I live where the police were called because some youngsters were hosting a “party” and it distributed nothing but noise. What did the police do? Not a damn thing, other than just sit outside of the location for a brief moment and drove off, only leaving these youngsters to continue on with the noise, instead of shutting down the damn party. Like I said, we will see how serious they are about noise ordinance. But then again, this will most likely only apply to more affluent areas anyway.

  1. formerly_fined said at 5:55 pm on Wednesday February 2, 2011:

    once upon a time, I was one of those youngsters who got clipped with a few of these noise violations.  $250 was alotta scratch to come up with, especially when you just spent your last dime on getting booze.  the thing about this fine is: step 1 - you can pay it at the police station step
    2- request a hearing step 3 - just like contesting a traffic ticket, the officer usually wont show up at said hearing and
    step 4 - you get your money back

    so if im a rich kid in georgetown with a hefty allowance and college kid schedule, i’ll party all night, pay the fine and get the refund.  call it the down payment on the next soiree.

  1. CC said at 11:35 am on Sunday March 27, 2011:

    Does anyone know of a good lawyer I could hire to see if I have a case against a neighbor with a loud air conditioning unit?

  1. Sharon McNair said at 3:32 pm on Wednesday February 29, 2012:

    How is this law applied to resolving the issue of one tenant walking on hardwood floors (in hi-heels) over another tenant at any time of the day or night?

  1. Dogbegone said at 1:02 am on Wednesday April 4, 2012:

    To answer the one question about a barking dog, there is a specific DC reg that states nobody can keep a dog whose barking disturbs a neighbor.  Do note however that the cops will do everything to avoid enforcing this regulation.  The law is itself is Rule 24-900:  http://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/ChapterHome.aspx?ChapterNumber=24-9

  1. Gracie said at 4:11 pm on Sunday December 30, 2012:

    Does this apply to music that you can hear all night long?  This just started happening recently in my neighborhood but I don’t know where it is coming from since I have not gone outside to investigate.

  1. Kate said at 10:38 am on Thursday November 7, 2013:

    The catch with this ordinance, as some have already expressed, is: are cops going to really enforce it if you call them on noisy neighbors and invoke it?  I’ve called the cops on our obnoxiously loud neighbors about 10-12 times per year for the past 7 years, mentioning to the cops that I am positive that our neighbors are exceeding posted decibel levels only to be told that DC cops don’t carry decibel readers on their person and a “specialist” would need to come and assess the noise level.  Clearly I was being fed a line but…it doesn’t change the reality which is that who is going to test the noise level and enforce this?  I want to get my hopes up but am pessimistic about this supposed good news.  Does anyone have any advice about how to get this enforced once the cops are called?

  1. Wallace said at 11:09 pm on Saturday December 7, 2013:

    There is a party house (apartment) next door to me. Every weekend is miserable for all the neighbors. You can’t even sit and watch TV because the music thumping though the wall and yelling is so loud. The police come and go. Then the noise starts right back up. I’m sure no fines have ever been given despite being there multiple times. Their landlord does not care, no one cares. Maybe it’s a step in the right direction, but I doubt this updated law has had any effect.

Comments are closed.

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