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(This is mostly a copy of a question I asked over at Law.SE. I'm reposting it here following the advice of a commenter to look for solutions with a more interpersonal appraoch.)

I have a friend who lives in the Netherlands, let's call her Allison. Both her and her neighbor (let's call him Bob) live in an apartment complex owned by a therapy organization they are both patients at, and their landlord is also the owner of said organization. Bob has lived there longer than Allison.

Every once in a while (at least once a week, though sometimes a lot more often), Bob tends to be very noisy in his apartment, by listening to loud music or playing with a pinball machine (a physical, real life one, not a video game). This often also happens very late at night, which is obviously not allowed per contract, and the walls are incredibly thin. Allison has complained about this numerous times, as it prevents her from sleeping at night and her mental health is suffering because of it, which the therapy home was supposed to be helping with. The inhabitants of the other apartments don't hear any noise, as Allison's apartment is the only one that share's a wall with Bob's.

The problem: Since Bob is a therapy patient himself, the landlord and the therapists appear to be protective of him. Supposedly, he has his own baggage that prevents him from noticing, caring or remembering that he's being inconsiderate. While they don't explicitly condone him doing this at night, they barely take any direct action. Instead, they advised Allison to use earplugs, since the person who lived in her apartment before her never complained about this and they figured she may just be too sensitive. When the earplugs didn't help, they told her to message Bob whenever he's being too loud, because he apparently needs constant reminding that he's not supposed to do this after a certain time of day. Allison tried this, and it helped, but the silence usually only persists for a few minutes before being broken again.

On Allison's request, the landlord eventually agreed to order noise cancelling panels to be installed on the wall between their apartments. However, he only agreed to pay for the very cheapest ones available, which had to be shipped from China and are now being withheld due to the Corona virus. Furthermore, after it was clarified that these panels would need to be installed on Bob's side of the wall in order to have any effect, Bob suddenly expressed that he's not willing to put in the effort to do so. In other words, he refuses to actively do something to fix the problem he's causing, despite the panels being gifted to him (Allison has expressed willingness to invest into panels for her side of the wall out of her own pocket, just for added sound isolation, but as stated earlier, those won't do much on their own).

Recently, Allison's therapist started encouraging her to look for other apartments, all of which turned out to be substantially more expensive than her current one (given similar size and quality). Despite knowing that Allison's financial situation isn't the best, her therapist kept suggesting that it might be worth it to get some peaceful nights. Allison feels like this is rather unfair, like she's being punished for her neighbor breaking the contract and keeping her up at night, and that the landlord / therapy organization should put more effort into solving this for her, as the contract states that excessive noise at night is grounds for eviction. However, whenever she brings these arguments up, they keep getting dodged.

Allison tried contacting the police about this, but they dismissed her case as something that's out of their reach. They advised her to try something called a "neighborhood mediation", though Allison has strong doubts about the usefulness of such a thing, as the landlord and therapists have already tried mediating between the two of them.

Question: Is there any other way to resolve this issue? As far as I can tell, Allison and Bob are not at all on good terms, for obvious reasons. How could one go about getting the landlord and the therapists to take Allison and the problems this is causing her (sleep deprivation, nausea etc) seriously?

  • I think the response given in the Law SE is pertinent. OP friend is at a point were he need a really neutral party. It seems that the discussion with his landlord is not possible anymore. – Fanie Void Mar 3 at 10:54
  • After very recent developments, it currently looks like the situation might resolve itself peacefully, though it might still take some time. If things don't improve, we'll probably make use of the answer given on Law.SE, and I'll try to keep this updated if anything substantial changes. – Andii Mar 3 at 12:35
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    Do the Netherlands not have noise ordinances? The police would definitely be able to do something in most jurisdictions. Maybe she just got an unhelpful person? A visit from the cops can persuade both her neighbor and landlord to take it more seriously. – Kat Mar 3 at 21:34
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This can be a really tough situation. I can empathize with both sides of this dispute, as I have much more sensitive than normal hearing and I've had some friends who are hard of hearing. For somebody who has never heard well, people with above average hearing are really difficult to adjust for. There's a huge difference between knowing something intellectually, and really understanding it. And unfortunately, if Bob has never had good hearing, it may be impossible for Allison to ever really convey the problem in a way that Bob truly understands.

My advice for this all falls under the category of life hacks, because my experience suggests that it's going to be really difficult getting Bob to change for a problem that he can't perceive. Somebody who isn't Allison (or, for that matter, me) might be able to get Bob to understand it's more of a problem by messaging him every time he makes loud noises during the quiet hours specified by the lease. But I sense that Allison's the sort of person who gets frustrated with that approach much quicker than Bob will grasp that Allison is really hearing this stuff.

These life hacks are generally not mutually exclusive, and it could take using multiple of them to get a solution. I admit there is some expense involved, and I'm completely unable to assess when it reaches the point that these hacks have cost more than moving would.

  • Sound dampening panels on Allison's side might not work well, and the particular panels available might not work well, but something is better than nothing.

  • There could be sound dampening panels that would work better on Allison's side, they just cost more than the landlord was willing to spend without someone applying legal pressure. (I've no idea how well legal pressure would work.)

  • In apartment sound baffles. This will only work if Allison's bed isn't against the wall between the apartments. These divide up the space in the apartment, so make it feel smaller and are awkward to get around. However, they could potentially be unfolded and set up when it's time for sleeping, and then collapsed and put away the rest of the time.

  • I've used both ear muffs and over the ear headphones while I sleep. They both had some tendency to get knocked off in my normal tossing and turning, but I was able to get a few solid hours of sleep before that happened. Passive headphones don't work as well as ear muffs, unless they're plugged into something making noise, such as calming music to help one sleep.

    I've not had experience with noise cancelling headphones. That could be the way to go, except they're more expensive. The noise cancelling doesn't happen for free, so that will either require batteries or will require them to be plugged in.

  • Ear plugs and ear bud headphones do not work for me while I'm trying to sleep. Ear plugs are too uncomfortable for me to fall asleep, and ear bud headphones either fall out almost immediately or are too uncomfortable. However, different people are different, so it's probably at least worth considering.

  • While I'm not a fan of white noise generators, they work. They are themselves a bother, but once you get used to them, it's something you can sleep through, and it makes it harder to hear other things. Some people (like me) get headaches from them if they're too loud, so it's likely not an entire solution, but with one or more of the others, it could possibly be part of an overall fix.

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  • Admittedly, this isn't exactly the type of answer we were hoping for. Still, thank you for your suggestions, I will pass them on. I am not certain if the neighbor is indeed hard of hearing, but it is a possibility. Ideally, we're looking for a way to get the landlord/therapists to see eye to eye with her and try to acommodate her a little more, since at the moment she's not getting what was promised in the lease contract. So other ideas are still welcome. – Andii Feb 29 at 22:26
  • I understand that, but I unfortunately don't have that kind of answer. I'd like to have the interpersonal skills to work through these things, and I feel like most of the people who are active here on IPS SE would, too. But this is one of the harder questions, and I feel like probably few of us have sufficient mastery. Therapist landlords are probably going to be a harder sell on this than their client resident. But conveying the problem to this resident enough to get him to change his response will be quite difficult itself. – Ed Grimm Mar 11 at 3:33

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