Noise Regulation in Short Term Rentals and Airbnbs: Who Sets the Standard?

admin 01/16/2018

Despite our disagreements on a number of issues, there are all certain things that everyone can come to an agreement upon.

For example, most people can agree that 2 + 2 = 4 and that 97 degrees is 97 degrees. These are objective measures.

But what about things you can’t measure?

In the short term rental (STR) and real estate sphere, a measure you can’t…well…measure is noise. Noise is highly subjective.

However, for the short term rental community to move forward, there needs to be more objective standards towards what constitutes noise.

For that to even happen, let’s examine what sound is.


How Sound Works

Sound is simply energetic vibrations that move across a given space for a certain period of time. Sound loses energy as it travels.

This is why a person in Montana can’t hear someone shouting in Southern California. There’s just not enough energy to carry the sound waves that far.

Sound and noise are subjective because everyone will perceive them differently depending on their noise tolerance and their position in three-dimensional space.

Sound and Airbnb Noise Regulations

How does this relate to the omnipresent issue of Airbnb noise?

Well, let’s say you rent out an apartment to specific guests via Airbnb or another short-term rental service. These guests cause “disruption” during their stay. They were reported by your neighbors who live not too far from your unit.

Next thing you know, you’re flagged for a noise violation. It’s not fair, but it happens quite frequently.

The question becomes: is this fair? Are you liable for a noise violation with only one complaint and the fact that you were never there?

The other neighbors didn’t complain. Why not?

This circles back to our main question: why is noise difficult to measure objectively?

There are four main reasons:

  • Duration
  • Proximity
  • Type
  • Time of Day


A noise that is sustained over a longer period of time is more likely to be reported as a noise violation. The question becomes: what’s a long period of time?

5 seconds? 5 minutes? 5 hours?

A car horn that lasts 5 seconds can be tolerated by most people. A car horn that lasts 5 hours will certainly be reported/towed. What’s the length of time that everyone can agree upon that a noise lasts too long?


How close to the noise is the person or people who reported the noise? Are they in the same room? Different room? The hallway? Not even in the apartment complex?


A low “humming” bass-like noise is more likely to be tolerated than a shrill, high pitched sound. Everyone has different tolerances for frequencies, but any sound that’s piercing to the ears is more likely to be reported and faster.


Time of Day

For the most part, most people find themselves up and/or at work during the day. Loud noise is more permissible during the daytime because most people simply aren’t around or sleeping. At night, the noise threshold inevitably decreases.

Playing loud music at 3 pm on a Friday is less likely to get you in trouble versus 3 am on a Sunday night.

Virtually everyone can agree when a noise is irritating and disruptive most of the time, but what happens when the noise level varies in type and volume, like what would happen during a party?

Setting Objective Noise Standards for Airbnb Rentals

In order to create an environment where STRs thrive, everyone needs to agree upon some general standards. Here are some measures you can use today to help your community be more friendly to STRs and the industry surrounding it.

Set Professional Standards

A community can establish a set of standards that everyone who lives within it can agree upon. For example, a community of younger residents may be more noise tolerant than a community of older residents.


Establish a Noise Curfew

In many college dormitories, there are “quiet hours”. Quiet hours do not necessarily mean complete silence, but they’re a good way to cut down on the noise level in places with many people in close proximity.

Similar to quiet hours, many communities do have a “noise curfew” in place. Unfortunately, in many of these communities, it is not anywhere in writing.

All of the residents in a community should agree upon a time when the noise level should be dramatically lowered, indicated by the time most of the residents find themselves turning in to sleep for the night. Then, the landlord can list these times in writing and distribute them to the residents of the community in order to have everyone on the same page.

Have the tenants agree upon what rules they’d like

Within a community, there should be visible signs throughout the complex to let people know what is and is not tolerated.

In housing communities, this is harder as the individual homeowner needs to set the rules. In apartment complexes, this is fairly simple. Again, this is an area where the landlord can step in. They can institute a survey given to everyone within the community, have them fill it out and send it back. The measures with the most responses should be instituted as rules within the community.

For example, if most of the tenants in the community say “no boomboxes or loud music at any time”, then that should be instituted as a rule. These rules can be made into visible signs that are posted in multiple locations throughout the apartment complex.

They should be ubiquitous enough to be in the back of the tenants’ minds at all times but not enough to be overbearing.

Taking a Stand Against Noise

Generally speaking, everyone can agree upon noise levels that are acceptable and ones that cross the lines. Unfortunately, there are many noises that occur within that “gray area” of noise regulation and don’t have any objective standards.

It’s the responsibility of everyone in a community to share their input towards noise and to make their voice known. Let your landlords know that you want better and more objective noise regulation standards that everyone can agree upon.


The most popular complaints surrounding the STR industry involve trash, parking, and noise. The thing about trash and parking is that you can physically see the issue. Neighbors can take pictures, cops can respond to what they see; there are no arguments. With noise, however, it’s ever-changing, highly subjective, and hard to collect data.

In Palm Springs, when you break out the 85 on-property citations issued, the most common type of citation are for outdoor amplified music or music being heard at the property line. Next in line is non-musical noise, further displaying that noise is a big issue; one that is tough to provide evidence for.

That’s where NoiseAware steps in and turns arbitrary “facts” into real-time noise data. By providing users with historical noise data, 24/7 at their properties, noise no longer becomes subjective, it becomes factual. Learn how NoiseAware can help you today!

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