Neighbours Complaining about Piano Playing

Long story short:

Friend of mine is a musician and rents in an apartment building. A month ago upstairs neighbour knocks on his door asking him to stop playing piano in the middle of the day as it disturbs them. He apologises and explains that it's his work, offering to make a set time in the day to arrange play music (e.g. 1:00-2:00pm), the neighbour says not to worry about it and walks off. He receives email from agent about the complaint, and responds that he is willing to be flexible and arrange a set time to do his music. Doesn't receive response from agent.
A few days ago he's recording music at home at around 2:00pm, the same neighbour comes banging on the door complaining.
He then receives a formal complaint from agent saying he's heard that he's breached social distancing restrictions by having visitors (neighbours called police 2 times in the past couple of months, both times police confirmed that he was keeping to the restrictions) and that he's being too loud with his piano playing, and he will terminate the lease if this doesn't stop.
Spoke to fair trading who suggested they work it out between themselves before escalating it.

TLDR: Neighbour complaining about piano playing during daytime (work) hours.

My questions are:
Is the agent within his right to threaten termination of the lease for playing piano during normal working hours?
Is my friend wrong for playing piano in an apartment during the day?
What can he do about the false accusation of breaching social distancing laws?
Should he look to move somewhere else, or just stuff it and continue playing piano, hoping they are not within their rights to kick him out?

Poll Options

  • 109
    Tenant is wrong for playing piano
  • 711
    Agent and neighbour are being unreasonable
  • 24
    Just move out because it's not worth the hassle


  • Next time the neighbour bangs on the door. Let them in and play loud piano while they're telling you off. As soon as they open their mouth, your hands should start playing.

    Only stop playing when their mouth stops moving lol

  • Noise can be excessive at any time of the day but there are different guidelines on what constitutes excessive depending on the circumstances and time of day is one of those things.

    I think a reasonable person can understand that if someone is making very loud noise near a common area (for example a jet engine in a apartment building) that the person making the noise should ensure that the noise is contained or moved elsewhere.

    Unfortunately the agency typically tasked with enforcing noise pollution, the EPA, rarely does any active enforcement so it is left to others and they may have a varying interpretation of the rules.

    Not sure if that helped.

  • I may be going against the crowd here but I don’t think you should be playing loud instruments if you live in an apartment.

    I live in an apartment and had a neighbour who ran piano lessons for children in their apartment. It went for hours every day and was very annoying. I don’t think that you have the right to make noise which impacts everyone of your neighbours on a regular basis - I don’t blast my stereo or tv for the same reason. When you live in apartment you should understand that there are a different set of rules given the close proximity of everyone’s homes.

    • +111 votes

      InB4 the avalanche of downvotes, but I tend to agree. If it was a seperate house, I would tell the neighbours to mind their own business, but an apartment block. Every now and then, ok, but every day would end up doing someone’s head in. Playing a piano for “work” would be no different to me running a carpentry shop out of my appartment.

      Also, not everyone works 9:5 shifts. There may be shift workers in the building or parents with new born kids or any other number of reasons that people don’t need the disruption for hours each day…

      I don’t see why this person needs a piano that makes any noise in an apartment block setting. My daughter has her practice piano at home and she plugs her headphones in and goes to town. I spent a lot of money to get it to feel as close as it can to a real piano, so I don’t know why there needs to be any noise while they practice.

      • I tend to lean more toward that idea that choosing to live in an apartment means choosing to live with neighbour noise.

        Playing a piano for “work” would be no different to me running a carpentry shop out of my appartment.

        but this is a very good point.

        • Playing a piano for “work” would be no different to me running a carpentry shop out of my appartment.

          Oh god I lived in apartments with tradies that would do their loading of their ute late at night for work next day. So much clomping around and chucking stuff around then trudging down the stairs to chuck in their tray. Then they'd get up early and "warm up" the car.

          One other guy was a builder and drove a run down Harley to work every day. Up early, warming that up too, except because it was run down it would seize or backfire or do some other problem that was hella loud and then followed closely by him swearing bloody murder at the thing.

          • @serpserpserp: This is the main reason for me not to live in small/big apartment complex.. Hate to be unfriendly with the neighbours but some do not think their action may disturb others. But hey you can buy a good property in a decent location but you cant buy good neighbours even if you are on a block of land.

          • @serpserpserp: I had the same thing in my old home, neighbour in one of the units next door had a piece of crap commo that he would warm up for several minutes each day. It had a really loud exhaust that would rattle my fence which happened to be right behind where I slept in the house.

            I tried asking him to stop doing that but he told me to get lost so I made a complaint to the real estate agent managing the property. 2 weeks later I saw him and his partner packing up their stuff and leaving.

            • @Morphio25:

              2 weeks later I saw him and his partner packing up their stuff and leaving.

              I think the complaint and these guys leaving were probably sperate things. Doubt he'd get kicked out for 1 complaint and so quickly. But good that you didn't let his bad behaviour continue.

      • As someone who lives Ina house next door to musicians it can be nice at a good time be (profanity) terrible at a bad time.

        When it penetrates your earplugs while in your bedroom with white noise (because baby) it drives you insane.

      • True, piano noise can be annoying but since OP is willing to schedule a set time for the noise everyday, the neighbour should simply put on noise cancelling headphones during the noise. Win win.

      • He writes music and uses the piano here and there - and offered to make a set time so if they do have sleeping children he could work around them. Surely one is entitled to make some noise at some point in the day?
        Also, he likes to do it on a traditional piano, he has a keyboard which he uses when he needs to work out and about.

        • 'he likes to do it on a traditional piano'

          but his neighbour doesn't like it - aye, there's the rub …

          nicest is to negotiate like I did recently with a new tenant complaining about a saxophone playing that disturbed him

          for me the funny thing was I'd heard the saxophone late afternoons for months and not been bothered by it, and no-one else had complained, and now here was a brand new tenant disturbing me by complaining within a week of arriving that someone else was disturbing him !

          I did two trips back and forth between him and the saxophone player - negotiated an agreed settlement for the sax player - who enjoyed it when he came home from his 9-5 job - to not play after 630pm - job done.

      • These days I don't think you need to have an acoustic piano for work, especially if just writing music. If you are in an apartment then get a Roland RD-2000 or a Kawai if you want the Concert Grand feel, or even a YDP-184 if you want to tweak the VRM.
        We use the RD-2000 in the studio, I can't see a need for an acoustic for writing, and in an apartment, really you want headphones.

        In normal times I think you could argue a time of day or than neighbours are being somewhat unreasonable, but apartment living is difficult at the best of times, and these are not the best of times. People are home more, are frazzled and depressed, and unwanted music for an hour a day, that is difficult to tune out could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

        Get a good piano, good headphones and compose till your heart's content.

    • I partly agree in so far as one shouldn't make frequent and excessive noises and at inconvenient times.

      In this case however, its during the day. OP's friend has been kind enough to offer structured times to run his livelihood.

      On the apartment front, I would turn this around, if you buy or rent an apartment, you are signing up to living in close proximity to neighbours and should expect less quiet enjoyment than living on a quarter acre block. You are going to hear :

      • Shuffling or flopping of thongs or footwear on the floor above.
      • banging of crockery.
      • Parties.
      • Doof Doof music.
      • Domestics.
      • Loud Sex shortly after.
      • In this case however, its during the day.

        People have been WFH due to coronavirus though. If these people were at their offices working I don't think they'd have an issue, but if they are WFH it can be extremely disturbing having your neighbour in the apartment next to you playing loud music.

        • yes - WFH has increased the incidence of WTF

          my keyword for cabin-fever relationship interactions was 'snappy'

    • +21 votes

      Playing piano for an hour or two during the day would hardly fall into the "annoying" "loud instruments" category. The neighbour needs to get over it, or move.

      • This is what I told him!

        • check your lease conditions for strata bylaws about noise -

          otherwise you may be right - out on your ear - for breach of lease conditions, failing to comply with bylaws about noise

      • Yep!! Only an hour a day, your friend is being very reasonable and flexible OP. The neighbour and agent are out of line for making such a fuss.

        • Well, it may not be the only source of noise in the neighbourhood, imagine people leaving for work at 7am, grass cutting at 8am, renovations at 9am… etc.

          I guess in an apartment everyone needs to keep the noise to a minimum, especially something that is daily. However the right to peace and quiet is not legislated very well currently.

          I live in a house, rented, most days it's quiet out the back and perfect for WFH. Some days the neighbours kids are on a trampoline the whole day, it's interfering with my peace and quiet, but they have a right to use their property also.

      • It's hard if your neighbour also has to work from home and has online meetings or presentations etc. It boils down to the lease conditions, but it is also easily bypassed by a quality piano with headphones these days, and a good one is probably less than the cost of moving.

    • I find noise annoying too - so I don't live in an apartment. I have done in the past, and yes the neighbours kid doing their piano practice annoyed me, but there's not much you can do. I think in your scenario where the neighbour was running a business from the apartment that generated noise, you would be within your rights to request them to reduce the noise. However playing a piano for a couple of hours during the day seems like a reasonable activity. The reality of living in a community is we have to hear each other from time to time - it's fairly unavoidable. Even in a house, we hear noise from our neighbours, as long as it's not super excessive or offensive tolerating it would seem like the only practical thing to do.

      • same here, I hated noises too, so I moved out from a near city apartment to the suburbs.
        my old apartment flatmates used to be on the phone from 7pm to 12am calling her friend every day non-stop.
        I would expect any noise after 10pm would be non-appropriate.
        Day time noise is normal, but night time especially sleeping time noise is just unacceptable.
        After 2 conversations with my old flatmates, I broke the lease and moved out to the suburbs early than planned, but I have peace at night time at least.

        • ah - the sound of the angry neighbour's roaring Victa lawnmower waking me up at 8am on Sunday mornings - I remember surburbia well … !

          • @Hangryuman: They were being kind, some hired lawn cutters in my suburb start at 7am sharp! 7am is the earliest time allowed for loud machinery in most council areas. Why they want to cut damp grass I'll never understand, must be fully booked.

    • I'm more fond of the idea that people with particular distaste for noise shouldn't live in appartments.

    • Complaint #2 : "Neighbour keeps playing loud music on top of my regular daily piano playing so I can't hear myself think to compose anything. I'm going batty, and losing money, what to do? He is deliberately disrupting my legitimate piano work, this is personal now, can I get him evicted?"

  • Your 'friend' should ask their neighbour if they have any tunes they would like played during the day.

    The only way to fix neighbour issues in the long term is for 1 of them to move.

    Anything else leaves festering bad feelings no matter who wins the argument.

    • Some people just wanna complain. They talk the talk, but don't walk the walk… hypocrites.

      OP's friend should ask the neighbor how much money the neighbor would pay him to stop playing. Just to see the reaction. If the neighbor responds with "I ain't paying crap"… then you respond "oh, so it seems it's not that important after all".

      The real shocker is if the neighbor calls your bluff and says a million dollars ;)

  • Your friend may be in breach of the by-laws, but in saying that, his offer of playing only one hour a day is pretty reasonable. Here's a link on a similar issue.

    I think they need to come to an agreement on when your friend can play, and then maybe a digital piano for the rest of the time.

  • has he hooked the piano up to an amplifier and cranked it up? hardly seems reasonable conduct from the neighbour, however you didn't mention that the agent had even spoken to your friend before sending a formal complaint. This seems really dodgy
    You are allowed to play music and musical instruments during the day, see link for restricted times
    i would suggest your friend talk to the agent directly and explain the situation again

    • So, under those laws/restrictions, you would happy if I was in my apartment, next to yours, using my lawn mower, leaf blower and chainsaw for a few hours each day?

      • +24 votes

        Wanna join my industrial noise band? I play the angle grinder, looking for someone to play the anvil but open to other industrial sounds if you’ve got the skill.

      • I'm not saying it's great, but everyone is entitled to play some music or use a leaf blower. i regularly hear the kid drumming from 4 properties over. i don't go and tell them off as i'm sure when i'm playing music or whatever they understand the same.

        so are you saying no one should be allowed to make any noise what so ever? I think they tried to reason with the person and make a suitable restricted time period.

        • so are you saying

          I’m not saying anything. People should be allowed to make some noise, but posting a link to restrictions that also encompasses the use of pneumatic air tools and lawn equipment is pointless. If playing the piano for hours on end is ok under the outlines of your reference, so would be someone running a sheet metal art workshop from their house using grinders and welders all day.

          The question is, with regards to the page you linked to, would you put up with me running equipment in my apartment that included things like pneumatic air tools and powered gardening equipment?

          You cant just say "piano is ok because it says so here"… and then not also accept every other caveat on that list…

          • @pegaxs:

            People should not be allowed to make some noise

            should? or should not?
            I only posted that link to show they shouldn't be making noise outside those times. maybe i should have been clearer.
            The rules are dumb, they don't take into account everyone and everything. people work shifts, etc. but unfortunately i don't think there is nything else to go by.

            However I agree with you on the points about being more respectful about your neighbours in an apartment setting.
            They did say it was 1 hour a day. they tried to be flexible ( calling the cops for a bogus offense is a dog act )
            If it was hours on end everyday, i'd probably take offense too. i just think we need to have a little give and take when it comes to being neighbours.

          • @pegaxs: you edited while i was replying…..
            i get you, i agree. it's a crap set of rules.
            no i wouldn't accept excessive noise either. but as i said, i think a little give and take is required… otherwise, said neighbour shouldn't be making any noise either.

            • @jimdotpud:

              you edited while i was replying…

              Sorry about that, fingers were working faster than the brain and I often type then re-read and edit. Usually I do it pre-posting, this time I posted and then read it.

              And I agree. People should be allowed to make some noise, but any ongoing noise, regardless of its source, for hours a day, regardless of the time, should be kept to a minimum. I think both OP's "friend" and the neighbour are both being unreasonable, but I can see both their points.

              I am doing a lot of work from home at the moment, and as much as I would have loved to have piano playing while I worked, that fascination would have lasted about 4 days before it would have given me a brain snap. It's usually not random songs or even songs you like, it's typically the same tune over and over and over an over as they practice…

              And I am sure that if the neighbour was here with their version, it certainly wouldn't have been "just an hour a day".

              • @pegaxs:

                And I am sure that if the neighbour was here with their version, it certainly wouldn't have been "just an hour a day".

                true. we only have what we have to go on.
                but sometimes OzB has some gems where the second party turns up…..

          • @pegaxs: Most of these things say "within reason". I'd say daily leaf blower may not be within reason, but professional piano practice is.

            • @bmerigan: I was referring to the page linked to by @jimdotpud. It makes no mention of “within reason”.

              Either way, who gets to decide what is “within reason” and what is not? What’s reasonable to you may very well be unreasonable to someone else.

              The point was that the link says that within the hours of 7am until 8pm on weekdays, I am allowed to use power tools and gardening machines and places no caveat over the use of these implements any more so than the use of musical instruments.

              Only referring to NSW legislation, there doesn’t seem to be any provisions on what is “within reason“ and what is not… It just says that if I want to wake up at 7am on Monday and use my air compressor to run my air sander all day, that is “within the legislation”

              (And before you get all butt hurt and neg me, I don’t agree that any of this is reasonable (leaf blower OR endless repetitive piano), as I am just saying what is legal.)

    • The neighbour seems quite petty. I mean who calls the cops twice for suspecting "breaching social distancing laws"?

      • I agree. I think this tells us what the real problem is. You will never negotiate with someone like this. I’d just move and save the stress. The agent should be accommodating on ending the lease under the circumstances.

        • Or just stand up for yourself and tell the old man to bugger off and get a hobby.

          • @Skinnerr: Yeah that is always the option but seriously it’s your home. Do you want to live in a battlefield when you could just relocate to somewhere more suitable?

            • @MontyMacaw: Except that relocating a piano is a massive expensive pain in the ass (moving costs, insurance during moving costs, retuning the piano once it's moved costs) - with the risk of a new neighbour who hates it.

              Better to take the negotiation/disagreement as far as possible before making a move IMO.


        Sounds like neighbour is triggered about something other than piano.

  • +7 votes

    i totally agree. quit the piano and take up drums instead …

  • What does your friends lease say? When I had to move into an apartment the lease agreement said that people have a right to “quiet enjoyment”.

    If a new neighbour moves in who happens to be an industrial noise musician should they be allowed to “play” the angle grinder each day or is one music more equal than other types?

  • Could they look into an electronic piano, not ideal, but it could be a workable compromise. There are some very good models such as the Nord Grand or Stage 3 but they come in around $5k.

  • I would hate to have your friend as a neighbour.

  • In an apartment he should be using a keyboard and headphones. No excuse to he annoying the whole building everytime he plays.

    • I agree with this comment. When a family member was learning piano and practising for 20 mins a day it was very annoying. You couldn't make a phonemail, watch TV or have a nap during this time. It was easily solved with a pair of headphones.

    • Yes definitely. It's called common courtesy

    • yep. i have a digital piano and it plays mostly like a real piano, just plug in some noise canceling headphones and enjoy the sound of nothing other than digital piano sounds. Just wish it had some hammer and pedal sounds in there to make it more authentic, and maybe the occasional reverb-ed cough or chair move from the audience, haha.

  • It's an apartment.

    One party is being unreasonable expecting every neighbour to accommodate their need for silence.

    The other party is being unreasonable expecting every neighbour to put up with their noise.

    Apartments. Only do it if you're quiet and don't mind the noise of others.

  • I have same issue with my neighbour, i chatted to him, he and I agreed at time slots, as I cant be a total (profanity) to him and prevent him living his life. it works great for both of us. he just texts me when is he gunna make noise and i either tolerate it or go out.

    i think person above is being unreasonable.

  • After they knock next time try playing Beethoven's 5th symphony in C minor :)

    Are there any options to dampen the noise a little? Otherwise it's generally a great time to find apartments for rent, not all are created equal when it comes to noise.

  • He should sing them a song, he's a piano man.

  • Not going to lie i've had neighbours to my house who play the piano for 30 minutes - 1 hour a day and as long as i'm not at home it's fine. It's the weekends at like 8-9am in the morning which is pretty bad. I can imagine it would be louder in an apartment.

    TLDR if the tenant wants to play the piano
    a) Don't be selfish and get a weighted key piano with headphones (we live in the 21st century), wayy more convenient than lugging a piano around.
    b) move out to a house.

  • Apartment complex is likely to have strata regulations regarding acceptable noise.
    Running a noisy business from a home apartment may be against the rules?

  • +16 votes

    It is absolutely inconsiderate to move into an apartment block (or even a semi) and play piano or any other instrument for extended periods of time. If making music is his living, he should invest in a decent electronic instrument and plug headphones in. It's not like it's a kid's music lesson that will be over in 30 minutes.

    It's no better than neighbours that lock up a howling, barking dog in an apartment and are gone all day.

    • no, it's his work which will be over in 1 hour. If the guy plays well, the person should just be understanding. That is what the OP said isn't it?

  • tell your friend to get a digital piano instead. problem solved.

  • My neighbours plays piano every couple of weeks and sing. The can't do either well but it's funny to hear so I live with it. If they did it daily I might get annoyed…

    regarding the alleged social distancing breach, i doubt the agent has any jurisdiction over this and your mate should ask what authority the agent has, what proof they have and encourage police involvement. Include such choice phrases as "vexatious accusation" "accusation without cause".

    this might help (or not)

  • Surely the neighbours should be appreciating the free music assuming your musician friends plays good music?

    • I came here to say just this.

      I had a next door neighbour who was essentially a step above amateur and was still clearly learning - but it was beautiful.

      My home has the thinnest walls of any domicile I've encountered and I have never experienced anger and frustration in response to it.

      I could understand if OP's friend was into punk rock or produced hardcore EDM or something that doesn't really appeal to people as universally.

      I think it is merely one of those scenarios where person x is home and lonely and fixates on silly things out of boredom. Annoying customers that I worked with at my old retail job were just like this. They're ready to complain before they even have anything to be bitter about.

      • So just because you don't experience anger and frustration in response to it, means no one else is allowed to?

        And you are also stating that piano is universally appealing?

        What if I love punk rock and hate piano?

        I don't care if Andrew Lloyd Webber is the piano-playing freak, but if he's doing it everyday over thin walls, I'd still be tempted to gut him like a fish.

        • Actually the piano is universally appealing, I don't play, but it is the closest thing to a universal instrument IMO. People everywhere play it, and even though they are heavy and expensive pianos are common and reached the 4 corners of the globe. It's also probably the best instrument to learn on, and pianists tend to adapt well to other instruments once they've learned on one. 1 hour a day at a time of your choosing is pretty reasonable.

          I live with someone who plays multiple instruments well, and lived in units for the last 15 years, and only got compliments from people, not a single complaint in 15 years. and that's with a real upright piano, not some electronic thing.

          • @Jackson: I know plenty of people who really can't stand the sound of piano. It certainly isn't universal, and the type of music is the other issue. For some people classical is like a cheese grater on their ears etc.

            An hour a day seems reasonable, until you have to sit through that hour a day, you can't always go out, especially in winter and day after day it can really grate.

            If he is writing music, he absolutely does not need an acoustic piano to work on. There are excellent electronic pianos that have the same feel and action, and he can use headphones.

        • Personally, I don't mind if people are angry or frustrated. They aren't sufficient grounds to try to restrict another person's behaviour, if the behaviour is not entirely unreasonable - and I don't think that playing a piano in your own unit is unreasonable. If it wasn't the piano, it would be heavy walking or aromatic cooking that were bothering the neighbours.

          I can understand where you're coming from. I guess the biggest factor here is a variable we can't account for - how loud the music actually is.

    • The pianist could always take requests. Free streaming music to your apartment with zero ads.

  • The neighbour is being unreasonable but your friend is also inconsiderate for assuming they can play the piano in an apartment. He should just get an electric piano