There are few things more irritating than being woken by noisy neighbours. But how much do you actually have to put up with and at what point are you allowed to do something about it?
Let’s be honest: we’re all guilty of making a bit of a racket now and then. And as long as it happens only occasionally, you would probably be happy to turn a blind eye to any excessive noise from your neighbours. But if what the sound of endless vacuum cleaning, music or crying babies becomes constant and lasts long into the night?
Official ‘quiet hours’ in Switzerland
A quiet night is sacred to many, as it gives them a chance to physically and mentally recover from the stress of everyday life. The night hours of peace, along with the other legal ‘quiet hours’, are defined on a cantonal basis and can vary slightly. Generally, however, the following quiet hours apply:
- Midday quiet hour: weekdays between 12 and 1 pm
- Night-time quiet hours: weekdays from 8 or 10 pm to 6 or 7 am
- Sundays and public holidays: all day
If you’re not sure which quiet hours apply in your canton, you can find out from your local municipality. During these times, it’s important to avoid making excessive noise and to be considerate of other tenants.
So what kind of noise is considered a disturbance of the peace?
Noise regulations are defined, though unfortunately rather vaguely, in Switzerland’s legal codes. For example, Art. 684 of the Civil Code states that everyone is obliged to refrain from any excessive impact on their neighbours’ property and that any damaging or unwarranted impact – including noise – is prohibited. In addition, Art. 257f para 2 of the Code of Obligations also states:
‘Tenants of an immovable property must show consideration for residents of the building and its neighbours.’
The law does not specify what a reasonable amount of noise is or at what point noise levels become inconsiderate. It’s just a case of using your common sense. For example, if you drill a few holes in the wall at 5 pm on a Monday to put up shelves, this would be a normal time to go about this activity. However, if you decide to put your shelves up at 3 am, the noise of the drill would obviously be considered disruptive and your neighbours would be entitled to object.
In case you find yourself tempted to do any noisy activities, here are a few examples of things you should not be doing during the quiet hours:
- Playing drums, wind or brass instruments
- Hammering or any other loud DIY activities
- Noisy household tasks
- Constantly playing loud music
- Mowing the lawn
- Loud arguments or slamming doors during the night
- Taking a bath at night
- Throwing wild parties that last late into the night – unless it’s very a rare occasion and your neighbours are informed or perhaps even invited.
- Even wearing high-heeled shoes is not legally permitted during the night.
- When it comes to crying babies, however, the other residents of the building just have to let it slide: the little ones are allowed to express themselves loudly as that’s simply their natural behaviour.
Is it permitted to vacuum on Sundays?
Besides the night-time sleep, what are the rules about disturbing the peace during other quiet times, such as Sundays or public holidays? Some people like to get their homes in order on their day off because they don’t have time during the week. But are noisy tasks, such as vacuum cleaning, allowed on Sundays? As a general rule, the legal noise restrictions apply all day on Sundays. If you live in a badly soundproofed rented flat, it’s best to avoid doing any noisy household tasks on Sundays. If you can’t vacuum during the week and your home desperately needs to be done on a Sunday, make sure you follow a few ground rules:
- Don’t do it during the general quiet times, such as the midday quiet hour or at night.
- Close all your windows when you vacuum.
- Use a quiet vacuum cleaner. These days, you can buy modern vacuum cleaners that function at a volume of around 60 to 65 decibels. This noise level is even quieter than a normal conversation – so you can spare your neighbours’ ears and nerves.
- Try a quiet alternative to vacuum cleaning: if you have hard floors, you can use a brush or a mop to clean them. And if you need to remove dust from furniture, window frames or other surfaces, you can use a feather duster instead.
Keeping the peace is a bit more difficult when it comes to mowing the lawn. This gardening task produces a lot of noise, so it is prohibited on Sundays, as are other noisy activities during quiet hours. Although there are some slightly quieter lawn mowers on the market, there are barely any loopholes that would allow you to mow your lawn on a Sunday.
Do I need to observe specific quiet hours enforced by my landlord in my building?
Generally, landlords have to comply with the law when imposing particular regulations in rented properties. Nevertheless, they are permitted to set certain regulations in their house rules, such as no use of the laundry at night, no shoe racks or pushchairs left in the stairwell or no barbecues on balconies.
If your neighbours overdo it with their night-time escapades, you don’t have to call the police right away. Of course, that’s not to say that you have to put up with everything, but an open and honest conversation usually helps a lot more than standing at your noisy neighbour’s door in your pyjamas, exasperatedly ringing the doorbell.
However, if emotions end up boiling over during a dispute with a neighbour and you just can’t reach an understanding, it might be a good idea to settle the matter out of court and call in a professional mediator.
In situations like this, just remember the two magic words: tolerance and thoughtfulness – and sharing a building with your neighbours is sure to be a success story!