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Old 20.01.2012, 23:33
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Noise Complaint from Agency

Hello all,
This is my first post but unfortunately not the positive manner in which I hope it would be.

My wife and I move to Switzerland recently. We are renting an old appartment since the past few months. Today we came home from work to find a letter of complaint from the agency saying that a neighbour has complained that we are making too much noise and that we are to call the agency immediatley.

We are both shocked and insulted as well as quite concerned. We have never had such a complant before in all the places we have lived in and are very considerate people who make very little noise. In fact the neighbours above us make noise that keeps us awake until 1am at times and have even been shouting and laughing in the stairwell late at night.

One thing worth mentioning is that our flat is very old and the sitting room is missing a door. I doubt this complies with noise proofing regulations which I read exist. However, we have always taken this into consideration with sound travelling etc.

We do not know who complained. There are elderly people living below us and neighbours next to us who seem to do their best to avoid us since we moved in. They are there all day long, however we are rarely in the flat both during the week and at weekends. We also go to bed early every night.

We are extremely concerned with what might be said to us by the agency and would like to know what our rights are. We are also concerned that they could threaten to evict us. Can they do that after sending such a letter? I ask this especially as it so hard to find a place to live here that this woud be devastating.

Also the agency speak almost no English and are very hard to communicate with so we are worried we will be unable to defend ourselves.

Any advice on what we can do to protect ourselve with the agency and this neighbour would be most welcome.
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Old 20.01.2012, 23:40
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

So sorry to hear this. It must be awful for you.

Your biggest issue will be to get someone to speak on your behalf. I don't know if anyone at the tenants association speaks English. www.asloca.ch But you should get in touch with them. You'll have to sign up as a member. I think it's CHF50 a year.

Do you have anyone that can call on your behalf? You must get in touch with the agency and deny that you are the ones that are making noise. It's possible they are mistaking you for the people upstairs.

Don't ignore it though.

Good luck getting it sorted.
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Old 20.01.2012, 23:46
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

This is rough.

Try to keep calm about this. Is there no-one you know who could help translate so that things are not misunderstood?

It's very difficult to tell where exactly noise is coming from whether the house is old or not so I would ask exactly what sort of noise the neighbours are complaining about and when it occurs. If you start work early in the morning it might be showering or just running water loudly in the kitchen. If the elderly neighbours want to sleep late this might disturb them. Try and get onto decent terms with the folk if you can.

One of our neighbours didn't speak to us for six months when we first moved into the building - I still don't know why - but twenty-five years on, long after we both moved away from that area, we still write to each other at Christmas.
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Old 21.01.2012, 00:01
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

I wrote a lengthy post about our "Bünzli" neighbours a while ago.

What you have to remember is the law guarantees you the right to make reasonable levels of noise in your own home. For example if you work a nightshift, come home in the wee small hours and need to take a quivck shower to freshen up before going to bed then you are allowed.

In the case of our experience with neighbours, both my wife and I speak fluent German AND I took the time to read up the specific parts of Swiss law regarding kids in apartments so I was able to play hardball with them when they tried to bully us. The same neighbours are the ones who use their own washing machine at all hours of night and day and think they should be contestants on DSDS (drei mal nein!!!).

In the OPs position, if you don't have a command of French and the agency are playing the sloping shoulders game, I would join the Mieterverband (ASLOCA) and get a formal legal letter written to the agency refuting all their claims and telling them - in legalese - to bog off. This is the only way to deal with peasants.

Cheers,
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It's very difficult to tell where exactly noise is coming from whether the house is old or not so I would ask exactly what sort of noise the neighbours are complaining about and when it occurs. If you start work early in the morning it might be showering or just running water loudly in the kitchen. If the elderly neighbours want to sleep late this might disturb them. Try and get onto decent terms with the folk if you can.
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Old 21.01.2012, 00:09
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

Sometimes your tactics will work and sometimes they won't. These things can escalate to the point when the 'innocent' party prefers to move.

Before I get heavy-handed - and I assure you I can and do defend myself when necessary - I try to find out what the source of any problem really it. I am well aware that one is permitted to shower when one gets home from work, even in the early hours of the morning, but if doing so antagonises my neighbours because it wakes those who have difficulty getting back to sleep... I'd just think twice about doing it every day.

I find it very useful to be on decent terms with my neighbours who water my plants, bring in my mail, take me down to the town in their car when it's raining, invite me in for coffee and are just generally there if I need them.
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Old 21.01.2012, 00:22
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

Thanks for the replies. We will of course deny everything to the agency and in an honest way because we really cannot be at fault here at any extent worth complaining about regarding noise production.

However, can the agency insist that we are at fault even if they have no proof other than someone elses complaint? Do they have to play the middleman and listen equally to both sides or can they take sides?

It concerns us that they may accuse us (as the letter sounds quite threatening) but with a subject that is so subjective, can this really be proven through a simple complaint?

We
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Old 21.01.2012, 00:25
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

Yes, but being submissive gets you nowhere - especially with the Swiss. You have to assert yourself.

In our dealings with neighbours I took inspiration from this gentleman.



Cheers,

Nick

PS do you really only shower every other day? Phew!

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Sometimes your tactics will work and sometimes they won't. These things can escalate to the point when the 'innocent' party prefers to move.

Before I get heavy-handed - and I assure you I can and do defend myself when necessary - I try to find out what the source of any problem really it. I am well aware that one is permitted to shower when one gets home from work, even in the early hours of the morning, but if doing so antagonises by neighbours because it wakes those who have difficulty getting back to sleep... I'd just think twice about doing it every day.

I find it very useful to be on decent terms with my neighbours who water my plants, bring in my mail, take me down to the town in their car when it's raining, invite me in for coffee and are just generally there if I need them.
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Old 21.01.2012, 00:25
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

Thanks for the replies. We will of course deny everything to the agency and in an honest way because we really cannot be at fault here at any extent worth complaining about regarding noise production.

However, can the agency insist that we are at fault even if they have no proof other than someone elses complaint? Do they have to play the middleman and listen equally to both sides or can they take sides?

It concerns us that they may accuse us (as the letter sounds quite threatening) but with a subject that is so subjective, can this really be proven through a simple complaint?

We are also concerned that this neighbour may complain again in the future as we really have not done anything to provoke this complaint. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself but this situation is already so bizarre. Even right now as I am writing this the neighbours around us are making considerable noise (although what I would actually call normal).
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Old 21.01.2012, 00:30
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

I have no qualms about defending myself when necessary. But sometimes I find it better to try to sort things out peacefully first. The heavy artillery can be brought on later to great effect I assure you. And there are also other methods of getting oneself clean than insisting on a shower at 2 a.m.


PS With the exception of a two year spell with an Italian family above us, I've lived in blocks of flats in four different cantons with Swiss above, below, left and right for forty years so I'm not exactly a beginner at the game.
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Old 21.01.2012, 00:40
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

We started out with peaceful. Aperos and all that - and most of our neighbours are fine. It is just the the plebs downstairs we had problems with - and they bucked up once we read them the riot act.

In the OP's case I would go for the firm but fair approach.

Cheers,
Nick

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I have no qualms about defending myself when necessary. But sometimes I find it better to try to sort things out peacefully first. The heavy artillery can be brought on later to great effect I assure you. And there are also other methods of getting oneself clean than insisting on a shower at 2 a.m.


PS With the exception of a two year spell with an Italian family above us, I've lived in blocks of flats in four different cantons with Swiss above, below, left and right for forty years so I'm not exactly a beginner at the game.
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Old 21.01.2012, 01:01
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

I agree with Longbyte that you should find out what the noise is they're complaining of (when, what sort of noise, etc), maybe as you also get ASLOCA involved.

The best reason for this that comes to mind for me is, if you're NOT home much and the neighbors above you are noise AND (especially) if you don't have carpeting or whatever and the previous tenant did, perhaps it isn't you at all that's causing the problem but something echoing from above through your flat to disturb the folks below. This used to happen to the guy above me, who had an empty apartment above him and someone who played noisy computer / console games all night above that empty apartment.

So, find out what it is. The reason I say "as you get ASLOCA involved" also is because they maybe help work things peaceably between you and your neighbors. If it hadn't gotten to your agency already and come to your attention through them, I'd have suggested you ask a French-speaking friend or two around as well as your neighbor, and casually bring up the noise thing, hopefully with the friend helping translate and mediate at the same time.
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Old 21.01.2012, 01:10
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

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Thanks for the replies. We will of course deny everything to the agency and in an honest way because we really cannot be at fault here at any extent worth complaining about regarding noise production.

However, can the agency insist that we are at fault even if they have no proof other than someone elses complaint? Do they have to play the middleman and listen equally to both sides or can they take sides?

It concerns us that they may accuse us (as the letter sounds quite threatening) but with a subject that is so subjective, can this really be proven through a simple complaint?

We are also concerned that this neighbour may complain again in the future as we really have not done anything to provoke this complaint. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself but this situation is already so bizarre. Even right now as I am writing this the neighbours around us are making considerable noise (although what I would actually call normal).
One complaint won't get you in trouble. But you really need to clear this up and insist that you are not the ones making the noise. If I were you I would get in touch with the tenants association first and ask them to tell you what to do/how to move forward.

I do agree with Nick that you need be insist that you've done nothing wrong and for them to stop bothering you. But since you're not sure how to do this you should find some one who does to help.

(Maybe Nick can call them!! Hey Nick, how's your French? )
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Old 21.01.2012, 10:52
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

I think I'll soon have to put this Thread onto 'ignore' to prevent me from getting frustrated on this one.
What is the point of insisting you didn't do something if you don't even know what the 'something' is?

If the OP asks what noise it is, and it really isn't something she ever does, she can then innocently say, 'Yes, we hear that too and wondered where the racket was coming from', which takes the wind out of everyone's sails. In the same manner, if it happens at a time when both husband and wife are out, she can say so. Especially if one is not really fluent in the language it's important to listen carefully to exactly what is said and not jump to too many conclusions.

And of course the regie are not going to write a letter saying, dear new foreign flat occupiers, perhaps you would be so kind as to make sure you walk around quietly....
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Old 21.01.2012, 10:56
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

Another voice to the 'fight back, firmly but politely' chorus.

I made the mistake of trying to be a good neighbor... as defined in my culture. I did the American 'kill 'em with kindness' thing. In many cases that doesn't work well here.

There is a certain kind of complainer who sees kindness, diplomacy, anything short of fighting back with both barrels blazing as a sign of weakness. Responding with kindness you might as well paint a target on your back if you are so unlucky as to find yourself living next to such folks.

Do bear in mind that the standard of what is considered acceptable noise is very different in Switzerland than in other cultures - and make sure that you assess your level of everyday noise with that in mind. But if you are truly not making excessive noise, then you've can probably chalk the complaints up to the neighbors-from-hell syndrome. Such folk sometimes even complain preemptively, more or less to test the waters.

I've run into far more of these kinds here than anywhere else, but it's not necessarily a Swiss trait - rather I believe it's the fact that we have to live comunally, in crowded spaces. In different living conditions one could ignore this behavior, but one cannot here, where we have no privacy and darned little personal space.

The only thing that seems to work with such complainers is to know the law, be able to quote chapter and verse at will. Document everything, always have proof that you were not in violation of the noise laws. When a complaint is made, respond with 'According to article X paragraph Y of the ACB Gesetze, I am allowed to sneeze between the hours of 4-6 pm, Sundays and holidays excluded. And by the way, your complaints are verging on harassment, as covered in article blah blah blah... So leave me alone.'

Then go about your day.

(And consider moving, should something better come your way.)

All the best.
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Old 21.01.2012, 13:09
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

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Hello all,
This is my first post but unfortunately not the positive manner in which I hope it would be.

My wife and I move to Switzerland recently. We are renting an old appartment since the past few months. Today we came home from work to find a letter of complaint from the agency saying that a neighbour has complained that we are making too much noise and that we are to call the agency immediatley.

We are both shocked and insulted as well as quite concerned. We have never had such a complant before in all the places we have lived in and are very considerate people who make very little noise. In fact the neighbours above us make noise that keeps us awake until 1am at times and have even been shouting and laughing in the stairwell late at night.

One thing worth mentioning is that our flat is very old and the sitting room is missing a door. I doubt this complies with noise proofing regulations which I read exist. However, we have always taken this into consideration with sound travelling etc.

We do not know who complained. There are elderly people living below us and neighbours next to us who seem to do their best to avoid us since we moved in. They are there all day long, however we are rarely in the flat both during the week and at weekends. We also go to bed early every night.

We are extremely concerned with what might be said to us by the agency and would like to know what our rights are. We are also concerned that they could threaten to evict us. Can they do that after sending such a letter? I ask this especially as it so hard to find a place to live here that this woud be devastating.

Also the agency speak almost no English and are very hard to communicate with so we are worried we will be unable to defend ourselves.

Any advice on what we can do to protect ourselve with the agency and this neighbour would be most welcome.
Might be something as simple as walking around in the evening with your shoes on. I had a colleague who was accused in writing of being a "barbarian" for doing this.

My apartment has a very thick concrete floor so I could probably walk around with tap shoes
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Old 21.01.2012, 13:48
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

Most people are assuming that you haven't actually made unreasonable noise....but you might find that there is actually something you are doing that is annoying the neighbours.

We have three kids and make a fair lot of noise between 6-8am and between 5-8pm, but after that it's quiet. Whereas our 'uni student' flat above are hardly home in the day time, but get 'active' around 11pm. It's a little annoying for us...

In our previous flat our neighbours were also uni students, two guys each with a lovely girlfriend and a flourishing sex life...They were rather embarrassed when they found out that we could hear their night time activities - but I think they were on balance happier when we told them so they could tone things down a bit (for the sake of our primary-school aged kids)....

Non-response or aggression will not improve things. I'd go with the 'Oh dear, please tell me what we are doing wrong' attitude first, and then if they explain exactly what the complaint is, and it's really not you, then a little blame-shifting wouldn't go astray .
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Old 21.01.2012, 13:50
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

Forgot to add - the agency won't know who's making the noise - your neighbours probably wont' either - given that you've observed your neighbours upstairs making a lot of racket, it would be pretty straightforward to say "my wife and I work generally from X to Y and are in bed by Z. It's the neighbour upstairs who's making the most noise...
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Old 21.01.2012, 19:01
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

I should add that in all my dealings with said neighbours I remain a gentleman and the model of politeness and manners at all times. I really do not want to stoop down to their level. I never raise my voice to such people and never behave in an aggressive manner.

My arguments have been presented clearly, concisely and with demonstration of knowledge of the law.

Cheers,
Nick
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Old 21.01.2012, 20:12
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

Not much to add from what's already been said. I've been in your shoes when I first arrived and it was very disheartening indeed. In fact I almost turned around and went back home immediately!!! So I can empathise with you, truly.

It seems to be a popular gimmick to try and pick on the new foreigners in the building, especially when they don't know the language and are unfamiliar with their protections under the law. "Don't let the bastards get you down."

When I first moved here they bullied and mobbed me relentlessly. It even spread beyond the apartment building to encompass the entire street I lived on. It was like being the unpopular kid on the block back in elementary school. I learned a lot from that experience though: the importance of saying hello to strangers on the street, making eye contact with everyone regardless of how uncomfortable it made me, talking to neighbors, at least knowing and showing some respect for House Rules, etc. I also learned how to utilize the police if I need them, how to find out the name and addresses of anyone who would harass me, and memorized a few choice phrases to tell off those who needed it.

When I moved to my next building, all went smoothly, and I earned enough respect of enough neighbors to have peace. There was one minor scuffle that involved the elevator, but when I showed the guy I knew enough about my rights, and in German to boot, he backed off. I was worried I might get a letter from the agency but it never materialized.

So... lots of good advice on this thread for you already. I hope you can work it out with your neighbors. And if you do end up moving (which maybe not now, but maybe later one day you will) you can take the lessons you've learned and apply them at your future home.

Good luck!
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Old 21.01.2012, 20:48
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Re: Noise Complaint from Agency

My guess: the elderly couple beneath your flat hears your steps.
Make a list of all noises that you can hear, even if it does not disturb you and write something to the regie in the lines "I am so happy you bring up this topic, I am disturbed by noises too and I didn't now what to do. I don't know exactly where they come from, but it sounds like blablabla... (describe whatever you can hear)".

Then, you just let them play Miss Marple.

But that can only work if you do keep music/telly insanely quiet and train the ballerina walk (many people bang the heal on the floor by walking without noticing it and the water pipes/Ventilation can be an issue).
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