May 13, 2017


With increased urban density in central Austin, it is useful to know what your rights are pertaining to noise and what you can do about it.

Of course, the best strategy for dealing with noise issues is to get to know all your neighbors and to politely inform them if noise is a problem. Using kindness and compassion in every interaction can go a long way in solving almost every problem including noise issues. Keep in mind, our neighborhood has a mix of students, professionals, and retirees in both rental properties and owner occupied residences and condominiums. Everyone has different tolerances for noise and different requirements for rest, relaxation and sleep. Trying to be sensitive to everyone’s needs is key.

Principal elements of the city noise ordinance are as follows.

(A) A person may not: (1) use or permit the use of sound equipment at a business in excess of the decibel limits prescribed by this chapter; (2) make noise or play a musical instrument audible to an adjacent business or residence between 10:30 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

(A) This section applies to property zoned as residential under Section 25-2-32(B) ( Zoning Districts and Map Codes ). (B) A person may not use sound equipment that produces sound audible beyond the property line of a residence in a residential area between 10:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. (C) A person may not use sound equipment audible beyond the property line of a residence in a residential area that produces sound in excess of 75 decibels. Source: 1992 Code Section 10-5-5; Ord. 031023-13; Ord. 031211-11.

75 decibels noise references…

Conversational speech (60 dB); Shower (70 dB); Vacuum cleaner (70-75 dB); Living room music (75 dB); Alarm clock (80 dB); Passing diesel truck (85 dB).

Inexpensive smart phone VU meter apps measuring sound
decibels are an easy way to learn about sound levels.

As a last resort you can call 311 and a city services dispatcher can send a police officer to respond to a noise complaint. The dispatcher might ask if you want to talk to the police or meet the police or have the police report back to you. All you have to say is “no, all I want is for the City of Austin to enforce the noise ordinance”. The police rarely issue citations for noise ordinance complaints. Generally their arrival simply quiets things down.

To learn more about the City of Austin noise ordinance go to the municipal code.