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Noise abatement laws address the problem of noise pollution by prescribing both criminal and civil penalties for individuals and businesses that produce excessive, disturbing noise. The nature and scope of these laws varies according to jurisdiction, with some areas having extremely comprehensive noise abatement laws as well as significant penalties for those who violate them. Noise ordinances can be very complex in nature, as they must often address a multitude of sources. For example, an area may pass a noise abatement act that governs industrial noise, noise created by humans, as well as noise created by airplanes and other forms of transportation. Sound pollution issues also factor into animal control ordinances as well as the landlord-tenant relationship.
Some of these laws are targeted at businesses and can take on the character of environmental protection regulations by treating excessive noise as a form of pollution. For example, entertainment venues may be restricted to operating in certain areas zoned for businesses. They may also be required to install soundproofing or stop the playing of music at a certain hour. Factory owners may likewise be required to monitor the amount of noise made by their equipment. Construction workers, who must often work in residential areas, may be permitted by law to operate noisy tools, such as jackhammers, but will be restricted in the hours and days during which they can use them.
Home owners and renters are typically required to show common courtesy to their neighbors by controlling the noise on their property. This includes monitoring noise made by household appliances, such as air-conditioning units and entertainment systems. A home owner may also be held responsible for controlling the amount of noise his or her household pets make. Some areas even have laws that penalize car owners who do not monitor their car's auto alarm system and who do not immediately disable it if it goes off while parked in a residential area.
In some cases, noise abatement laws can take on special significance for landlords and tenants. Landlords may be held responsible for their tenants' refusal to obey noise abatement laws and may be able to evict tenants on the grounds that the tenants repeatedly violated them. Tenants may also be able to terminate their tenancy or sue their landlord for damages if the landlord refuses to take action against other tenants who violate noise laws.
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