Noisy Neighbours: When Someone’s Having Too Much Fun

Understanding the Law

There’s no “acquired right” to disturb others, according to Québec Superior Court Judge Azimuddin Hussain, who was tasked with ruling on the dispute between the La Tulipe concert hall and the owner of an adjacent building.

The problem stemmed from an error by the City of Montréal. The city had issued a permit to transform a commercial building to residential use even though such changes are prohibited by regulations of the Plateau Mont-Royal borough for buildings adjacent to concert halls or bars.

Before we look at the outcome of this case, what are the rules concerning noise disturbances in Quebec?

No set hours

The Civil Code of Québec does not specify hours during which all noise is prohibited. Instead, it says that we must all tolerate the “normal annoyances” that come with living with neighbours.

However, municipalities may adopt their own regulations specifying hours during which certain activities – such as construction or renovations – are permitted.

For example, in Sherbrooke, playing the radio or an instrument, or carrying out work such as mowing the lawn or sawing wood, between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. can constitute an offence if it disturbs the sleep of one or more people. Some municipal regulations also limit the decibel level and location of heat pumps.

Anyone who violates municipal regulations, or refuses to comply when asked to do so, can face a fine.

When noise becomes “unreasonable”

If you are thinking of taking your neighbour to court, here are some of the factors that a judge can consider in deciding whether a noise is unreasonable:

  • how often it repeats
  • how long it lasts
  • whether it’s predictable
  • whether it has serious consequences.

So, what happened in the La Tulipe case? The court ruled that the noise was unreasonable and ordered La Tulipe to pay $1500 in compensation to its neighbour. It also ordered La Tulipe to install additional sound insulation to reduce the disturbance it was creating.

Noise from a vehicle

According to the Highway Safety Code, you can only use your horn or remote locking device when necessary. Excessive or unnecessary honking could lead to a fine of $281.

You could also be fined if you ride a motorcycle or scooter, or drive a sports car or modified car, and the exhaust pipe does not comply with the original requirements of the vehicle. A police operation in Québec City in 2021 – triggered by numerous complaints from residents – resulted in offenders receiving fines of $100 to $1000.

Squealing your tires for no reason could also result in a fine.

How about public transit?

Some municipalities require the use of earphones to listen to music, and failure to respect this could lead to a fine. For example, if you listen to music without earphones in Montréal’s public transit, you could be fined $75 to $500.