Shanghai should crack down on noisy home renovations
One early Saturday morning in November, as I was nestled in bed, sleeping in late on a rare day off, I was rudely awakened by a head-splitting noise: a neighbor was having their walls jack-hammered and drilled. I groaned and looked at my clock: it was only 7 am.
After covering by head with a pillow and trying to fall back asleep – but failing – I dashed upstairs to the culprit’s home on the 11th floor (I live on the 8th). Two paint-covered workers scowled at me.
Their response to my complaint was astonishing: “We will continue renovating this apartment. Who cares if you can sleep or not! You wanna call the police? Do it!”
Enraged by their inconsideration and arrogance, I immediately dialed police emergency hot line 110. About an hour later, the annoying noise died away; apparently the police had showed up and stopped them.
While pre-dawn construction ranks at the top of most lists of complaints by Shanghai expats, we Chinese tend to be impervious to such rackets. But I firmly believe that anyone who makes loud noises in the early weekend hours – regardless if it’s renovating your apartment or blasting your television set or quarreling with your spouse – no longer has a place in Shanghai’s modern, civilized society.
In fact, back in 2013 Shanghai issued some long-awaited noise control regulations prohibiting any home renovations from between 6 pm and 8 am on weekdays. As for weekends, the regulation stipulated that home renovations can only take place if they do not negatively affect your neighbors. Meaning that all it takes is one complaint to shut down an apartment renovation.
Violators will be fined from 200 yuan ($28.8) to 500 yuan, eastday. com reported in 2013. Nonetheless, after I shared my experience on WeChat, many friends with similar experiences and complaints commented that they didn’t think the police helped with non-emergencies.
“The guys downstairs are drilling every day, making me feel that the big noise will sooner or later break my walls,” a friend wrote. “I had no idea I could call 110. But next time I will have a try.”
As a matter of fact, I would not recommend 110 when dealing with noisy neighbors. Theoretically, our city’s precious police resources are better to be saved for more urgent and serious situations.
As an alternative, hot line 12369 was set up to deal with noise complaints in Shanghai. Established by China’s environmental authorities, the hot line will dispatch officers who specialize in noise.
Property management offices of local residential communities also have an obligation to enforce Shanghai’s noise regulations and control the hours constructions take place. Any resident who wishes to renovate their apartment must negotiate a schedule with management and neighbors. Failing to do so makes their renovations unlawful.
Some communities are better at enforcing this rule than others. My friend’s residential community in Putuo district has a very clear rule that says all apartments preparing for a renovation must warn neighbors in advance and provide their phone numbers to the office in case of complaints.
The indifferent property management office of my community, on the contrary, couldn’t care less and do not wish to be bothered with complaints. Having lived there for only five months, I still have no idea how to contact the office let alone file a complaint about my noisy neighbors.
A 2014 survey showed that home renovation noise has become “the most annoying form of noise” for Shanghai residents. Among those surveyed, 35 percent said they hate renovation noise the most, which was 26 percentage points higher than square-dancing music, Shanghai Morning Post reported.
The problem, however, is that most residents won’t go through the trouble of contacting either 110 or 12369 when a neighbor renovates their apartment during prohibited hours. This apathy has lead to more construction crews breaking the law. So the next time you are rudely awakened, don’t be afraid to call the noise hot line.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.