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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Silencing the Noise Makers

Moscow residents, like all city dwellers, know too well how painful -- and detrimental to their health -- the denial of a good night's sleep can be. After suffering an overcrowded metro, congested roads and stressful working days, no one wants to be thrown out of bed by a din in the night.

Thankfully, in December 2006, a bill to toughen existing laws on nocturnal noisemaking sailed through the Moscow City Duma in its first reading.

The bill is expected to be passed into law early this year.

The source of torment, the bill says, may be your neighbor drilling late at night, his dog barking at the wrong hours or teenagers partying to music at the highest decibel. And it can be those ubiquitous car alarms going off at nighttime with little or no provocation.

The endless beeping and blaring of car alarms, which tops the list of night nuisances, is what spurred the city legislature into action. As car ownership continues its rapid growth, so does the number of car alarms -- and coupled with the unrelenting clanking sounds associated with Moscow's ongoing construction boom, it looks like there's no end in sight for the city-dweller's nightmare.

Figures from the City Prosecutor's Office say more than 3,000 complaints were received about nighttime noise disturbances over the past four years.

Oleg Bocharov, the Moscow Duma deputy speaker who initiated the amendment to the noise ordinance, said citizens had the right to a quiet night's sleep.

Night is defined in the existing code as the time between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The sponsors of the bill had wanted nighttime to begin earlier, from 8.p.m., but, as Marina Khaimova, press secretary to the Moscow City Duma, said, "regulating the nighttime period is in the jurisdiction of the federal government and cannot be modified by local authorities."

Bocharov said the reason for amending the old noise code was that Muscovites are now wealthier -- and this, he noted, has encouraged disrespect for the old law, which stipulated only a flat fine of 50 rubles (about $2).

The new bill stipulates fines ranging from 100 to 50,000 rubles. For an individual offender, the fine may be from 100 to 1,000 rubles. An official who breaches nocturnal tranquility is liable to pay from 1,000 to 2,500 rubles. For legal entities such as construction firms, the fines can range from 1,000 to 50,000 rubles.

There is one caveat, however. Construction companies -- a source of great irritation for Muscovites -- are protected by federal laws, specifically Town Planning Rule No. 58.

Igor Tabakov / MT
Construction workers' right to make noise at night is protected by federal laws.
This means they can ruin your night with impunity; you cannot legally bring them to justice relying on local legislation.

"We have to live with noise from construction workers, said Khaimova.

"We have no way of asking them to halt their work because they're regulated by federal laws."

Besides investing in earplugs, there are a few things you can do if insensitive neighbors are denying you peace and quiet.

First, dial the city's police hotline -- 02 on your landline or 020 on your mobile phone -- stating your name, address and phone numbers. You cannot remain anonymous.

Then give the location of the noise source as accurately as you can, as well as a description of the type of noise and how long it has been going on.

The duty officer should contact you and write a report or a protocol with or without the offender being present.

It is then up to the officer to locate the offender. In the case of first-time offenders, the officer is likely to issue a warning. While a first offender usually gets away with verbal warning, the officer can increase fines for a repeat offender as long as it's within the limits allowed by law.

Duty officers generally prefer it if those disturbed by noise try to warn or persuade the offender to be quiet, and call the hotline only if persuasion fails.

Both Muscovites and foreigners are liable for the same fine when in violation and both can seek redress through the law.

On the minus side, the updated ordinance describes neither the criteria for noise disturbance nor what level of disturbance should warrant calling the police hotline.