Noise Ordinance Enforcement
HVAC & A/C Noise: (Residential)
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If any questions please call Andrea Boyer, Chief Licensing Investigator at 617-349-6149
While Cambridge is one of the most densely populated cities in the U.S., it attempts through its comprehensive noise ordinance to minimize the impact of noise on the quality of life in its neighborhoods and business districts. The City's Emergency Communications and 911 Center (ECC), the Police Department, the License Commission, the Animal Commission, the Inspectional Services Department, and even the Arts Council are involved in one way or another in helping to solve many different types of noise-related problems.
The list below itemizes various types of noises and provides suggestions, in the general context of the rules set out in the City Noise Ordinance, on how a resident may take action to solve his or her noise problem.
Call the ECC at the police non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and the ECC will dispatch the appropriate neighborhood police unit to respond and stop excessive noise. Sometimes the neighborhood unit is busy on another call or going on or off-duty at their shift change, so please be patient in awaiting a response.
This might involve any type of noise disturbance including excessive noise from a neighbor’s house or apartment, kids on a street corner, loud car stereos, etc. Call the ECC at the police non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and the ECC will dispatch the appropriate neighborhood police unit. Sometimes the neighborhood unit is busy on another call or going on or off-duty at their shift change, so please be patient in awaiting a response.
Please notify the ECC immediately by calling 911 because a business or residence may be having a fire or break-in. The ECC will immediately dispatch a police or fire unit to this alarm report. If the alarm continues sounding after fire or police arrival, both the responding units and the ECC dispatcher will attempt to locate the owner or owner’s representative. The owner can be cited for an outdoor alarm sounding for over 10 minutes.
Please notify the ECC using 911 as the car may be vandalized, stolen, or being broken into. The ECC will dispatch a police unit to this alarm report. If the alarm continues after police arrival, both the responding officers and the ECC staff will attempt to locate the owner. The police will generally tow the vehicle if the alarm continues to sound after all attempts have been made to locate the owner. The owner can be cited for an alarm sounding over 10 minutes.
If you are having problems with excessive noise from a festival, call the ECC at the police non-emergency number, 617-349-3300. The ECC is notified in advance by the License Commission of permits for these festivals, especially over the weekends. A neighborhood police unit will be dispatched and investigate. If available, a License investigator will also be notified to respond and he or she can insure that the terms of the permit are being observed. Please note that permits for festivals can sometimes authorize outdoor music until 11 p.m. or so.
Call the Police at their non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and the ECC will schedule the dispatch of the appropriate neighborhood police unit. Construction noise that is audible a distance of 50 feet from the lot line is not allowed from 6 p.m. until 7a.m. weekdays (9 a.m. on Saturdays and Holidays). Construction work on Sunday is not permitted unless approval is obtained from the Police Department. If the responding police unit determines that construction-related noise is occurring outside permitted hours, the police unit will take necessary action to ensure work is stopped during the restricted hours. Additionally, the ECC dispatcher will send an e-mail to the Inspectional Services Department with the details of the incident, so they may investigate further and take additional action as may be appropriate.
Noise from emergency repairs by utility company and other workers is permitted.
Call the Police at their non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and the ECC will schedule the dispatch of the appropriate neighborhood police unit to respond and stop excessive noise. You may also file a complaint with the Cambridge License Commission for loud noise coming from any bar or restaurant that serves alcohol. Call 617-349-6140 for a complaint form or obtain one on-line at License Commission web site.
There are various restrictions on the volume of noise from the loading and unloading of trucks from 9 p.m. - 7 a.m. (9 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays) although there are exceptions for certain types of stores and facilities such as schools as well as along certain streets in commercial areas that are not designated as noise-sensitive zones. Call the ECC at the police non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and a police unit will respond and stop excessive noise unless the activity is permitted.
Call the Animal Commission at 617-349-4376 during their regular business hours (Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.; Sat. & Sun.& Holidays, 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.) to report a habitual problem with a barking dog. If an Animal Control Officer is not available, call the ECC, at the police non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and the ECC will dispatch the appropriate neighborhood police unit. Sometimes the neighborhood unit is busy with another call or going off-duty at their shift change, so please be patient in awaiting a response.
If you are experiencing a problem with excessive noise from a rooftop HVAC unit or other outdoor commercial equipment you may call the License Commission at 617-349-6140 during their regular business hours (8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekdays). If required, this type of noise may be measured by City staff using a handheld noise meter.
The Cambridge Arts Council issues permits to street performers to play music in public areas at designated time in accordance with the city’s Sidewalk Use Ordinance. During peak performance periods, Street Performer Monitors are hired to provide advocacy for performers and direct oversight of street performer activities. During regular business hours, contact the Arts Council at 617-349-4380 to report noise complaints. For after-hours noise concerns, contact the ECC at the police non-emergency number, 617-349-3300, and a police unit will be dispatched to investigate.
Bells or clock towers with bells or chimes are exempt from the City's Noise Ordinance.
Noise from the intermittent or occasional use of light homeowner equipment (e.g., lawnmowers, outdoor tools, etc.) or commercial service equipment (e.g., lawn service) is generally allowed from 7 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Leafblowers and their operation are regulated in Cambridge. Unless a commercial leafblower operator has received a special exception from the City to use leafblowers in normally restricted periods and times, the following rules apply. Their use is permitted from Monday through Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. from March 15 through June 15 and then again from September 15 through December 31 except not on legal holidays in the permitted periods with two exceptions. The exceptions are that leafblower operation is allowed from 12-5 p.m. on Columbus Day and from 1-5 p.m. on Veterans Day. Note that leafblower operation is not allowed on Sundays. Report leafblower noise violations during City office hours to the License Commission at 617-349-6140 and after hours to the Cambridge Police Department's business number at 617-349-3300.
Snow Blowers and Snow Plows
Snow Plow usage may take place at anytime on commercial or residential property regardless of whether a snow emergency has been declared. Snow Blower usage may take place at anytime on commercial property regardless of whether a snow emergency has been declared.
Snow Blower usage on residential property is considered a “Domestic Power Tool” and may not be used before 7 a.m. or after 10 p.m., unless a snow emergency has been declared which would allow usage at any time.
Emergency vehicle sirens and horns are exempt from the City's Noise Ordinance.
Call the Federal Aviation Administration’s Flight Standards District Office for the Boston area at 781-357-4900 to report aircraft noise or low flying aircraft.
These guidelines do not cover all aspects of the City's Noise Ordinance nor describe all conditions under which noise is either permitted or not permitted. For more information, please refer to the Noise Ordinance section of the Cambridge Municipal Code (City Ordinances) at http://bpc.iserver.net/codes/cbridge/index.htm .