Fairfax Adopts New Nuisance Noise Law for Residential Areas


December 4, 2013

News Highlights

  • The new law only applies to noise within residential buildings and areas—not sounds coming from commercial, industrial and government properties. Dog parks are not covered, for example.
  • Law affects noises that can be heard inside a home when the doors and windows are closed, as well as bans specific noise-making activities during certain times of day like using leaf blowers.
  • Due to a court ruling against Virginia Beach, this new law is a temporary solution while the county conducts a comprehensive overhaul of its existing noise ordinance.

Fairfax County put in place a new law yesterday to limit nuisance noises in residential areas, like loud parties or music.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted the ordinance, which took effect immediately, at their Dec. 3 meeting.

While most neighborhood noise complaints are resolved voluntarily, the board’s action gives the police the legal teeth needed to bring criminal charges if necessary.

The law only applies to noise within residential buildings and areas—not sounds coming from commercial, industrial and government properties. This includes houses, townhouses, condos, apartments, hotels and motels.

However, the law doesn’t affect noises from dog parks, shopping malls, warehouses or bus or rail stations, for example. The county’s existing noise ordinance contains rules for non-residential properties, though.

To make a complaint about noise in a residential area, residents should call the Fairfax County Police non-emergency number at 703-691-2131, TTY 711.

The law bars noises that can be heard inside a home when the doors and windows are closed, and the police must be able to determine the source for the noise. This includes everything from loud music to yelling to barking dogs inside or outside a home.

Specific activities that create noise are prohibited during certain times of day, including:

  • Using a loudspeaker or amplifier outside between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Operating power lawn equipment, like a lawnmower or leaf blower, between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Fixing cars or mechanical devices outside between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Collecting trash or recycling within 100 yards of a residence between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Loading or unloading trucks outside within 100 yards of a residence between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The law also exempts some common noises, including:

  • Police, fire, ambulance or emergency vehicle sirens
  • Sounds created when responding to emergencies, including emergency utility repairs
  • Cars and trucks traveling on roads
  • Heat pumps and/or air conditioners on residential properties
  • Backup generators running during power outages
  • Public transportation facilities
  • Burglar, fire or other alarms tests between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Band performances or practices, athletic matches or practices and other such activities on school or recreational grounds between 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Bells, carillons, and other calls to worship for up to 5 minutes per hour between 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Police can charge those who violate the law with a misdemeanor with fines up to $500 for the first offense. Second time offenders can be fined up to $1,000 and serve up to a six month jail sentence or both.

The county adopted the new law as a temporary solution to a state Supreme Court ruling against Virginia Beach. The court found that the city’s noise ordinance, which was similar to Fairfax County’s, was unconstitutional.

Fairfax County is currently working on a comprehensive overhaul to its existing noise ordinance.

For members of the media who have questions, contact the Fairfax County Police Public Information Office at 703-246-2253, TTY 711.

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