How to file a noise complaint in Seattle

With a population of just over 700 thousand people, Seattle doesn’t seem like the kind of place where you would need to file a noise complaint. It is a relatively small city, especially when compared to cities like NY or LA. Seattle is considered by many as progressive and laid-back, surrounded by an incredible landscape made up of waterways and forests.

Seattle isn’t the noisiest city in the US by far. Yet sometimes, the quieter a place is the more noise can annoy us. If you live in the center of an overpopulated and busy city you grow used to the noisy environment, however, if you live in a calmer environment, surrounded by nature, where birds wake you up every morning, you will be much more aware of that ambulance passing by or some construction going on for too long.

That being said, Seattle is also well known for its thriving arts and music scene. Names like Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) were originally from Seattle. And guess what? Before they were famous, they had to practice, a lot! and most likely out of their garages. They also had to play at a lot of bars before making it to the big venues.

All this to say that just because Seattle is smaller than other cities it does not mean it’s noise-free, and you might very well find yourself in situations where this noise becomes a problem and prevents you from sleeping properly, studying, or enjoying your free time at home with your family.

Seattle noise ordinance

If that’s your case, and you ended up on this page because you live in Seattle and there’s some noise that’s disturbing you, you’ll be happy to hear that the city has a very detailed and well-drafted noise ordinance.

Seattle’s noise ordinance determines 10pm to 7am to be quiet time, meaning all noises should be kept down to a minimum. The only exception is Saturday, when louder activities can extend for an extra hour, until 11pm.

The ordinance also defined unlawful noise in two different ways:

  • The noise is knowingly caused and continues even after being ordered to stop by a police officer.
  • Noise is loud, frequent, or continuous and caused by animals, horns or sirens (not emergency equipment) motor vehicles being repaired or tested, musical instruments or sound amplifiers, and human voices.

As for which volume represents a reason to take legal action, the ordinance defines 3 possible scenarios:

  • Noise that can be heard at a distance of 75 feet from the property will be considered unlawful. This would apply, for example, in the case of a band practicing in a garage in a suburban area.
  • A reading of 80dB or louder outside a dwelling unit.
  • A reading of 65dB or louder inside an occupied dwelling unit.

The ordinance is also quite clear about what will happen once you file a noise complaint (to which we will get in just a moment).

  1. An officer will show up at your address in order to assess the situation, take the noise reading and issue a warning to whoever is generating the noise if necessary.
  2. If the issue persists, officers will issue a civil infraction with a fine of $250. If the situation is totally out of character, or if the infractor is unwilling to collaborate, the officer can choose to skip step 1 and issue the civil infraction directly.
  3. If the issue still persists criminal charges may be filed, and the maximum penalty can include up to 180 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine.

How to file a noise complaint in Seattle

Moving on to actually filing a noise complaint. The process might be different depending on the type of noise you want to complain about, so make sure to keep reading and take the required actions for each particular case.

How to file a complaint about construction noise

Construction noise is a very common problem. If this is the type of noise that’s bothering you, you should contact the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). You may do this in two different ways:

  • By phone. Call the violation complaint line at (206) 615-0808.
  • Online. Use the Seattle Services Portal to submit a building and property complaint.

Keep in mind that some construction sites have exceptions that allow them to make noise after regular hours and on weekends. This is the case of emergency infrastructure repairs for example.

How to file a complaint about animal noise

Animal noise is another very common source of noise discomfort, particularly dogs barking non-stop.

In this case you should contact the Seattle Animal Shelter, and once again, you have two ways to do so:

How to file a complaint about bars and nightlife noise

This is probably one of the most common causes for noise complaints in downtown Seattle, yet, in which I believe was an effort to make the complaint process easier, the ordinance involved several branches of law enforcement and failed to set clear actionable steps.

If you are suffering from loud music coming from a bar/restaurant or people gathering outside these venues to smoke and chat, you can contact either one of the following three:

How to file a complaint about airplane noise

It might be surprising to some that airplane noise can be an issue in a small-ish city like Seattle. But we must remember that it’s not only the Tacoma airport that’s near the city, Boeing is also originally from Seattle and has their own airport just outside the city. All Boeing airplanes are manufactured there, and they need to take off and land several times before they take off one last time to be delivered to the airlines.

So, depending on where in Seattle you are located and where you think the airplanes you hear are taking off and landing from, you should contact one of the following:

  • Sea-Tac International Airport, (206) 433-5393
  • King County International Airport (Boeing Field), (206) 205-5242
  • Low-flying aircraft, (425) 227-1813

How to file a noise complaint about a short-term rental

If the noise bothering you comes from a short-term rental listed on Airbnb, that’s a reason to be optimistic.

Airbnb has its own support line for neighbors like you, and they might be able to help put an end to the situation quicker than law enforcement (although we recommend you file complaints with both).

How to file a complaint about other types of noise

It is possible that your noise complaint does not fall under any of the above categories. After all, things like fireworks, domestic noise, a house party, or people working on their cars in their front yards, etc. are not covered. 

If you need to file a complaint regarding any other type of noise you should call the Police non-emergency line at (206) 625-5011.


Noise can be a problem in all cities, big or small, but we think it’s fair to say that Seattle’s noise ordinance does a good job at protecting its citizens from the negative effects of noise pollution.

If you live in Seattle and are struggling with noise, follow the steps mentioned above. The solution might not be immediate, and bureaucracy is never pleasant to deal with, but you have a good chance of the authorities listening to you and hopefully helping you find a solution to your problem. 

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This article was a collaborative effort by the Fight for Silence team, a group of like-minded noise fighters with experience in fields such as physics, construction, medicine, law, and more. You can read more about us and our mission here.

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