How do I file a noise complaint in unincorporated King County?
You can find more information on noise guidelines and what is acceptable below.
How do I file a noise complaint in other cities and towns in King County?
If you have a noise complaint in another city or town in King County, visit their city/town website. You can search for their Code Enforcement or Code Compliance office.
Noise guidelines for unincorporated King County
The King County Ordinance, Title 12, Public Peace, Safety and Morals provides guidelines for allowable noise, violations, and exemptions.
Complaints and violations: (Ordinance Sections 4, 72, 87, 95, 96, 98):
- King County Permitting Division and the King County Sheriff are authorized to respond to and enforce against violations of the noise ordinance. Violations can be disturbance noises, public nuisance noises, construction-related noise outside of permitted hours of work, and sounds exceeding maximum permissible sound levels (decibels) specified in the ordinance. The Sheriff's role is typically focused on neighborhood noise disturbances (including noise from watercraft), while the Permitting Division's role is focused on oversight of permitted activities that create noise, such as construction work.
Variance requests for people planning projects or activities (Ordinance Sections 82, 83, 102, 103):
- If you will be doing construction and the anticipated noise is related to a project or activity that requires a permit from the Permitting Division (for example, clearing and grading activities, mineral extraction, materials processing) then contact them to discuss a variance.
- Also contact the Permitting Division if anticipated noise is related to a project or activity that does not require a permit. In such cases, the Permitting Division is authorized to issue a temporary variance for up to 14 days if it determines "that the requested variance does not significantly affect a substantial number of people or endanger public health or safety."
Neighborhood noise guidelines
Noise in general, with some exceptions, must abide by these decibel limits. Exceptions include pure tones, impulsive sounds, vehicles, watercraft, and construction. These can have different requirements. See Variances and Exemptions below for more information.
|Receiving property district|
|Sound source district||Rural||Residential||Commercial||Industrial|
|Rural||49 dB(A)||52 dB(A)||55 dB(A)||57 dB(A)|
|Residential||52 dB(A)||55 dB(A)||57 dB(A)||60 dB(A)|
|Commercial||55 dB(A)||57 dB(A)||60 dB(A)||65 dB(A)|
|Industrial||57 dB(A)||60 dB(A)||65 dB(A)||70 dB(A)|
Night-time limits are quieter. Between 10 pm and 7 am weekdays, and between 10 pm and 9 am weekends, these decibel limits are 10 decibels less.
Also, noise must not be a public nuisance noise that disturbs a community or neighborhood.
Noise must also not be a public disturbance noise that unreasonably disturbs or interferes with the peace or comfort of another. Time of day can be a factor in determining reasonableness. Examples include:
Frequent, repetitive, or continuous sounds from sources such as:
- a horn or siren on a car
- repair of, operating, or testing a vehicle or watercraft
- a loud and rowdy band session or party on land or water
- amplified rhythmic bass music that is plainly audible or can be felt at 50 feet or more over land or 300 feet or more over water
- Using an amplifier for commercial advertising unless it is the vendor's only method of selling.
- Loud and rowdy sound within 1,000 feet of a school, hospital or nursing home.
- Outdoor sound that interferes with normal conversation 50 feet away.
King County defers to state law for vehicle decibel limits on public highways (Table I of WAC 173-62-030). Vehicles operated off public highways that make noise in rural or residential districts must follow the decibel table shown above. Mufflers and other sound-dissipating devices are not allowed to be removed or made inoperative except for repair. Non-emergency squealing or screeching of tires is unlawful.
Within 50 feet of shoreline or property, the decibel limit for watercraft is 74 decibels. For rural or residential districts, the limit from 10 pm to 7 am is 64 decibels.
Construction noise guidelines
Construction noise is regulated by time of day instead of decibel level. Normal and usual sounds created by construction are allowed during the following times:
- Heavy equipment: 7 am to 7 pm weekdays, 9 am to 7 pm weekends
- Impact equipment (pile drivers, etc.) – 8 am to 5 pm weekdays, 9 am to 5 pm weekends
- All other construction activities – 7 am to 10 pm weekdays, 9 am to 8 pm weekends
Animal noise guidelines
Animal noise is governed by Title 11. Any animal that makes "oral noises to an unreasonable degree, in such a manner as to disturb a person or neighborhood" is in violation of the animal code (K.C.C. 11.04.230).
A variance from the noise standards can be granted by the Director of the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER) as part of a DPER permitted activity. Please see K.C.C. 16.82.105.B. for the review process for such a request.
For any other activity, temporary variances can be granted by DPER for up to 14 days. The request can’t affect a large number of people, or endanger public health or safety. This will be determined by the director. A request must be submitted to the Director of DPER within these timeframes:
- At least 45 days in advance of the activity for simple reviews ($200 fee).
- 90 days in advance for more complex reviews ($395 to $790).
DPER can determine which category your request would fall under.
Some noises are exempt from the noise code all the time, and some are exempt for certain times of day. Some are pre-empted by other regulations (e.g., aircraft flight operations); others are related to safety (fire alarms, etc.). The Director of the King County Permitting Division can exempt noise from emergency work necessary for the health, safety or welfare of the community.
Please refer to Ordinance 18000 for the entire list of exemptions.
Citations and appeals
If you are cited for a noise infraction, the fines go up for each violation within a 12 month period. Mediation is encouraged. If you make a good faith attempt to mediate with the complaining party for your first violation within a 12-month period, the court has the option to dismiss your case. Citations for noise infractions and variance decisions are appealable.