New Taipei Man Fined for Playing the Piano at Home

taipei piano noise
A New Taipei man was fined for playing the piano in his own home. Photo by Arto Alanenpää

There is constant noise in the city — traffic, construction, and noisy neighbors. But what is a reasonable level of noise for residents at home? And at what time is it reasonable for neighbors to complain?

One man in New Taipei’s Yonghe District discovered that his neighbors did not appreciate the sound of music in the early evening. The man, surnamed Chen, played the piano at his home on the 21st floor every Wednesday at 8:20 pm for 45 minutes. He would also play for 15 to 20 minutes a few more times each week.

Three of the man’s downstairs neighbors complained in January last year, and the police fined Chen NT$2000 (US$64.60) according to the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法), Apple Daily reported.

Chen refused to pay the fine as he thought it unjust. The New Taipei District Court, however, upheld the fine. The court found that Chen’s piano playing disturbed the neighbors’ peace and quiet at home.

Chen claimed that his piano playing did not disturb the neighbors’ work or ability to relax at home. He added that the neighbors never discussed options so he could continue to play, and he offered to alter his schedule to avoid disturbing them. The neighbors remained adamant and demanded that Chen find a music classroom outside the building in which to practice rather than allow him a consistent time at home.

Chen contacted the community management to resolve the situation. The management director found only one neighbor who even claimed to have heard the piano playing. The police also said that they did not hear any piano playing when they arrived to confront Chen.

The court did not accept the evidence that Chen provided. The judge noted that the Social Order Maintenance Act is not the same as a noise violation. Because Chen’s two to three weekly sessions were not consistent, they fell under the act’s provisions for disturbing the lives of others in the building. If he had a set schedule, such as his 45-minute session on Wednesdays, he would have an argument based on noise violations. The judge added that the intermittent sound of practicing the piano should be regarded as a sound that would hinder the peace of others.

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