Washington, DC asked in Real Estate Law and Landlord - Tenant for District of Columbia

Q: Is it possible to sue a neighbor anonymously?

I am a homeowner in an "unsavory" area of Washington DC. A few houses down from where I live, there is an apartment building where the residents (and their visitors) keep noise outside of the building at all hours of the night. It is disturbing my sleep and the police do nothing when called. I have been keeping screenshots of how many times i have dialed 911 to complain and I will try to get video of the ruckus (if I can do so without being detected). There may or may not be drug activity going on but I'm not sure. Can I sue the owner of the building without identifying myself? I am a single woman who lives alone so I don't want to leave myself open to retaliation. If this is possible, can I ask for monetary damages for every time my sleep is disturbed? If not then what kind of damages can I ask for? Thank you in advance.

2 Lawyer Answers
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg
  • Potomac, MD
  • Licensed in District of Columbia

A: As a theoretical matter, no. As a practical matter, again, no. But, if you are rich enough and committed enough, maybe. You might act through others in forming a neighborhood association in which you'd really be the anonymous donor, but would appear to be a mere member. The association would sue. It is unlikely that you could get damages for lost sleep through the association or directly, but, again, if you were really creative, you might try to meet numerosity requirements for a class action, and, as a member of the class, you could get damages. It would all be significantly more expensive than moving.

You probably can't sue the owner unless he is making the noise or at least conspiring in the creation of the noise. Your claim is against someone making the noise.

Have you tried calling DCRA. Their contact info is:

1100 4th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024

Phone: (202) 442-4400

Fax: (202) 442-9445

TTY: (202) 123-4567

Email: dcra@dc.gov

I believe they mostly handle trash truck and construction noise, but you can call the MPD non-emergency number -- not 911 -- to file a noise complaint. The anonymous tip line is (202) 727-9099. Expect them to blow you off if you use 911 for non-emergencies. They have had trouble in the past keeping that line clear for serious, life-threatening emergencies.

A: You'd have to be named in your lawsuit. More details are necessary to provide a professional analysis of your issue. The best first step is an Initial Consultation with an Attorney. You can read more about me, my credentials, awards, honors, testimonials, and media appearances/ publications on my law practice website, www.AEesq.com. I practice law in CA, NY, MA, and DC in the following areas of law: Business & Contracts, Criminal Defense, Divorce & Child Custody, and Education Law. This answer does not constitute legal advice; make any predictions, guarantees, or warranties; or create any Attorney-Client relationship.

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