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Co-Living 101: Making Nice With the Bad Neighbors

Co-Living 101: Making Nice With the Bad Neighbors

It’s 4 a.m., and a television has been roaring on the floor above you for the past hour. You have a presentation at work in the next couple hours, but you can’t catch a wink. What now?

We’ve all been there. Whether it’s a group of loud college students partying every night, someone watching TV [very loudly] through until dawn, or the couple downstairs complaining about you every time you “walk too loudly,” bad neighbors are everywhere. But before you get into an all-out housing war Seth Rogen- and Zac Efron-style, you might want to take a step back and evaluate the situation. Instead of being that passive aggressive person and burning bridges by leaving a note on your neighbor’s door, try taking the high road. Here’s how you deal bad neighbors of all types.

The Party Animals

No matter where you are, there’s always that one neighbor who loves to throw a good rager on the weekend and one too many happy hours during the week. You might even be friends with them or receive frequent invites to their gatherings. But when it’s a Wednesday night and you’re trying to catch up on some beauty sleep, the noise from your neighbor’s last-minute mixer is the last thing you want to hear.

Though you could always call 311 and file a noise complaint, calmly speaking to your neighbor face-to-face is less extreme and best for avoiding tension between you and the person you see almost every day. Approach this person as you would your roommate, and tread lightly.

“If you are friendly or comfortable with speaking to your neighbor, mention that their loud noise often keeps you up, and ask if they would mind lowering the volume of their music in a polite, neutral, non-confrontational manner,” suggests Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas.

If the situation escalates, however, and your neighbor continues to ignore your plea for quiet, Gottsman recommends discussing the issue with someone in charge.

“If you don’t know [your neighbor], and are not comfortable addressing them personally ― it may be for safety concerns or general lack of comfort level ― allow the office management to handle the situation,” Gottsman said. “It is their responsibility to offer a comfortable living environment for their renters.”

The Pet Owners

Dogs are man’s best friends; they’re loyal, sweet and pretty dang adorable. But when night rolls in and you’re once again trying to drown out the howling and barking, it’s easy to forget how lovable your neighbor’s dog really is — sleep deprived you is not having it. But if you talk to your neighbor, chances are you may find your problem solved pretty easily.

Christopher Sharp, a construction worker and dog owner, remembers being taken back when a neighbor reported his dog’s barking without confronting him first. He admits he would’ve rather had a conversation first rather than learn about the complaints later through the management.

“I would have been perfectly happy if she would have just knocked on my door and dealt directly with me,” Sharp says.

“I’m a firm believer in going to the root of the problem and not beating around the bush. Most people I’ve met choose to avoid any sort of confrontation. If I had a dime for every time I’ve had to apologize for my dog’s less than stellar behavior I’d be eating lunch with Bill Gates.”

The Ones Who Overstay Their Welcome

Some people are just social butterflies. They can move from conversation to conversation with ease and have no trouble introducing themselves to strangers. In fact, they’re the neighbors who bring baked goods to your door when you move in or ask how your day was while passing you on the stairwell. Honestly, they’re good people. So naturally, when they start walking into your apartment unannounced or have the habit of hanging out for hours on end, asking them to leave is difficult. These are the neighbors that are so great, you can’t handle it anymore.

Though the task might make you uncomfortable, ignoring everything will only last so long. The worst thing you can do is bottle up your frustration only to blow up at your neighbor later.

“Talk to them and explain that you’re a private person and enjoy being with people, but also being alone,” licensed counselor and board-certified coach Terry Wynne says.

“Then ask them to call you when they want to get together to see if you’re even available. If the neighbor stays too long, assertively say, ‘I’m so sorry, but I have some issues I have to address, and stand up and start walking toward the door. They’ll get the hint.”

The Early Risers and All-Nighters

Is that a sound of someone hammering a nail into the wall at 7 a.m.? Why, yes it is. And just the other day, someone was practicing their guitar solo at midnight. Though it might seem obvious that making noise early in the morning or late at night isn’t appropriate, not everyone recognizes this unspoken rule. If this is the case, Wynne advises being proactive about setting up ground rules.

“Ask your noisy neighbors to be quieter at reasonable times such as when you’re sleeping or late at night. If they continue to be noisy, check your apartment rules regarding noise regulations and curfews. If you don’t have any, report the situation to your apartment’s management, and ask for a date by when they’ll contact you with the corrective action they plan to take.”

The Family with a Baby

First thing’s first: Babies cry and their parents are never to blame. With that said, we also can’t blame you for being irritated when the wails are keeping you up every night. Unfortunately, this is a tough situation to be in since there’s no way around a crying infant. And since complaining to the family will undoubtedly offend them (they’re doing what they can after all), being as understanding and helpful as you can will gain you some good karma.

“As if new parents don’t have enough to worry about, living in tight quarters with a new baby that cries all night is an additional stressor,” Gottsman says.

“Assuming the parents are doing everything they can do to make their baby comfortable, and not letting her scream all day and night without caring for her (that would be a different topic – and 911 would be in order), invest in a pair of earplugs.”

Gottsman further suggests offering to help parents in any way, especially if you have children of your own.

“When you see the parents outside, you can mention that you hear the baby crying and offer some of your own baby soothing tips – perhaps a sound machine – letting them know you’re aware of the crying, and give them a hint that you’re up all night with the baby too.

“If all else fails, invest in your own sound machine and have a glass of wine before bed.”

The Tattletales

Passive aggressive notes are a huge no-no, but having a neighbor complain to the landlord or supervisor about you isn’t great either — especially when you’re not sure what the problem is. After all, while many people have a perfectly good reason for reporting their neighbors, others just like to stir up drama for the hell of it. (Mr. Heckles, anyone?)

As irksome as it can be, do your best not to retaliate or confront them when you’re angry. Instead, sit down with your neighbor and get their perspective on the situation, while letting them know that you’re always open to conversation should a similar incident arise in the future. Your communication skills will take you far here. And if nothing else, talk to your management company and let them know you’ve tried to resolve the issues to no avail. After all, your landlord’s reference letter is the only one whose matters when you move.

The Mess Makers

If you live in a six-floor walkup, you probably make it a point to go up and down the stairs as little as possible. We understand. Sadly, your neighbors might’ve taken that to the extreme. And as you notice bags of trash pile up outside their doorway, you’ve finally had enough. Though you understand the burden of not living in a building with a garbage shoot, it doesn’t stop you from keeping the place tidy.

“Tell the person that you fear their trash might attract bugs as well as rodents with the trash they leave outside,” Wynne said. “Ask — don’t demand — if they’ll take the trash to the appropriate disposal method instead of putting themselves and you at risk for infestations.”

No one wants cockroaches infesting their apartment, and that very concept might’ve slipped your neighbor’s mind. So if you’re tired of the constant trash smells or you’re worried about what their mess might draw into the building, politely let them know how you’re feeling. Still no luck? This is definitely an appropriate time to call your landlord.