How To | Gracefully Deal With Problem Neighbors

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Imagine this: It’s 9:30 PM in the middle of the week. It has been a day (what with all those new projects and crazy deadlines at work, the bumper-to-bumper traffic you spent well over an hour in, and the fact that your highly anticipated package arrived damaged) and all you’ve really wanted is your bed, to get some shut-eye, and to bid adieu to this awful, no-good, very bad day. Well, lucky you! The time has come.

You meticulously place your decorative pillows on the bench at the foot of your bed (or toss them haphazardly onto the floor — I won’t judge), peel back those sheets, and climb right in. You almost cry out of pure joy as you reach to turn off your bedside lamp. You roll over, get all comfy and cozy (one hand tucked under your pillow, the other grasping tightly onto the comforter and pulling it close to your nose), and, with an exaggerated exhale, you at last close your eyes. Good riddance, horrible day!

Then the base starts to bump. And you hear that all-too-familiar guitar rift. And soon those god-awful angsty lyrics are whined so loudly that you are certain there’s a surprise mid-week show taking place at the outdoor amphitheater down the road.

But no . . . it’s just your upstairs neighbor. Treating you to an at-home concert that proceeds well past 11:45 PM (so much for that early night). And guess what?! He’s going to do it for the next FIVE nights in a row!

Heck. No. This is not what communal living is. As a resident who pays a sizable chunk of change each month to live where you do, you should not have to deal with this. And you sure as heck should not second-guess taking action and doing something to change it.

That being said, you also shouldn’t go immediately knocking to give your neighbor a mouthful at 11:30 at night, rude and inconsiderate as they might be. There are others who are well-equipped to handle the situation and mediate it professionally. Those people are your property/leasing managers.

[Note: If you haven’t caught on just yet, this post is directed at those currently living in apartments — more specifically, apartments that aren’t privately owned. Since I’ve never rented from a private owner or lived in my own home, I haven’t had to deal with problem neighbors in those environments just yet and, therefore, am not in a place to offer my advice or opinion on those particular scenarios.]

Before we jump into the “how-tos” of dealing with that pesky neighbor, let’s shine a light on the nuisances that are not only worthy of getting worked up over but within the realm of things that will actually garner action from your complex’s higher-ups.

Things You Should Definitely Bring Attention To

1. Excessive noise during decided quiet hours — When you signed your lease, you probably agreed upon a number of living conditions as you did . . . like quiet hours! Many (if not all) apartment complexes have designated quiet hours that residents are asked to abide by when they move in (these typically mirror local noise ordinances). For mine, that means between the hours of 10 PM and 8 AM we should refrain from making excessive noise.

When you live in any place where you share a wall (floors and ceilings included) with someone who is not included in your lease (aka anyone who isn’t your roommate), out of respect for them you should take these quiet hours seriously. That means turn the volume down on your TV/speakers, ask your guests to take it down a notch (or leave altogether), and try to avoid activities that might garner unnecessary attention (like building furniture, hanging art on the walls, walking with heeled shoes on, or shuffling larger items around).

Loud music at 11:30 PM (as mentioned in the scenario above) surely falls under the scope of things your property manager considers disruptive.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to measure what would be considered disruptive out of those designated quiet hours. Let’s say, for instance, that your neighbor is playing music on the louder end of the spectrum, but it’s 3 in the afternoon . . . your property manager might not take that complaint as seriously, and it likely won’t fall high on their list of issues to address. But don’t necessarily take this to mean you should discredit all midday noises that are louder than standard living sounds (like walking around, for instance). Just take stock of how the noise is truly affecting your day, and consider the types of noises you might make at that time, too.

2. Dirty living conditions — If you have to navigate a messy hallway littered with trash or *gulp* animal droppings, please, please bring this up to your property’s management team! Even if it’s not easily tracked to a specific person, but especially if you know exactly who the culprit is. No one should have to plug their noses or shield their eyes as they return home on an average day (or an especially sh*tty one — pun intended).

3. General thoughtlessness and unkind behavior — This is not an invitation to report anyone and everyone you think is suspicious, but if you are genuinely concerned for your safety because of your neighbor’s carelessness (aka they are leaving what should be secured doors opened for anyone to come through and access) or alarming behavior (they have made comments directly to you that make you feel uncomfortable), you are 1,000% at liberty to bring this up to your property.

How To Properly Bring Attention To An Inconsiderate Neighbor

Chances are you don’t know everyone living in your apartment complex, especially if it houses hundreds of residents. So that person who’s making tons of noise above your place, or the one next door who leaves trash right outside their door? Probably a stranger to you. Even if they aren’t, it’s better to go the anonymous route and allow your property/leasing manager to mediate the situation.

Unfortunately, I’ve had more than one problem neighbor in the short six months that I’ve lived where I do. Fortunately, the complex that I live in has very understanding and responsive management, and more than that, they take my complaints seriously.

The top two reasons behind their acknowledgment of the issues I’m experiencing? First, I’m not irrational in the things that I’m bringing to their attention (trust me — I’ve gotten second opinion in the few instances I’ve actually gone out of my way to make note of something). Second, I do it in a very logical and professional way, leaving almost no room for disagreement.

1. Document the issue — Is your neighbor blasting music or stomping around during quiet hours to the point of your sleep being disrupted? Grab your phone and try to record the amount of noise they are making. Is your neighbor treating the hallway like their own personal trash chute? Snap some pics.

If you notice it’s a one-time thing, lucky you! Keep the recording anyways just in case it happens again. As soon as it does happen more than once, bring it to the attention of your property manager. Which brings us to number 2:

2. Send a polite and informative email to management — The first time I brought my upstairs neighbor’s excessive noise up to my property manager, she immediately had me send her an email with any documentation I had. This way, she said, I would have a “paper trail” in case there were any future issues. As soon as you send it, your property or leasing manager will typically let the resident know they’ve received some type of complaint and remind them of the terms of their lease agreement.

Hopefully (and best case scenario), this resolves the issue. If it doesn’t (as, unfortunately, was my case) . . .

3. Continue to document the issue, and send a followup email to management — I typically try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Though it could be considered an admirable quality, it sometimes can result in people taking advantage of me. And I’ve come to learn that a lot of people really don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Case in point: My upstairs neighbor. I sent a quick email letting my apartment’s manager know that I’d been woken up two nights in a row at 10:45 and 11:30 (during the work week, btw) to an undesirable combination of loud stomping and base-heavy music, and was hoping they’d be willing to send a quick email to the resident reminding them of the quiet hours. She let me know that she would be more than happy to and apologized on their behalf for the disruptions.

The next night around 11:45, I woke up to that same awful fusion of noise. I convinced myself that they probably hadn’t gotten around to the email yet, so I should allow this one last night of commotion. The thing is, they probably did read the email, but they didn’t take the complaint seriously. Because for the next four nights in a row they woke me up after 11 PM. Not a very desirable living situation, if you ask me.

Moral of this little anecdote is, don’t give your disruptive neighbors the benefit of the doubt. Once it’s something that occurs regularly (as was my case), follow up with management immediately, and continue to do so until the issue is resolved. Bolster up that second (and third, and fouth, and fifth) email with evidence — dates, times, videos, and pictures. Most apartment complexes have some version of a three-strike rule. The next email or two that the troublesome resident receives will have a more serious tone and hopefully garner some type of positive adjustment in their disruptive behavior.

4. Show your gratitude once the issue is resolved — Once the situation has been laid to rest (fingers crossed it does end without incident), be sure to thank those who helped you.

After my initial issue was taken care of, I was sure to hand-write a thank you to my leasing manager letting her know that I truly appreciated the lengths she took to ensure I live comfortably and happily. Even if it was just another day in the life of a leasing manager, it showed her that I saw her as more than just a middleman and that her work really did matter to me.

5. Utilize any on-call courtesy officers — This is typically the first thing you should do, but since not all apartment complexes employ courtesy officers, I included it at the end. If you live in an apartment complex that does employ a courtesy officer, utilize them (but, like, don’t take advantage of them, please).

Reach out to the officer right as the issue is happening so that your neighbor can be called out on the spot. Though they very well could just be rude and inconsiderate, it’s also possible that your neighbor has no idea that what they’re doing is causing a disturbance to others. Shed some light on the matter.

I hope these little tidbits help steer you toward a constructive resolution to whatever issue you might be facing with a problem neighbor. And if you have yet to experience anything that warrants this type of response, here’s to hoping you never do! But at least you’ll be prepared in case the problem neighbor does eventually arise.

If you couldn’t tell from the post above, I personally think it’s best to take any intimacy out of this type of predicament and avoid confronting whoever it is face to face, regardless of whether you know them or not. If you do go a-knocking, realize that the outcome might not be in your favor. Not everyone is as rational as you might be, which is why it’s best to utilize the resources that are available to you.

Hopefully, your apartment’s management team understands that you pay to live where you do (probably a lot, too) and that you deserve to live comfortably, so they are willing to take action to resolve your grievances. And hopefully, your problem neighbor soon learns that they live in a community environment where they share walls with strangers that don’t necessarily have the same lifestyle as they do.

Fingers crossed we can all save up and eventually be in a place where we don’t have to share any walls with anyone. Sooner rather than later, please!!!!


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