Posted Jan 13, 2016
A Renter’s Guide to Getting Along With Neighbors
You can’t pick your neighbors, but you can pick your battles. Few of us are lucky enough to have the kind of neighbors dreams are made of — clean, quiet, and practically invisible — but we can take steps to be that kind of neighbor for others. Of course, no matter how great a neighbor you are, you’ll still have to deal with inconsiderate neighbors at some point.
How can you maintain good relationships with your neighbors? Follow our top tips for being a better neighbor and getting along with the ones you wish would move already.
Be the Neighbor You Wish You Had
The golden rule applies to apartment living as much as it did on the playground: treat your neighbors the way you wish they would treat you.
1. Introduce yourself.
Don’t get stuck in the awkward situation where you and your neighbor pretend not to see each other when you’re picking up your mail at the same time. Break the ice and introduce yourself. A simple smile and a quick “Hello!” when you see your neighbor will go a long way.
2. Keep noise levels down.
Your neighbor knows some of the most personal aspects of your life: they can hear what TV shows you watch, when you wear heels around the house, and when you yell at your parents on the phone. Thin walls and poor insulation are common in apartment buildings which means that your neighbor can likely hear more than they (or you) ever wanted. Try to keep noise at respectable levels, and invest in some rugs to insulate the noise.
3. Respect common spaces
The shared hallway is not your spot to store your bike, and the stoop is not a place for your stinky trash bags. Leave common spaces free of your clutter so everyone can enjoy them. If your complex has shared laundry facilities, follow proper laundry etiquette. And always respect the rules of the parking lot: park within the lines and never park in assigned stalls that aren’t yours.
4. Be a leader.
Organize a neighborhood watch group. Start an email list to alert each other of community events and local crime happenings. This shows your neighbors that you care about them and the neighborhood. A big perk: connect with your neighbors this way, and you’ll always feel safe going out of town knowing your neighbors will keep an eye on your place.
5. Do favors.
You don’t have to do favors for every neighbor every day, but putting in a little effort every once in a while — lending a cup of sugar or a sympathetic ear, for example — will show your neighbors that you’re considerate, and may result in favors being done for you in the future. If you ask favors of your neighbors, always return borrowed items promptly and with gratitude.
6. Never steal Internet.
There’s a reason people give their Wi-Fi networks threatening names like “FBI Surveillance Van” or “GetYourOwnNetBro”: no one wants their Internet stolen. Not only have they used their hard-earned dollars for home Internet, but numerous neighbors using one network can slow the network down for everyone. Quit being a cheapskate and pay for your own Wi-Fi.
Deal with the Neighbors You Have
If you’ve already proven yourself to be a model neighbor, but the people next door haven’t learned from your example, here are a few strategies for effectively handling any conflicts that may arise.
1. Break the ice.
If you’re a good neighbor, you should have already done this; but if you haven’t, do so now. This is an easy way to help alleviate conflicts before they arise.
“Many of us make the mistake of keeping to ourselves until a neighbor does something annoying. Bad idea,” advises Amy Alkon in an article in Psychology Today. “If your first contact with the guy next door is letting him know how rude he is, you encourage him to achieve his natural potential for jerkishness.” Alkon recommends being proactively polite with your neighbors to establish better relations before things get strained.
2. Document the problem.
When issues come up, start keeping a record of them, including dates and times. This will help you determine whether or not your reaction to the problem is warranted, and will back up any claims you make should you need to.
3. Resolve issues face to face.
Don’t use passive-aggressive tactics to resolve issues, like leaving a note or calling the police. It is usually faster and easier to resolve issues with your neighbor over a face-to-face conversation instead. Don’t accuse them of wrongdoing — and don’t assume they know what the problem is — but instead try working out a solution together.
4. Call for backup.
Ask around and see if your other neighbors are bothered by the offending neighbor as well. Likely you’re not the only one annoyed that your neighbor refuses to clean up after their dogs. Approaching the neighbor as a team can be more effective — but make sure it doesn’t seem like you’re ganging up on them.
If the problem remains consistent, consult with your landlord or property management company–especially if your neighbor is violating their lease. See if they can send a standard letter to the whole building or neighborhood citing the ordinance or rules.
Living in an apartment means you have built-in neighbors to deal with, for better or worse. Even if you’re not living in an apartment, you’ll most likely always have neighbors — and they can’t all be as good a neighbor as you — so learning how to deal with bad neighbors is a valuable skill to develop. Start by being the best neighbor you can be, and if they don’t follow suit, implement these coping strategies to maintain positive relationships with your neighbors.
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Alice Williams is the Community Outreach Manager for Internet Service Partners. She has an MA in Communication Studies from San Francisco State and now lives in Salt Lake City.