Handling Conflicts with Neighbors in your Apartment Complex
A drawback to apartment life is the possibility of having a difficult neighbor: You know the one…no matter how nice you try to be, they always seem to have an issue with you, your children, your roommate, your dog…something. Very few apartment dwellers completely escape having a conflict with a neighbor. While you may never actually challenge them, and may even try to avoid them, the tension is still there. If you do decide to say something, or they do, the result can be fireworks.
The Golden Rule
Being considerate of your neighbor is the primary precept in a multi-family dwelling. It makes sharing space more enjoyable for everyone. So, while listening to your favorite techno music or cheering during an explosive hockey game your right within the confines of your apartment, you should not do so loudly enough that it interferes with your neighbor’s enjoyment of their home. Nor should you throw a weeknight party that goes late into the night if your neighbors work the next day or have pre-school or school-age children.
Sharing walls, floors and ceilings with others exposes you to noises. While newer construction may be reasonably insulated, the possibility of you hearing a neighbor’s television, phone conversation or other noises on a continuing basis is high. This being said, all apartment residents should make an effort to avoid making excessive noise that might carry through the walls, ceilings or floors in the night and early morning hours when their neighbors might be sleeping. So resist the temptation to vacuum the floors before leaving for work in the morning.
If your schedule is abnormal for your complex—you work at night and sleep in the daytime—the brunt of accommodating your schedule mostly falls on you. Plan to have earplugs or white-noise devices to help block out everyday disturbances while you sleep.
Talk to Your Neighbor
Common courtesy in a civilized society dictates that you should first try to talk with your neighbors about your concerns. A cordial, congenial conversation might just do the trick. After all, if you are quiet yourself, they might never hear you, so they might not realize just how much the sound carries. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Remember that if your approach is irritated or hostile they probably will not respond favorably to you. Of course, some people will not respond favorably to your approach no matter what you do. In that case, follow up by contacting your landlord, addressing specific situations and ask what they prefer you do.
Make sure that you let your landlord know that you spoke with your neighbor already. Often, the landlord has more leverage to make the neighbor comply is the conflict is breaking apartment rules such as noise restrictions, smoking regulations or pet policies.
Ask the Landlord to Do What She Can
Sometimes, there is no easy way for your neighbor to comply with your request. If they enjoy an after dinner cigar and their smoke finds its malodorous way into your apartment, the ventilation system or building construction may be at fault. In that case, you could ask your landlord to install high quality filters or adjust the ventilation. If you are a good tenant that pays your rent timely, your landlord will be more amenable to helping you resolve the problem. There are limits to what a landlord can enforce, particularly in some states that have stronger tenant laws.
When to Call Authorities
If at any time you feel threatened by the conflict with your neighbor or if it escalates into violence of any kind, contact your local authorities immediately. If a neighbor’s pet maliciously injures you or your child unprovoked, call animal control.
If the difficulties are ongoing, make sure to document every thing you have done to resolve them. Taking your neighbor to court should be a last resort. So, while you are free to do so, a better solution might be to ask your landlord if you can move to a different unit, or make plans to move to a quieter place when your lease is up.