What's your apartment living pet peeve? Your next door nuisance? What do you do about the nosy neighbor who rifles through your mail? Or the guy who practices the trombone at 7 a.m. on weekends? In our latest series, Ask a Friendly Landlord, a peaceable expert suggests resolutions to the issues that arise when humans share space.
Those of us who live in apartments are used to adapting our lives to small spaces. We hang both our bikes and our ladles on the wall; we hold dinner parties on the floor; we haul our laundry down the street; and seethe with jealousy at the mere mention of a backyard. Walking into someone’s suburban garage, we turn into Ariel: Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?
Even more significantly, we adapt to the reality of having neighbors all around us, separated by walls and floors of varying thinness. Neighbors can provide crucial aspects of community: they can get our mail while we’re away, drop in for a drink when we’re lonely, lend a cup of agave nectar when we’ve run out. But they can also be loud.
In our first installment of Ask a Friendly Landlord, we’ve culled your hotline questions on how to deal with noisy neighbors. And we’ve talked to Peter, a landlord from Massachusetts, about how to tactfully and respectfully approach noise problems in apartment buildings.
So, is your problem the noise, or the fact that they don’t invite you? Unfortunately, there’s no law stating that your beer pong-playing downstairs neighbors need to invite you over for a round—most leases don’t include a FOMO clause. But wanting to be invited to fun parties is one of our deepest social instincts.
It seems like what you really need to do here is befriend your neighbors. (Most people don’t invite their whole apartment building to a party; there simply isn’t enough space.) If they sound so fun, why don’t you ask them up for a drink? “The best thing you can do is introduce yourself,” Peter says. They’ll be more likely to invite you to the next party once they know how fun you really are.
Congratulations on mastering the art of levitation! I’m sure you could make a pretty penny on writing a how-to book, then buy yourself a house where nobody lives above you! Barring that, have you tried talking to your neighbors? “My advice is to go and talk directly to the other tenant,” says Peter, “Try to find some way they can mitigate the noise, maybe with rugs. People are generally able to find common ground when they talk face to face.”
Some leases stipulate wall-to-wall carpeting for high-traffic areas of the home—you could check with your landlord to see if your neighbor’s includes such a clause. However, Peter says that you should only involve a landlord as a last ditch effort, since involving the quote-unquote authorities might make your neighbor defensive. And, he says, “try to figure out what the real problem is—maybe there’s a certain time that they’re being loud.” Once you identify the times where you’d really prefer they try your levitation techniques, you’ll be able to offer them a more specific set of needs. Oh, and consider buttering them up with a tray of chocolate chip cookies. It can’t hurt.
Joanna, I feel for you—a never-ending alarm clock that you’re unable to turn off sounds like a bad dream you can’t escape.
The first step here is to know your rights. “There’s probably something in the lease about your right to ‘peaceable enjoyment of the property,’” Peter explains. But, he says, the biggest problem here is that building management hasn’t responded to your concerns. So try going up the food chain: “Find the right person to resolve the problem. Contact the owner of your building—they have a legal obligation” to carry out the lease.
And maybe invest in some ear plugs, or noise-cancelling headphones.