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.
In a world filled with bad news, environmental destruction, and TikTok, pets can provide us with immeasurable comfort. They will cuddle with you, look up at you with eyes that have never come across The Mueller Report, and make for excellent Instagram fodder. (To be clear, I’ve only held off on adopting a cat because I’m vain and love my vintage upholstered couch far too much to let a set of scampy claws destroy it.)
But when the pets belong to someone else, and when that someone else lives in the apartment next to you—well, those pets have the potential to become a little less cute. To address your pet-related apartment concerns, we talked to Eric, a landlord who lives and works in Pennsylvania. And don’t worry: No pets were harmed in the making of this advice column.
I can imagine that you (and your coworkers) aren’t too happy about what’s happening to your shoes on your commute. And I don’t blame you! Open communication, Eric says, is the first step here. But try to be tactful, not aggressive.
“Say, ‘hey, I don’t know if it’s you, but I’ve noticed some dog pee in the hallway,’” he says. If that doesn’t work: “A formal letter to the landlord will also alert them. Or, take a little video if you can’t progress the issue. If there’s video surveillance in a larger building, you can ask the landlord if there’s any evidence.” If you know the “puddles” are appearing in the morning, ask to look at the surveillance tapes of those hours; that evidence will help you get your landlord to act.
Listen, I get it; nobody likes a narc. And your instinct to preserve a positive relationship with your neighbor and keep their dog in a safe home is a benevolent one. But the bottom line is that this dog is keeping you from living comfortably in your apartment. As always, I recommend talking to them—they likely don’t know that you have an allergy, and explaining the severity of it may encourage them to move, or get rid of the dog if it’s a temporary (i.e. fostering or dog-sitting) situation.
But if not, you either have to move or do something more severe. If you decide to stay, Eric says, “You gotta rat on that person. Nobody wants to be a fink, but you’ve got to. Place an anonymous letter in the super’s mailbox saying, ‘I think there’s a dog in Apartment 5B, please check it out.’” Rules are rules, he says.
If you think that person could risk getting evicted, especially if you’re worried that they’d have a hard time finding another apartment, the kindest thing you could do is let them know that if they don’t get rid of the dog, you’re going to have to alert management. It may make you feel like a cop, but it’s more considerate than blindsiding them.
Eric says that the first step should always be having a conversation—with the tenant, of course, not the parrot. He remembers a tenant who was bothered by their neighbor’s dog barking all day; after he suggested they actually have a conversation about it, the dog’s owner put in a camera where they could watch their dog all day to keep an eye on how chatty he was being, and “developed strategies to keep the dog engaged and calm all day,” he says. “Start with something like, ‘Did you know your bird shrieks when you’re gone?’” Keeping the bird quiet and calm is likely something its owner wants, too.
If that doesn’t work, make a recording. You can share it with the tenant to prove your point, or use it to escalate the situation, and share it with management. Evidence is always useful.
Also, he points out, there may be a condition in your lease that says small animals can’t make excessive noise. Once again, reading over that document that so many of us sign blindly can help you understand your rights, and the rights of a particularly loud African grey parrot.
Illustration by Emily Ringel
Do you have a neighbor's pet that is driving you up the wall? Tell us in the comments below!