What's your apartment-living pet peeve? Your worst roommate/neighbor experience?

Hi. My name is Arati and I’m a Senior Editor at Food52. I'm working on an advice column all about the issues that come up when humans share tight spaces, and want to hear yours in the comments below!

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23 Comments

creamtea August 1, 2019
Oh yes. Post-college, the roommate with the free-range pet tortoise. Supposedly purchased for her father as a gift (whaaaaat?), but kept instead. You can't housebreak a tortoise, you know. There's nothing quite like stepping in a warm, fresh tortoise puddle....
 
Brian M. August 1, 2019
I have an indoor chainsmoker living above me. When we both have our windows open and the wind blows just so, it feels like he is in my kitchen with me.

It also feels like he is in my kitchen when I hear him hacking and coughing into his sink right above me. I get concerned that he is not ok when I don't hear him for a while, but turns out he just goes on vacation a lot.

I'm apparently not the only one who has been affected by this, because we recently agreed to change our co-op's bi-laws to ban smoking indoors!
 
Arati M. August 5, 2019
I have one of those. Interestingly, we already have a co-op ban in place...to no avail. I keep thinking I don't want to be the snitch, but...
 
Sarah Y. August 1, 2019
I actually ran into one of my roommates from college recently. She brought up with me how I used to bring 'smelly' Thai food into our room. She was so excited to tell me how she recently has come to like Thai food herself! But my yummy Thai treats do come close to her 'Nairing' anytime, anyplace, and in such close quarters. That ritual would drive me bonkers.

I also believe I have misophonia, so there are a multitude of sounds that get under my skin - chewing with your mouth open, definitely relate to heavy walkers, when people don't mute the clicking sound when texting on their phone. You'll often hear the phrase 'noise pollution' come from my mouth.
 
Megan G. August 1, 2019
I had a roommate in college that seemed to want to save as much money on our electric bill as possible. Four of us lived in a large two-story house with central AC/heat. In the winter, our house was always FREEZING, and I mean sleep-in-socks-and-a-thick-sweatshirt freezing, because she would always turn down the temperature on the thermostat so our heat bill wasn't high. I will never forget the time when another roommate had strep throat, and the thermostat read 58F!! I put a piece of paper over the thermostat, which was right outside my bedroom door, after bumping up the temperature that read something like, "Please do not touch. [Name of other roommate] has strep throat and it needs to be less cold in here." Later that night, I heard the piece of paper being crumbled up outside my door. Ah I was so angry.

So I guess my roommate pet-peeve are people that would rather live in a freezing/roasting environment rather than spend an extra $10 dollars or so on their electric bill.
 
Arati M. August 1, 2019
The battle for control of the thermostat is a THORNY issue (most couples fight about it, too). However, honestly there should be a sensible standard adjusted to comfort and budget (and environmental impact), but who decides that?
 
Ella Q. August 1, 2019
Our downstairs neighbors, with whom we share an audio channel via the air vent that connects most peoples' bathrooms, often have very loud, fun-sounding parties—and they don't invite us!
 
Arati M. August 1, 2019
Question: Do you invite them?
 
Maggie S. August 1, 2019
My first roommate in New York used to put my groceries out on the countertop to make room for hers. She had a mysterious and undocumented ailment that required her to smoke weed all day and most of the night + consume all sorts of cannabis-infused products (including butter, ice cream, and a puffed corn snack called "Weedos.") She said sponges were unhygienic and asked that we use dish cloths instead, which she would let fester until they actually began molding. That was just the beginning: We got bed bugs during our first month and when I fled to live with a friend temporarily while still paying rent, she put a new deadbolt on the door and sent me vitriolic emails about how I'd abandoned her and wasn't being emotionally supportive. In the end, the police had to break in and stand guard while I frantically packed my most precious belongings and left hundreds of dollars worth of furniture. That's why I live alone.
 
Eric K. July 31, 2019
I detest heavy walkers. I pride myself in my ability to levitate a couple inches across my NYC apartment floor. So why can't my neighbors do me the same courtesy?

THUMP THUMP THUMP
 
Arati M. July 31, 2019
I've seen rentals where they insist you use heavy carpeting if you decide to sign the lease. I mean, I'm not a fan of wall-to-wall carpeting, so I politely decline. Instead, I've perfected a ballerina walk—trés elegant.
 
Erin A. August 1, 2019
Yes! I have a carpet clause in my current lease to help cut down on thumping noise. I wish they'd had that written into my college apartment lease—I was woken up in the middle of the night many times by my seemingly nocturnal upstairs neighbors.
 
Eric K. August 1, 2019
It's hard to enforce, though. Do I want to be the jerky downstairs neighbor who knocks on their door with a copy of our lease, clause highlighted and underlined thrice? Or the mean, crotchety singleton who bangs his broomstick against the ceiling at 9 p.m., shouting, "ROTTEN KIDS!!!"?

The latter, of course.
 
Erin A. August 1, 2019
Oh, I took my Swiffer and banged it against the ceiling at 2 a.m. once. And they were quiet...for a night.
 
Arati M. August 1, 2019
Ummm my neighbor upstairs has been banging on her floor/our ceiling every single night. And we have no idea what she's complaining about (we are VERY boring).
 
Happygoin July 31, 2019
Had a roommate and our bedroom doors were louvered wood. Basically no sound barrier AT ALL. She hooked up in a boisterous fashion every night. All night long. I still can’t figure out when she slept!

I tried stuffing the louvers with cotton batting, but she didn’t get the message.

I gave up and moved into my own place. Nirvana.
 
Arati M. July 31, 2019
I had one of those, too! I was always looking for a delicate way to address it—and then gave up.
 
HalfPint July 31, 2019
Had a roommate who could never seem to wash her d*** dishes after she was done. The sink was always full with her dirty dishes. For days. 24 hours should be the limit on how long it takes for you to clean up after yourself. Other than that, she was a nice gal.
 
Arati M. July 31, 2019
I had a friend tell me about her roommate who left his dishes in the sink for weeks one time, and then ending up throwing away the whole lot because he couldn't be bothered to wash them! I mean...
 
Emma L. July 31, 2019
Hi! In one apartment I lived in, there were two doors to get into the building. The first one locked automatically, but the second one, you had to lock manually—and none of our neighbors ever locked it. (There was even a note on the door that said, "Please lock.") This really frustrated my husband and I—why not take two seconds to make our building more secure?—but we never brought it up because we didn't want to seem difficult.
 
Stephanie B. July 31, 2019
We were all in our last year of college, and a friend asked me and another friend to move in to her 3 bedroom apt as her previous roommates were moving on. We all had partners at the time so we understood that we'd probably be seeing a lot of each other's partners in our space. But the one roommate absolutely pushed the boundaries of this understanding. The day after we signed the lease and moved our stuff in, her boyfriend shows up with boxes. He wasn't just there a lot, he legitimately moved in. Meanwhile, me and the other new girl paid 1/3 of the rent each, and our other friend and her boyfriend split the other third. On top of that, he didn't start paying into utilities for 3 months. We were pretty pissed, but in hindsight nicer than we should have been out of an attempt to salvage friendships. In addition to this outright deception (in my opinion) about our living situation, she was very passive aggressive and there would be weeks on end where she would communicate solely through post-its and texts. If asked to talk face to face she simply refused. Not surprisingly, our friendship didn't survive the year we lived together. Not surprisingly, it wasn't the most solid friendship to begin with. General advice: set ground rules and make sure everyone understands them, and please for the love of whatever you hold dear don't be passive aggressive.

Now me and my husband live together so that's fine, but we do have a very unfortunate situation where our neighbor is an alcoholic who likes to get wasted around 12-2am, bang around his apartment shouting, and occasionally be horrible to his wife. We've had to call the police a few times. If it's just for a noise complaint they take their time and it actually makes things worse because by the time they arrive, the neighbor is quiet and the police just wake everyone up again. But if we mention domestic violence they make more of an effort and make sure the wife is ok. Between police, multiple neighbors confronting him, and our management threatening eviction, he has quieted down, but I'm not any less concerned for his wife.

Another general tip: if you live in a noisy city and have thin walls (does any affordable apartment have thick walls?), get ear plugs.
 
Joanna S. July 31, 2019
My upstairs neighbor's alarm goes off for HOURS every day. Like 6:45am until 9, 10, 11am. Our walls and floors are extremely thin and so it's audible and sometimes wakes us up early in the morning on weekends. He seems to be home when it's going off, but for some reason does not turn it off. We've slipped polite notes under his door about and contacted building maintenance, but to no avail. What's wrong with this person?? And what should we do?
 
Stephanie B. July 31, 2019
Hmm...ear plugs? If you're already up and feel ok doing so, knock on his door and ask him what's up with his alarm clock? Keep pestering your building management until they do something? This sounds like one of those things that's like well they're not doing anything technically wrong or making so much noise to constitute a noise offense, but it's rude and infuriating regardless :(
 
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