Owning a house used to be one of the first steps on the path to the American dream. But with market prices rising all over the country and no relief in sight, that concept seems to be rapidly changing. A recent report by the Pew Research Center even found that more U.S. households are headed by renters today than they have been since at least 1965.
That reality forces people to live in multi-unit buildings — close quarters that require a kind of tolerance and patience that many who grew up in single-family homes never developed. It’s not just a brave new world, but it’s also noisy one. Luckily, there are a number of ways to help keep the peace with your neighbors. Here are some of the most effective ones:
If you grew up in a quiet environment (perhaps without siblings or with parents who didn’t rock out to heavy metal on a weekly basis) and are super sensitive to noise, try your best to secure an apartment on the top floor of your building. Sure, it’s often harder to find a top-level unit and people to help you move in and out of it, but in the long run, it’s the best solution for you, your neighbors, and property management. Just remember that you’ll have to respect the noise limitations your downstairs neighbors set.
Be up front about your noise issues when shopping for apartments. Property managers strongly prefer tenants who don’t make trouble, and noise disputes can be ongoing and are likely to escalate over time. Simply tell your prospective landlord that you need quiet during certain hours and give them your reasons why. Management typically knows which tenants work when, which ones have small children or hormonal teenagers, and which ones have drawn noise complaints in the past. Present your reasons as logically as possible so you don’t come across as “difficult” from the get-go.
While you don’t have to bake cookies for everyone in the building, saying hello and smiling in passing really helps create a neighborly atmosphere. An impression of friendliness goes a long way when you’re asking someone you barely know to change their lifestyle. Start the conversation by writing your neighbor a friendly note. Ask them if you have ever disturbed them with noise, and then gently mention that you’ve been bothered on a couple of occasions. Going into the situation with a bad attitude will only makes matters worse and push a resolution further out of reach.
Although it’s apparently fallen out of favor in recent years, compromise is still an excellent option for conflict resolution in our book. If the neighbor in question can only do their workout routine at midnight, kindly ask them if they can exercise in a room that’s not directly above your bedroom. Discuss certain hours that would be best for playing loud music, and try to adjust your schedule to accommodate those hours. Don’t forget to ask for some concessions in return, as that’s what compromise is all about. Walking away thinking you gave up more than you gained will only escalate resentment down the road.
Grin and Bear It
Sometimes it’s easier to solve noise problems on your own, especially if the errant neighbor is defiant or obviously unwilling to change their ways. Using high-quality earplugs for sleeping is always an option, as is using headphones to listen to music or watch television. A gentle tap on your ceiling (their floor) with a broom handle sometimes works, too, because people are often so self-absorbed that they actually don’t realize how loud they are being.
Unfortunately, many people aren’t willing to give and take to be good neighbors. In fact, many will deny wrongdoing altogether and call you crazy. If that happens, start keeping a log of all noise disturbances, writing down the date and time of each disturbance, the nature of the noise, and the way you attempted to resolve the problem. If possible, record the noise on your phone to back up your claims. Casually mention noise disturbances to surrounding neighbors to feel out the situation without causing trouble. Strength in numbers is always useful if you have to take your complaint to higher-ups.
Only contact management about a noise problem as a last resort. Reasonable adults should be able to resolve such issues between themselves. No one likes a tattler, especially not your property manager who just wants to foster peaceful, amicable relations among their tenants without their intervention. If you’ve exhausted all other options, approach the manager calmly and professionally. Ranting and raving about the inconsiderate psycho in the apartment above you only shifts the spotlight to you. Calmly explain all the solutions you’ve tried without success and sincerely ask the landlord for suggestions instead of just demanding the neighbor’s eviction for your peace of mind.
Apartment living can be a great experience. In many cases, lifelong friendships with fellow apartment dwellers are forged. Of course, forming family-style alliances with your neighbors means always looking out for each other and making everyone’s peace of mind a top priority.