Apartment Building Etiquette

After living in apartment complexes and duplexes for about seven years I’m still surprised by how many people don’t understand basic apartment complex etiquette. Whether you are in an apartment complex, a duplex or a condo – you are sharing walls and close space with other people. As a result, you should be mindful of how your life is impacting those in your surroundings.

apartment complex etiquette tips

Basic apartment complex etiquette:

1. Watch your noise level. When you are sharing walls, a yard, a ceiling/floor, etc with others you are definitely going to hear some noise of those living near you and that is completely acceptable. However, the type of nose, the noise level and the timing matter a LOT. There is a big difference between hearing children in your shared yard at 3pm, vs hearing every word and the bass to music your neighbor is playing at 3am. Even in the middle of the day, it’s rude to leave your music so loud that your neighbor can hear every word. There is just no need to have your music that loud. If you’re left wondering if your noise is problematic, consider whether you can easily prevent or adjust the noise level (if so – just do it!), whether it’s very early or very late  (try hard to avoid this!), and whether the noise is just part of everyday life or not. You shouldn’t sweat over everyday noise like your vacuum, washer/dryer or dishwasher. Noises like music, TV, yelling/screaming, dog barking, or sex related noises are much different and you should be much more careful to lower them, avoid them, cover them up, etc.

2. Be respectful of shared spaces. If you have a shared yard, make sure you know what the maintenance plan is.  Will you shovel snow all winter while your neighbor mows all summer? Or will you rotate each? Make sure you are doing your fair share, and avoid making a mess or being disrespectful of the shared space. In the case of a shared yard, don’t leave garbage or cigarette butts in the yard, and make sure to keep bikes, toys, etc out of the path of other peoples vehicles.

3. Kids. When I have neighbors that are kids, I expect that to shake things up in several ways. I expect the noise level to be higher in general, and to potentially hear crying at any time of day. For the most part, I don’t think parents living in apartments should worry much about their kids noise level. I do wish that more parents would realize that they should try to teach their kids that when you live near others, that doesn’t mean the whole place is “free range” to them. Maybe to create some borderline “you can play int he yard but only up to this bush, that side is their area, not yours.” etc. I’ve had neighbor kids knock on the door and ask for a snack (when there was no food in sight, so it’s not like they saw me eating chips and asked for some), ask to borrow toys (I babysit so I have some), ask to come play even when no children are at my house, follow me around my half of yard for 45+ minutes while I’m working on other things. Honestly I don’t really mind the kid talking to me when I’m outside, but it would seem more polite to at least have a parent pop outside to say “Is it okay if she watches you garden? If you’d prefer to be left alone feel free to send her in!” or something along those lines. Once, I even had an older (maybe seven?) year old neighbor knock on the door with a laundry basket full of random odds and ends (tupperware, spatulas, etc that were used) and asked if I wanted to buy any of them from her. I realize that kids are still learning and growing but if unless you have grown close with your neighbors it’s uncomfortable to let your children make strange requests of your neighbors. I imagine in many cases the parents didn’t realize their kids were asking or doing these things, which is why I recommend having them stay out of the neighbors’ areas unless you plan to keep a close eye on them so you can monitor their behavior and interactions with neighbors.

4. Smoke. If you smoke any substance being mindful of your location and the wind is good etiquette. If you live in an apartment complex, standing a few feet (or more) Away from the shared main door is nice, so that people entering the building won’t have to walk through your smoke to get to their home.

5. Dog poop. If you have a shared yard (and don’t have a clear division of ‘your half’ vs their half) picking up your dogs waste is important. I once lived in an apartment complex with 50+ units and I although ti was a ‘rule’ that poop had to be picked up, a lot of neighbors were lazy and would just leave their dogs poop whenever the dog had squatted. It’s gross, and it’s selfish.

6. The laundry area. If you have a laundry room that others share, be timely about moving your laundry from washer, to dryer, and getting it out. Setting a timer or alarm on your phone can be a great way to avoid forgetting. Also, if you have clothing that is extremely dirty (vomit, feces, urine, oil, thick mud, etc) rinse the clothing in a tub or sink first to avoid leaving the washer afterwards. Also don’t forget to clean the lint screen in the dryer!

7. Follow community guidelines and rules. While you may not always agree with the rules that your apartment complex provides, it’s unfortunate for other families if one family chooses to ignore rules. For example, my apartment complex used to have a “club house” for families where there was a computer and a video came console that could be used by anyone in the community. The guideline was that individuals should only use the device for 30 minutes at a time unless nobody else was waiting. In the summer, certain kids would use the video came console for hours which was rather inconsiderate of other kids who were waiting for their chance.

8. Have a chat first. If you are being bothered by a neighbor, try talking to them politely before “reporting it” to your apartment manager or landlord. We once had a report filed against us as a noise complaint. It was done anonymously so we had no idea which neighbor it was. It said in the complaint that the noise was happening around 6pm, so the manager told us that due to it being that early, they could not enforce any noise level but asked us to ‘tone it down’. We were genuinely confused by the report because it said we were playing loud, thumpy music and we did not own a radio or play music on our computers. We decided to be really careful about our TV level anyway, as that was the only thing we could think was causing the issue. The neighbor filed another report a week later saying we had not quieted down. Eventually we realized it was our dishwasher that they were hearing. If they had come to us at the time of the noise and said ‘I’m hearing a loud thumping in my apartment – could you turn that down a bit?” we would have been easily able to determine the cause, and we would have had the chance to explain to the neighbor what the real problem was. When the report was filed anonymously it felt more harsh and alarming because the complex had a “3 strikes” rule where you could potentially get kicked out if you have 3 complaints filed against you. Also, we’ve had neighbors who were blaring music for HOURS on end, where our wall was literally vibrating. At first we thought – these guys are inconsiderate jerks who clearly just don’t care. However, my boyfriend went over and explained how it was distracting us from working (we work from home) so could he please turn it down? And we never had a problem after that. Of course, when having a conversation it’s important to come off as respectful and calm.

Do you have any apartment complex etiquette advice to share? Sound off in the comments!


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