The 10 Most Common Neighbor Complaints in Apartments

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For those of you wondering, I haven’t given up on finding the data I needed to finish last week’s article. It’s in process but it is taking a while. There’s hundreds of cases to sort through in two different courts and neither court system is particularly strong on the public documentation.

High density living can at times serve as a constant reminder of how we haven’t quite yet achieved the American Dream. Every time you hear your neighbor walking around, watching TV or throwing a party you’re reminded that you haven’t yet earned your own plot of land. It chafes at some people more than others.

In my years working in an apartment property management office I took a lot of voicemails and angry emails from neighbors who were upset about the activities of their fellow tenants. I say voicemails deliberately as most of them came in during the middle of the night when the office was closed.

Not every building has the same problems. We didn’t have a lot of issues with people stealing each others’ wifi or cable but in other areas that might be more of a concern. However, not every landlord reacts the same to complaints. Some will tell you about them, some will silently put them in your file for future use against you, others will ignore them completely.

No matter the situation today I have compiled the most common ones that I encountered into a list for you, in case you want to avoid being “that guy.”

10. Political, Athletic or Religious signage. People get really annoyed when tenants use their doors and windows to fly their own personal flags. Be it mezuzahs on doorframes, Christmas wreaths, sports team or pride flags in the windows, or political bumper stickers anywhere, if you’ve displayed your preferences in public view chances are high that one of your neighbors is going to complain to the landlord about it.

9. Cluttered hallways. Shoes in the hallway were the most common cause these complaints but bikes, kids’ toys and other assorted household clutter used to set our phones ringing. Hallways are supposed to be fire escapes, and stuff cluttering up the floor can make it tough to get out if it’s dark and smoky.

8. Laundry room. People removing each others’ clothing before the end of the cycle. People using shared washing machines to dye clothing. People failing to remove their clothes for days on end. I suspect this one is so low on the list because renters often don’t bring their phones down to the basement laundry rooms and forget to call in once they get back upstairs.

7. Doorbell abuse. Even in this modern age of cell phones and text messages there’s always that one person who always forgets or loses his keys and hits every buzzer on the panel hoping someone will let them in.

6. Parties. These surprisingly didn’t bring in a lot of complaints. I think most tenants are more tolerant of parties and many hosts will warn or invite their neighbors when a party is going to occur. Also many tenants already know that they need to call the police for short-lived noise complaints rather than calling the landlord. It’s an apartment building, not a dorm.

5. Practicing Music. In contrast to parties, which most people know will be over in a few hours, musicians in the building will really rile up everybody in earshot. It doesn’t matter if it’s a kid just learning the first Suzuki book, a professional pianist or a wailing banshee who hollers Adele songs from the balcony at 3am. Nobody wants to live next to a musician who practices at home.

4. “Borrowed” parking spots. This one would probably be higher on the list if we’d had more buildings with parking lots. The last of the month and first of the month were the worst for people parking in each others’ assigned parking spaces, but the holidays could also be pretty bad. Fortunately this was one of the easier issues to resolve, since we had towing contracts for each parking lot. On-call towing contracts are usually free or very low-cost for the landlord. They towing companies prefer to charge the owners of the towed vehicles instead.

3. Early morning noise. People are a lot less tolerant of noise from upstairs early in the morning. Even walking around with shoes on can be enough to prompt a grouchy, half-asleep complaint. Unfortunately people are also clumsier when they first wake up so there’s more dropped items on top of the running water and walking around to get dressed. The neighbors who complained about early morning noise from upstairs were usually the first go on our list of potentially “fussy” or intolerant tenants.

2. Stolen mail. If you live in an apartment building and want to make sure you receive an expensive package, have it sent to your workplace. There’s always a few people who look at the mail lobby as a shopping mall.

1. Smoking. Head and shoulders above any other complaint on the list. Be it cigarettes or marijuana, in the building or outside on a porch, if you’re smoking in high density housing someone else can smell it and chances are they are a non-smoker. The residents who were usually the most vocal about smoking neighbors were always parents of small children or pregnant women, which is completely logical. If you’re a smoker in an apartment building that allows smoking, please still be courteous about it.

I should mention here one other complaint that we used to get, not from tenants living next to each other but rather from owners of buildings next to our own. If the trash bins are overflowing there is always at least one neighbor who will call to complain, and also usually call the city to come out and fine the landlord. Those fines are usually passed on to the tenants who over-packed the dumpsters.

Have you ever complained about a neighbor doing any of these things? Have you ever been accused of annoying your apartment neighbors? How did it turn out? Let me know in the comments!

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Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

One thought on “The 10 Most Common Neighbor Complaints in Apartments”

  1. As a non smoker, can confirm that when a neighbor is inconsiderate with their habit (smoking in the hallway, not throwing down a towel like every freshman in college knows to do, disposing of butts in the entranceway), it gets very irritating, very fast.

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