How to (Correctly) File a Complaint About a Neighbor

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How to (Correctly) File a Complaint About a Neighbor

Cassie Damewood · Nov 21, 2019
Young man has trouble sleeping because of his noisy neighbors. Looks like he needs to file a complaint!

At its best, living in an apartment is like always having family nearby to help you move a couch, lend you a cup of sugar, or water your plants when you’re on vacation. At its worst, it’s like always having strangers around you who don’t seem to care anything about your peace of mind and constantly disrespect your rights.

To resolve a problem with a neighbor, it’s best to approach the situation with calm politeness. Patience and understanding can work wonders when it comes to avoiding nasty confrontations, after all. And whether the issue is noise, trash, parking, property boundaries, or any other common annoyance, it’s always preferable to give peace a chance.

Unfortunately, there are some instances when disrespectful neighbors are unwilling to hear you out. Rest assured though: there are still quite a few steps you can take to get the matter sorted quickly and efficiently.

Talk to Them

Although you may have a hard time believing that your neighbor doesn’t know how loud their music is or that their trash blows all up and down the hall, some people just aren’t very observant. For that reason, you should always start by kindly approaching them, stating your concern, and asking them to rectify it.

If this doesn’t work, or you don’t have a chance for an in-person interaction, putting it in writing may help. Use the same polite tone, and attach the note to their door when you’re done.

Join Forces with Other Neighbors

There’s a chance your neighbor may think you’re just overly sensitive to noise, are exaggerating the strewn trash, or have a personal grudge against them. In this case, you’ll want to write a similar note but frame it as a group complaint from you and other adjacent neighbors. Have everyone sign it and wait a few days to see if the noise dissipates. It’s much harder for the offender to dismiss more than one complaint.

Be Willing to Compromise

In other cases, the neighbors may not agree to lowering the volume on their music all the time, but will still be amenable to keeping it down during certain hours, such as 7 am to 10 am or after 10 pm. Compromise is necessary when you live in community housing, and it’s almost always the key to harmonious neighbor relations.

Talk to the Landlord

Some really bad neighbors will just ignore your request or, worse yet, do the opposite of the thing you asked and play music even louder 24/7. Your next step is to contact the apartment manager or landlord with your grievance, either alone or with the neighbors who share your concerns. Explain in detail the steps you’ve already taken and ask for help. Give the situation a week to change and if it doesn’t, inform the manager that you plan to seek other solutions to the problem.

Review Local Ordinances

Whether it’s noise, trash control, or property encroachment, there is likely a city or county ordinance that clearly states the local regulations for multi-family housing units. Procure copies of relevant laws and present them to both the offender and the landlord/apartment manager. Again, wait a week to see if the situation improves.

File a Report with Local Law Enforcement

When all else fails, it’s time to involve the authorities. Go online, call, or visit your local police or sheriff’s department to file a formal complaint against your neighbor. Clearly outline all the steps you’ve taken from day one so they know you’ve tried to rectify the problem on your own. Give them all the details including dates, times, responses (if applicable), and the number of neighbors who have joined in your complaint. Ask if it would help to have neighbors file individual complaints and ask them to do so if necessary.

Be aware that taking this step is serious, especially to the neighbors in question. They may retaliate verbally or threaten you, either of which you need to document for your own protection and alert authorities of immediately. Angry neighbors can become irrational and act out in ways that may threaten your well-being, so be cautious and careful when going this route.

Don’t Be a Hypocrite

Before you start calling out others for their inconsiderate behavior, take the time to assess your own habits. Does your barking dog disturb the neighbors? Do you park your car so it infringes on the space next to you? Is your balcony overflowing with broken plant pots that detract from the attractiveness of the building?

At the end of the day, it all comes down to accepting the trials and tribulations of community living. This is especially difficult for those who grew up in a single-family home with neighbors at a distance. Apartment living requires tolerance, understanding, and sometimes just endurance of other people’s habits and behaviors.

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