How To Be A Good Neighbor In A High-Rise Apartment Building

A little awareness goes a long way when packed into a vertical space

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Nobody wants to be “that neighbor.” You know, the one everyone wishes would move.

Well, actually, that’s not true. Experience tells me some people couldn’t care less if they’re “that neighbor.” But you care. I figure it’s safe to assume you care, since you bothered to read this article.

I’ve lived in high-rise apartment buildings in urban settings for 24 of the past 26 years. Below I have gathered some things to keep in mind to be a well-liked and well-respected member of your community.

All creatures in your apartment are neighbors

About ten years ago, a family of four with two young children moved into my building. After a peaceful first month, they rewarded their kids with a present: Two toy poodle puppies.

Every morning at 4:15, almost on the dot: BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK!

I had to be at work at 8:00 those days, which meant my preferred sleep schedule was to go to bed about 11:30 and get up about 6:30. The dogs routinely took away a quarter to a third of that sleep, leaving me groggy at work.

Other tenants on that floor complained. One couple even moved out, telling me they couldn’t take the barking anymore. The dogs’ owners didn’t care. Their attitude was, We pay our rent here. Therefore, we’re allowed to do whatever we want. It wasn’t until one full year, when their lease ran out and the landlord declined to renew it, that we got some relief.

Folks, train your dogs. Send them to obedience school. Invest in a no-bark whistle or some other means to get them to understanding barking all hours of the night is not okay.

Control your pet’s behavior in common spaces

I live on the 13th floor of my building and ride the elevator every day. For a couple of years, I cringed anytime I felt the elevator slowing to a halt on the 8th floor.

There was a large golden retriever who lived on that floor, and it was as jumpy as any 7-pound toy dog I had ever seen. The dog didn’t have a mean bone in its body — it just wanted to get to know everyone it met. The problem was that not everyone in the building wanted to be greeted by a 95-pound animal throwing itself at you.

One day was a particularly bad day. I had just been laid off, and the elevator stopped on the 8th floor and that retriever jumped all over me. I was so on edge that I thought I was going to have a panic attack.

What did the owner do about all this? When I instinctively stepped back and away from the dog, putting my arms up to block its motion, she looked at me like there was something wrong with me.

Don’t assume that everyone loves dogs as much as you do. Not everyone grew up with them. I have a friend who owns a large dog who says, “I know I should send him to training and teach him not to jump all over people, but then he might not jump all over me and I like it when he does that.” That’s fine if you live in a single-family house. If you lived in a shared community, though, you need to think about what your neighbors are comfortable with.

Neighbors with four wheels

When you park in your building’s garage, take a moment to be considerate of your neighbors and any other people who park there.

This is particularly true if you have a large truck or SUV. If you park in an inside corner space, you create a blind spot for drivers of regular-height cars. They can’t see around your parked vehicle to tell if there’s an oncoming vehicle in the opposite direction. I had several near misses over the years because I couldn’t see around large corner vehicles.

If you’re driving a vehicle exiting the garage, be aware that there may be blind corners as drivers enter the garage. Don’t cut corners as you make your turns. Also, the garage is not a NASCAR track. You don’t win a trophy for a record time to the exit.

Finally, don’t hold your neighbors up as they wait to park. I have neighbors who pull into the garage and see someone walking to their car. They will turn on their left turn signal and wait and wait and wait, while the car’s owner unlocks the vehicle, puts packages in the trunk, gets in, puts on their safety belt, and finally backs out two minutes later. Meanwhile, seven people are waiting behind the driver with the signal on.

If you see a car backing out, it’s fine to wait 10 or 15 seconds to grab their space. If it will take longer, however, don’t hold up the line — keep going and find a space the next level up. Your garage is not a Walmart lot on Black Friday. There really are more spaces available, ones not much farther away.

Respect common areas

Think about your neighbors as you use facilities that are common to all the residents of your building.

  • If there’s a gym, wipe down stationary bikes and weight machines after you use them, so they won’t be all gross and sweaty for your neighbors.
  • If you have a pool area, wipe down your lounge chairs when you get done using them.
  • If there is a residents’ lounge, don’t leave trash behind. You’d be amazed at how many people take the attitude, I pay rent for this place, therefore I shouldn’t have to clean up after myself. That’s rude and unfair to your neighbors, as well as the management staff.

Here are a couple more that belong in the “shouldn’t have to be said but years of experience tells me, say them anyway” department:

  • No lewd acts, no getting naked in a hot tub shared by all residents. Ewww, gross. If you have a hot date, good for you, but keep your activities confined to a space that is all your own. If hot tubs are your fantasy, rent a hotel room for the night that offers one as an amenity.
  • Don’t endanger your neighbors’ health. In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic closed the local bars. Left with nowhere to go, one of my neighbors invited 20 of his friends to cook out on our shared rooftop, presenting tenants with 20 infection vectors they shouldn’t have had. It just boggles my mind that management had to explain to him why his behavior wasn't acceptable.

Be proactive with your neighbors

A few years ago my friend Clay, who lived in an apartment building down the street from me, saw new neighbors moving in. They had leased the only apartment that shared a common wall with his.

A couple of days after they got all moved, he left a $25 gift card to a restaurant down the street on their door, along with a note.

Hello! I live in apartment ___ and I want to welcome you to the building. I just wanted you to know, I play drums between 7 and 9 in the evening. It’s my way of blowing off a little steam after work. I promise I will never play them later than 9, and if my playing ever bothers you please knock on my door and let me know. My number is xxx-xxxx. Again, welcome.

He never had a problem with the new neighbors. When he met them a few weeks later, they told Clay, “We’ve only heard you one time. You only played during the hours you said you would in your note… and by the way, you’re really good.”

Offer help when you can

If you have elderly or disabled residents in your building, get to know them. On days when the weather is bad, ask if you can run to the store to get them anything. If you see them bringing heavy packages inside, offer to help carry them up to their apartment.

In the fall of 2018, I had an illness that left me unable to walk more than a couple of blocks for about two weeks. Several neighbors texted me and told me, “Hey, we’re about to go on a run to the grocery store and the drugstore. Can we pick up anything for you while we’re out there?” Everything in our neighborhood is super walkable so I was good, but it meant the world to me that they asked.

In summary…

When you live in a shared high-rise building, you share space with others, often 100 or more other residents. Because of this, you have to consider your actions a little more carefully than if you lived in a one-family home out in the suburbs.

Train your dogs not to bark during night-time hours, and not to jump on neighbors. If the dog is untrainable, ask yourself whether a building with shared hallways and elevators is the right living environment.

Respect your parking garage. Don’t block others’ views with your vehicle, don’t hold up others waiting to park, and practice driving safety measures as you enter and exit.

Keep common areas clean and free of trash. Don’t do things in common areas that could expose your neighbors to germs and disease.

If you’re going to do something that you know might disturb your neighbors, like throw a party or play a musical instrument, be proactive. Let your neighbors know what you will be doing, when you will be doing it, and what steps you will take to minimize any inconvenience to them. I’ll throw in an additional tip: “Of course, you’re invited” is a magic phrase when you’re informing neighbors of an upcoming party at your place.

Get to know your neighbors, and look out for the ones who might need help. Doing so buys you a great reputation in your building.

I hope you have enjoyed these tips and found them useful. If you want to receive weekly updates about my latest published articles, please sign up for my mailing list.

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Beliefs | Intuition | Dreams | Journaling | Connector | Inspirer | Former College Teacher | Twitter: @paulryburn

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