Being A Good Neighbor
One of the challenges of living in a neighborhood community is making the transition from life in the residence hall to integration within a non-University or an off-campus neighborhood setting. Many behaviors that are acceptable in on-campus facilities are not acceptable in residential neighborhoods. Here are a few suggestions on how to be a good neighbor and member of your community:
- Say hello and get to know your neighbors
Opening the lines of communication makes it easier to talk about those petty annoyances before they become big problems. As you see them in the halls, laundry room, lobby, in front of the building/houses, or by the mailboxes, smile and say hello. If they appear to be receptive, introduce yourself.
- Watch out for the safety of your community
If you observe any suspicious behavior in your community, report it to the Police Department. Watch and listen for unusual things such as loud noises or suspicious or unknown people loitering.
- Understand and follow the local community and landlord rules
Many communities have rules for things like where you can park, where your pet can be, when certain facilities are open, quiet hours, trash pickup, and more. These should all be spelled out either in your lease or in a supplemental set of rules and regulations. Know them and follow them. Your neighbors and landlord will thank you.
- Keep your noise and belongings within your own space
Talking on mobile phones in community hallways, leaving trash or personal items in public areas, or loud, late-night congregations in common areas may be a way of life in the residence hall setting, but may be disturbing to others and frowned upon in off-campus residential areas. Be conscience of your volume and your neighbors and landlord will thank you.
- Observe reasonable hours for noisy activities
Vacuuming, hanging pictures, moving heavy furniture. All these activities produce noise which can travel beyond the walls of your apartment/house into shared walls. Make every effort to restrict these activities to daytime hours. Check your lease/rental regulations and local regulations, and follow any specified quiet hours.
- Treat your neighbors' children with respect
Watch your words and behavior around neighborhood children and remember they may follow the example you set. Understand that your neighbors' children have a right to be there, and that they are, after all, children. Treating neighborhood children with respect can go a long way to maintaining and improving your rapport with your neighbors.
- Take pride in your environment by keeping visible areas neat and tidy
Keeping your yard, entrances, balconies, and walkways neat and tidy, and putting covered plastic garbage cans and recycling bins curbside no earlier than the morning of pick up keeps everyone's home looking appealing.
- Understand that not everyone loves your pet like you do
If your lease allows pets, be aware of the rules concerning where they can be when they are outside your apartment or house. Keep your pet on a leash unless it is in your backyard or inside your home. Don't let your dog roam free in the neighborhood or shared yard and don't let your parrot practice his opera while you're at work. When walking your dog, don't let them run on the lawns of others. Walk them by the side of the road and at all times be prepared to clean up after your pet. Be aware of any noise your pet(s) may make while you are at work or school. Ask a neighbor who is home during the day about it. And if your landlord doesn't allow pets, don't try to get away with it.
- Don't let your right to party overshadow your responsibility to your neighbors
Let them know ahead of time when the party will be happening so that they can prepare. It is your responsibility as host to ensure your guests understand the rules of respect for your neighborhood - including where it is okay to park - and that they remain inside your apartment/home (or within your own personal area outside) during the party. And remember: even when you're having a party, local regulation for quiet hours apply.
Protecting Your Neighbors from Your Party
- Call your neighbors ahead of time (or better yet, stop by in person!) and let them know (as far in advance as possible) what your plans are.
- Emphasize that you will have the gathering under control (this isn’t going to be the rager of the year that ends up being a block-wide, 500+ person party.
- If they are not very happy about this revelation, ask them what concerns they have; see if you can come to a consensus about steps you can take to prevent their concerns from happening (i.e. trash on their lawn, excessive noise past 12:00 a.m., etc.).
- You are neighbors for the entire year. Make it up to them for putting up with you with some nice gesture (Bake them cookies. Shovel the snow off their sidewalk. You can come up with something).
- Sample Script. (Indicating what the conversation might be like):
Hi, my name is [insert name] and I live over at [insert address]. I just wanted to let you know that we’re having a party on [insert day]. By all means, if things get too loud or you have some other kind of problem, please give us a call. I’ve written down our names and phone numbers on this card, as well as the time and date of the party. Thanks. (Then remember to ask about any other concerns).
Protecting Yourself and Everyone’s Safety
- Assign a Party Host. This may sound odd since there is more than one person living at the residence, but think of the host like the Master of Ceremonies at an event. The host can:
- regulate the amount of people at the gathering
- make sure that people are following the law
- make sure that the event is conducted in a manner according to societal standards (i.e., the gathering is not getting out of control, blaring music, spilling into the street, etc.)
- should the need arise, this person is designated as the host and one of the owners/renters of the residence to address any law enforcement issues or complaints from neighbors.
- Make signs that might help to protect you from liability. There should be two signs:
- “This is a PRIVATE PARTY. No one is permitted to enter unless they have been specifically invited. If you were not invited you do not have permission to enter this property.” (Put these signs at any entrances and doorways to your residence. Protect yourself from the behavior of those at the party that are random visitors).
- “You Must Be Twenty-One or Older to Drink Alcohol.” (Put copies of this sign anywhere near where any sort of alcoholic beverages are consumed. You are still accountable for the behavior of your guests, but at least you’re making an effort to adhere to the law).
Adapted from Notre Dame and George Washington University.