Follow These Rules if You Live in an Apartment Building

Vertical living has its benefits and challenges, so we tapped the pros for tips to manage even the most awkward situations.

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There are umpteen excellent things about apartment dwelling—no snow to shovel, there’s always someone nearby if you need a cup of sugar, and the all the conveniences of the city are right at your fingertips. But taking up residence in a veritable diorama can also mean loud upstairs neighbors, laundry lunacy, and a lot of holiday tips to shell out come the end of the year. How to address such things while limiting the potential for drama? We caught up with etiquette expert Mr. Manners, a.k.a. Thomas Farley, for his tactful tips on all things residential refinement, whether you’re dealing with noisy neighbors or the goal of non-disruptive painting politesse.

Noisy Neighbors

What if you’re convinced an elephant who likes to play chess with his furniture is occupying the floor above you? Farley says a thoughtful (and not accusatory) conversation can help alleviate the situation immediately. “Most aggrieved neighbors suffer the agony of noise and never approach their neighbor about the matter, at least not until the situation has reached the boiling point,” he says. He notes that passive-aggressive behaviors, such as blasting your own music louder than theirs, or sliding snarky letters under their door is not the solution. His approach? “Have a face-to-face conversation with them: Chances are, they are oblivious to their offense and will remain so until you have the courage to say something. Nicely, of course.”

Holiday Tipping

If you live in a full service building, budgeting for tips at the holiday season is customary. For a super helpful, quick guide, check out Triplemint’s holiday tip-o-meter for tips on exactly how much you should give to each staff member.

Laundry Room Life

In a busy shared laundry room, speed is of the essence. Leaving your wet clothes in the washing machine for hours is not a good look. ”Neighbors have a duty to remove their clothing from the washers and dryers quickly after those respective cycles are done,” says Farley. One thing to keep in mind, Farley says, is that if you are extricating the clothing of the person whose washer or dryer load preceded yours, you must use every precaution to ensure the clothes are removed in their entirety and placed as close to their original location as possible. “Do not drop clothes on the ground—by accident or otherwise,” he says. Wipe any spilled detergent and  don’t leave used dryer sheets in the drum. Last, he says don’t forget to clear the lint filter after using the dryer so it’s ready for the next customer.

Enthusiastic Evenings

This may be one of the tougher conversations to have, Farley says, and he suggests weighing whether it’s worth the embarrassment of having that talk with a neighbor rather than simply investing in a good pair of earplugs and a noise machine for your own bedroom. “If it’s especially egregious, consider a lighthearted way of bringing it up; don’t judge or sound angry,” he says. “They’ll accuse you of being jealous otherwise.” His advice is to approach the topic with tact—”and not during the literal heat of the moment; wait until the next day.” Last, he says to have the talk with (if possible) a neighbor who is the same gender as you.

Buzzing/Lost Keys

We all need a neighbor who can let us in when we’re locked out. You hope that happens during “civilized hours and sometimes, it will be at 3 a.m.,” Farley says. But if this becomes a regular occurrence, it’s time to think about alternate solutions. Farley recommends KeyMe, a service that will maintain a copy of your key for on-demand replication during those times you are stuck with no way to get in.

Painting Your Apartment

Although painting might seem an unobtrusive activity, there are several things to consider when giving one’s apartment a fresh new look, Farley says. Paint odor is the first. “Whenever possible, use no-VOC or low-VOC latex paint so you don’t knock out your neighbors with fumes that waft through vents, rafters and windows,” explains Farley. “If oil paint is your only solution, use fans to disperse the fumes away from any area where they might drift into a neighbor’s home.” Second, he says to keep any of the noisier activities of the painting process to the civilized hours of the day. “That means no scraping or spackling in the wee hours of the morning. Also, no using a roller on your ceiling (or floor!) during times when the rest of the building is likely trying to get some shut-eye.”