Alice, My Neighbors Are Using My Patio (Without My Permission)

Alice, My Neighbors Are Using My Patio (Without My Permission)

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Ask Alice
Jul 30, 2015
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Allard Laban)

Dear Alice,

I live on the first floor of a small apartment building in NYC with a yard and patio area in the back. The front third is a concrete area where we have a grill and table. This area runs right next to our bedroom window and is a pretty small space. The back third is all yard which my landlord promised was all mine, and which I have turned into half a yard and half a garden. I was told the the upstairs neighbors have a key to the backyard for their small dog which uses the yard occasionally.

I really like this couple, they are very quiet and respectful neighbors, and it's really nice that my dog can play with theirs in the yard. I totally don't mind them using the space for the purpose of the dog, but I recently have found them removing the covers on our outdoor furniture and using it. Last night they had a whole dinner out there and were out chatting until 10 when I politely asked them to leave so I could go to sleep.

To me, this just feels like a total invasion of personal space when they used our stuff without asking, and when its 2ft from my bedroom window its incredibly uncomfortable. By putting furniture in a somewhat shared space does this make it fair game? My other downstairs neighbors made a nice outdoor area as well, but I feel like it would be totally not ok for me to go sit down and use it. I am not sure if I should ask them not to use our stuff, and how. Is this just a cultural difference perhaps? Please keep in mind that we really want to continue having a positive relationship with them, and not make them feel uncomfortable coming outside for the dog.

Sincerely,
Wants to be friendly, but not that friendly

Dear Friendly,

I will answer your question if and only if you tell me how you managed to find an apartment in NYC with a patio, yard and garden! What a lucky score.

I completely understand that you want to keep the cool with your neighbors while still keeping your privacy. You ask: by putting furniture in a somewhat shared space does this make it fair game?

If I’m understanding your situation correctly, the space is only shared because you moved in after these upstairs neighbors, “inherited” the circumstances that they use it for their dog and then nicely allowed it to continue. According to your landlord, the entire area is yours.

I’m guessing these neighbors may feel a sense of ownership because they use your yard all the time, but it’s simply not okay that they are keeping you up by chatting on your own patio (which they are using without asking!). I can definitely see how this feels like an invasion and I’m glad you said something to them last night. It could be that they didn’t realize they were intruding because you’ve been so accommodating about sharing your space in every other way. Hopefully they got the hint already.

If it happens again, you should tell them exactly what you told me: you’re so happy that your dogs can share the yard and play together but it makes you uncomfortable when they use your patio because it’s so close to your bedroom window. You need a little privacy there.

Don’t make it a huge deal. No need to be either apologetic or angry. Just politely let them know how you feel. If it’s indeed a cultural difference, then once they know what’s what, I’m sure they’ll respect your wishes.

If for some reason this continues and you feel they’re taking advantage of you, then it’s time to bring your landlord into the discussion and make it clear to everyone that that area is, in fact, part of your unit (and your rent). Hopefully it won’t come to this.

Good luck!

Love,
Alice

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