When it comes to making neighborly requests — be it for for noise, trash, aesthetics, smells — it really depends on what kind of person you're dealing with. Also, the kind of person you are. Are you a good neighbor? I have a tendency to be pretty forgiving when it comes to noises during the day. Living in an apartment building, it's common sense that as long as a neighbor is making noise during normal daily hours for something that isn't needless (construction, cleaning, music at a reasonable volume), live and let live. When it comes to nighttime noise, or harmful components such as smoking — that's when it makes sense to raise a complaint.
If you have a neighbor that has, on all other occasions, acted like a regular friendly human being, the logical solution to voicing a kind complaint would be to knock politely on their door at a reasonable hour and explain your issue without judgement or rudeness. Make the problem about you, first and foremost: "I am the worst sleeper, and even the simplest things like stomping around to The Backstreet Boys at 3am keep me awake — can you believe it?" Usually, the offending person will be flabbergasted that they are even bothering you, and will quickly try to remedy the problem.
However, if this doesn't work, I've got a few tips for you to try out:
• After visiting their home, if their reaction was pleasant, and the problem did decrease slightly after you mentioned it to them, then went back to regular annoyance, try writing them a kind note and placing it under their door. Sometimes people are just busy and aren't thinking of whether or not you can hear them doing their dishes in the middle of the night (for example). Always sign the note, and be nice.
• Check to see if your building or HOA has rules about whatever the problem is. Sometimes, these rules just need to be redistributed to remind people of their accountability to their neighbors.
• Try to suggest a plan. If their behavior is reasonable but offensive, suggest times that you might be away from your home for them to engage in them. (i.e. play The Backstreet Boys loudly maybe while I'm at work?).
• If contact with the neighbor is nearly impossible and a kind note didn't do the trick, try communicating with some other neighbors. Do they have the same problem? Perhaps several requests may help the offending person see the error of their ways.
• Although it may be considered passive-aggressive, consider using creative technology if you're extremely shy or ...well, you know, passive-aggressive. Change your Wifi name to "APT112shhh," or something of the like. Remember, be nice, but don't expect huge results from this one.
• If all else fails, make a complaint to your management company or (in a very last resort) the police, with a written record of several dated instances of the same behavior. Make sure your complaint is truly viable before doing this. Vacuuming in the middle of the day, or cooking pungent-smelling ethnic food is not reason enough to complain.
(Photo: Andie Powers)