Transitioning peacefully from home ownership to renting?
July 26, 2013 5:40 AM   Subscribe

After owning three, freestanding houses over the course of the last 15 years, we're moving to an apartment in a midrise. How do we keep from walking on eggshells about bothering the neighbors and breaking stuff?

Ms. Quizicalcoatl and I have 2 young/school age q's (ohmygod it never gets old to refer to myself and my family by cutesy variations on my screen name!) so we know there will be some jumping and squealing that we'll have to keep in check.

In our house, we didn't have to worry too much about noise, scuffs on the walls, or the occasional broken item. In a rented apartment, however, we're worried about finding the line between sitting still and silent to avoid breaking anything that's not ours or bothering anyone who's living on the other side of the wall/ceiling/floor and being a family of inconsiderate jerks.

For good or for ill, I tend to be a rule follower and am extremely hesitant to put others out, so it'd be completely against my nature to just say screw 'em. I'm interested in finding out what exactly the acceptable norms are for being a decent apartment neighbor and tenant. What are the unwritten rules? No loud sounds ever? No sustained loudness? No loud sounds after a certain time? Expect wall scuffing? Expect that the 7 year old will accidentally pull the towel rod off the bathroom wall at some point (just for example)?

So, if you rent an apartment, what do you expect from your family or from the families around you?
posted by Quizicalcoatl to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
To some extent it depends on the apartment--your landlord's standards of expectations regarding scuffing, and your neighbor's attitudes and work schedules. Think of it sort of like "cultural fit" in a job. Once you are living there awhile, you will probably relax and get a sense of what is acceptable.

But generally, I'd say "no loud sounds after (and before) a certain time" is the big one. Minor scuffing is okay, that's what security deposits are for. Holes in the wall are not.
posted by epanalepsis at 5:53 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

There may of course be specific rules in your building or area.

But if you institute a "shoes off at the apartment door" policy, and put decently thick rugs over large expanses of bare floorboard, you'll be doing 1000x better than most families I've lived beneath.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:54 AM on July 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

The things that folk seem to dislike or dread from neighbors are:

- loud televisions and music playing
- (especially during sleeping hours)
- frequent loud parties
- loud pets
- smokers (tobacco or pot) who let the smoke drift into their air space
- people who block communal passages and areas with stuff, especially trash
- lawn mowing in the early morning
- bonfires when the wind is blowing into the building
- vehicles being revved up, or kept idling, for a long time
- neighbor contact only through passive-aggressive notes
posted by Wordshore at 6:00 AM on July 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Your lease may have quiet hours, so check that.

Definitely create a shoe trap by the main door, and put down rugs with padding if your apartment doesn't have carpeting already.

On the damage/cleaning front, how well was your apartment cleaned when you moved in, and was there any damage? I'd calibrate what is expected when you move out by what the apartment looked like when you moved in.

If towel rods get pulled down, put them back up (ideally with a wall anchor that will make a future incident less likely). Wall scuffs are easily removed with Magic Eraser. Most minor damage can be fixed; it's not the end of the world.

Pay attention to shared walls; if your unit shares a bathroom wall with the unit next door, don't let your school-age child pound on the shared wall with their feet while screaming "I DON'T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL" every morning. (Um, for a completely hypothetical and not at all real-life example.)
posted by pie ninja at 6:04 AM on July 26, 2013

I should add: caring about this is half the battle, anyway, so don't stress too much. I've lived under several noisy-ish neighbors, but only one set who explicitly and obviously didn't feel they had any obligation whatsoever to consider the noise they were causing. The difference in my experience of living in those apartments was huge! Just knowing that my neighbors were somewhat aware that it was something they needed to bear in mind meant an enormous amount to me.
posted by oliverburkeman at 6:07 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Rule #1 for being a good upstairs neighbour with children is no ball bouncing inside ever.
posted by srboisvert at 6:16 AM on July 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Rule #1 for being a good upstairs neighbour with children is no ball bouncing inside ever.

Rule #2 is rollerskates = no.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:18 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also running in the house, if you're not on the ground floor, is particularly annoying if the building is one of those where it sounds like a thundering elephant herd to the people beneath you. Now obviously most people will tolerate an occasional exuberant burst, but having lived below some little darlings that ran everywhere, it gets REALLY obnoxious.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:23 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

This really depends on who you live above. I have lived in a number of apartments where I had tenants below me. I have had everything from people who bang on the ceiling when all I've done is walk across the room (barefoot, across a rug--old apartment, creaky floors) to my current neighbors, who appear to be totally cool with the tremendous noise I and my dog make (lots of bouncing balls) because they like watching loud movies and have a ten year old who's learning to play the saxophone. I don't complain about them, they don't complain about me.

Just follow the Don't Be a Dick rule, and you should be fine. Deal with problems as they arise--that's about the best you can do.
posted by phunniemee at 6:29 AM on July 26, 2013

Cultivate a relationship with the people below and beside you. "Hi, we're the Quizicalcoatl family! We are new! Here are some cookies/sweets! Please let us know in person if you have a noise issue with us!"

People will put up with more from folks they have broken bread with, and will be more liable to engage directly with you instead of with notes/the landlord, if they see you are humans, you know, and not insane mythological flying beasts who messily sacrifice virgins at 2am over the downstairs bedroom.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:33 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I expect my neighbors with kids to make noise. On the other hand, I run very nocturnal and play music, run appliances, and do other noisy things at all hours of the night. (Although I try hard to keep anything of sustained sound at indoor talking volume or below.) I've always made a point of, when I see a new neighbor, explaining my weird schedule and imploring them to say something to me if I ever need to keep it down. I've never had a complaint.

Generally speaking if it's mid-morning up through about dinner time, loud stuff like vacuums, running & jumping, hammering, etc is totally fine, as long as the noisy things don't happen continually for more than, say, ten minute chunks. For me, the noises of my building are just part of living here, and I chose to live here partially because of the diverse families in residence. When it's dark, except on Friday and Saturday nights, it's definitely quiet time (this is also in our leases), but everybody is quite flexible.

If you choose a place that attracts other families, you'll probably be just fine.
posted by Mizu at 6:40 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

We too are selling our house and moving into an apartment.

I don't mind day noise all that much, so long as it isn't blasting Ted Nugent. Kids are kids and have a right to be in their space. That said, we have indoor voices and indoor play. Running around and squealing are outdoor things. But a little raucous play at 6:00 PM is forgivable. Screaming at 6:00 AM, not so much.

As for damage, well, that's what the deposit is for. As homeowners, we have skills and experieince touching up paint, patching walls, etc. All sorts of people ding up the joint when they rent. That's expected wear and tear. So long as you're not knocking down walls you'll be okay.

Relax, it's fine.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:00 AM on July 26, 2013

As long as the regular everyday kids playing/frolicking/shrieking noises cease by a decent hour (let's say 10pm), you really don't have anything to worry about. You might want to try to keep them from being too boisterous indoors on early weekend mornings, because plenty of people like to sleep in on their days off, but I'm really talking about a difference between kiddie noise starting at 6-7am on a sunday vs 9-10am on a sunday.

And yes, shoes off inside the house can make an enormous difference, although alas some people are horrible drunk moose stompers no matter what. If you are physically capable of doing so, try your best not to be a drunk moose stomper.
posted by elizardbits at 7:01 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Drunk moose stomper is an excellent phrase. My husband is a drunk moose stomper. He never wears shoes in the apartment, and it doesn't help. I don't quite know how, but he is physically incapable of evenly, smoothly distributing his weight into his feet when he walks.

My sister and I definitely did the "practice being a princess" by balancing a book on your head when you walk thing when we were kids. Hubs and his brother were pretty much stomping boys all the time. I don't know if that is to blame, but maybe your kids should be introduced to the fun new game of "Ninja Practice" where you try to sneak up on someone with their eyes closed?

Rugs, and double thick rug pads might help. Slipper socks might help. But older buildings will just have squeaky floor joists that can't really be helped, even with rugsā€”its more about weight than footfalls.

As for walls, meet your new friend: magic erasers.
posted by fontophilic at 9:26 AM on July 26, 2013

Don't slam your door or yell loudly in the apartment hallway (if you have a shared hallway with your neighbors). It ECHOS.

Don't use the hallway as your personal garage/bike storage unless that kind of this is made very clear that it is okay to do.

Kids playing outside is cool. Kids standing directly under someone's window and screaming is not cool.

Do you or your kids play instruments? Check your lease. Some forbid musical instruments from even being stored in apartments.

Having to put up with my neighbor's loud sounds is just part of apartment living. For example, it really doesn't bother me when my upstairs neighbors have a fight and scream at each other (it happens pretty often), because the rest of the time they're considerate, quiet and friendly. I think my downstairs neighbor was using a circular saw the other day, it didn't bother me other than just wanting to know what he was doing. If there was sawing and screaming at 11PM on a Tuesday, I would be much more annoyed though.

If you happen to have a really, really squeaky bed, you might want to fix that. Especially if you like to engage at certain activities at 2am loudly enough to wake the poor people who live below you (I am so glad those neighbors moved).

You can put felt or those plastic pad things on the bottom of chairs to avoid scratching the floors. Don't put speakers on the floors.

Be really nice to your super, tip around the holidays.
posted by inertia at 10:43 AM on July 26, 2013

Depends on your neighbors. Once I had a DJ below me who would practice at 1am but it didn't bother me.
I've rented many many apartments and the only thing that bothered me were kids right outside my window (ground floor) yelling and crying all day. I think it's just the high pitch noises I can't stand.
posted by KogeLiz at 11:25 AM on July 26, 2013

Response by poster: Fortunately, the apartment has carpeting over concrete floors, so hopefully that'll tamp down some of the noise, but I still like the idea of stowing shoes by the front door. As much as anything else, the answers have been helpful in giving me an idea of what neighbors expect from one another in an apartment building. I also like the idea of introducing ourselves to the neighbors and asking that they let us know if there's an issue with noise, etc., although I wonder if that ever leads to people assuming license to demand absolute silence, e.g., if I invite them to let me know if we're being too loud and someone decides that means they've been granted permission to tell us to turn off the blender at 3:00 pm on a Saturday...
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 11:45 AM on July 26, 2013

That'll depend on the neighbor and you may at some point run into the asshole that will, but honestly every place I've lived the neighbors have been pretty chill as long as you're not having college student-class parties every weekend. I think most veteran apartment dwellers will tolerate a little bit of noise because everyone else goes fleeing to houses if they can't take it.

Your complex may also have "quiet hours" written into the lease, so basically if you lived in my complex and you decided to start running the blender and, I dunno, putting your comforter in the washer on Spin so it's all thumping around and running the dishwasher at 11pm, I could complain to management and they'd come tell you to keep it down. Just something to keep an eye on.

I think it's just down to basic courtesy (and if you're asking this question, you're more courteous than most people). I don't care if your kid is shrieking and playing on the stairs for a few minutes as you herd them to the car. However, if your kid is unattended and shrieking and thumping up and down the stairs at 9am on Saturday morning, I'm going to get crabby, you know? But at the same time, if my music's too loud at 10pm on Wednesday, please come tell me, but if I'm enjoying some tunes on the porch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I'd be pretty annoyed to have to turn it down (this assumes I'm playing at a normal and not building-shaking volume, obviously).
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:37 PM on July 26, 2013

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