How can I stop being annoyed by my neighbors?
August 8, 2015 9:33 AM   Subscribe

I recently moved into a new apartment that shares a property with a larger house—essentially a backyard cottage, except that the apartment is in front. The family that lives in the house drives me crazy in small ways. But everything that happens has been so small that I don't know when, or if, I should say anything to them. How can I stop feeling so annoyed by them?

Essentially, I guess I find them inconsiderate. Here are a few random examples of things that have happened:
-My rent includes space in the garage below my apartment, and they are not supposed to use it. I wanted to use it for storage, but the available space was filled with about a dozen of their bikes. I (and the landlord) asked if they could move them into their basement, they said yes. But then they just moved the bikes over in the garage. There is space inside now, but I don't want to put anything fragile there because they keep taking the bikes in and out. I work from home and the noise when they open the garage door is loud and annoying. At this point, I don't desperately need the storage--it's more that it bothers me that they didn't do what they said they would or ask if it was ok.
-The sidewalk to the street is directly next to my studio. Their kids are loud every time they walk past, and sometimes this is early enough in the morning that it wakes me up. The parents also make no attempt to lower their voices.
-They'll often idle their cars for several minutes while they wait for their kids, and the exhaust gets in my apartment if the window is open. This is something I've considered mentioning to them. At the moment, I just rush over to close the window.
-Right now, I'm taking care of their cats, at their request, while they're out of town for two weeks. I'm incredibly annoyed because they sent a relative to the house to basically check on what I was doing--even though I have done everything they asked--and now they're sending this person to come on random days instead of me. I'm responsible (and, though they don't know it, often *paid* to catsit) and feel a little offended. What I'd like to say is "I agreed to do this favor for you, and now it feels like you don't trust me." But in the spirit of picking my battles, it seems like a silly thing to say. It just genuinely bothers me.

How do I know when I should communicate my annoyance to them? These are just a few examples; overall, I feel like they're pretty self-absorbed. It's perhaps worse because I work from home, and they're around most of the time as well.
posted by three_red_balloons to Human Relations (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like the only thing that you can really get through to them on is the idling car. That's an actual health hazard, so ask them to stop on that basis. "I need to ask you to stop idling your car in the garage, please. It is a serious health risk and it makes my apartment stink. Thank you."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:39 AM on August 8, 2015

I think you have grounds to complain about their using your space, also. Your rent includes this space. Theirs doesn't. This is no different than their keeping their extra boxes in your living room. Whether you use the entire space or not is not their concern. Remind them; complain to the landlord, consider putting a lock on the garage if you are able, which isn't a bad idea for the security of your things, anyway.

The cat thing: It seems like an odd thing to complain about, but if it bothers you, you could say the next time "Hey, I'm so glad your cousin is able to come visit the cat. I felt bad saying now when you asked, but having someone else do it is really much more convenient for me because[<bullshit reason -- I want to go out of town on the weekends/I think I might actually have a cat allergy/whatever]."
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:52 AM on August 8, 2015 [16 favorites]


They annoy you, and yet you agreed to cat sit?? No, no, no.

The correct response should have been (in light of their failure to move their bikes when asked by the landlord) "I won't be available to cat sit."

Too late now. You're caught up in their "drama wheel." Here's what you do....

1. Finish cat sitting. Why on earth do you care who else comes to their house?? -OR- you should check in and confirm this person has permission to be there. Just in case.

1.5 - Contact your landlord to oil the garage door or go to the hardware store and do it yourself while they are out of town. DO NOT USE WD-40 or SIMILAR. Use machine lubricant. It's cheap. WD-40 is a cleaner, kinda like Liquid Wrench. Also, get those foam door strips and add them to the garage door jambs if the door bangs and that does not impede the movement of the door.

If oil and foam don't help, ask your landlord to fix the garage. This issue is on your landlord, not your neighbors.

2. After they return, be cordial but keep a low profile for a few weeks. School is starting soon, see how it changes when school starts.

3. Never Ever Ever Ever do them another favor. Be polite, but distant. They trample boundaries.

4. If you have future issues (like the car exhaust) have the landlord tell them. Keep everything in writing with your landlord. If your landlord informs you that telling them X thing is your responsibility, tell landlord they did not follow the directive about the bikes and so you don't want to be responsible for talking to them about tenant issues.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:54 AM on August 8, 2015 [38 favorites]

IALL, albeit NYLL. If that's your garage space, for which you are paying rent, and yet another tenant's stuff is in there without your and the LL's permission, then that's a violation of the lease agreement (on multiple counts). Perhaps your LL could politely inquire if you and they would like to change the terms of the lease so that they can pay extra to use your storage. Or they could just move the bikes.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:54 AM on August 8, 2015 [24 favorites]

The cat-sitting thing, just don't do favors for them again. If they ask, tell them you're sorry but you can't do it. That solves that.

The bike thing isn't clear. Is the entire garage supposed to be yours, or is it that half of it is theirs, but you're uncomfortable with how they're using it? Because the former is something you can take up with your landlord. The latter I think you'll just have to live with.

As for the other stuff, it's basically all one problem, which is that you need them to be more considerate of the fact that they live near you. I think you can address it once by saying something like, "hey, I'm not sure if you realize, but since we live so close together, and because of where my windows are placed, noise and car exhaust really travel. Can you make an effort to stay quiet when you're going by my windows, especially early in the morning? And would you mind not leaving the car running under my window? Thanks!"
posted by decathecting at 9:57 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd talk to the landlord about reducing your rent as you are unable to use the storage space you are paying for, it might increase his motivation to make them move their stuff out. If you are storing items there I am assuming it is a lockable space, as I am an ass, I would pile all my stuff in the garage & just put their bikes out wherever to make the room for it & lock my things up, the safety of their bikes is not your problem. But as I said I am an ass & exceedingly territorial about my space, specially if I am paying for it.

I don't think there is anything you can do about the cat sitting arrangement now but suck it up & be too busy to do it if they ask again. I would mention the exhaust thing to them, maybe after they return from their trip and are slightly indebted to you, favor wise, for the cat sitting, as it is a health hazard.
posted by wwax at 9:58 AM on August 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

Also: why do they have a key to your garage? It could just be that I'm not visualizing the layout correctly--are you attached to the house (in which case I could see them needing access to the garage for safety reasons), or separate? If it's private storage, then it's private storage, and needs to be locked properly.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:59 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When I get annoyed by people unreasonably, I tend to try to reframe my thoughts a bit. The following all help me:

1) I was a kid once, and that's just what it's like. Listen to them have fun! I wish I could be so in the moment. One day, they won't even know how to act so freely.

2) (not as relevant to you, but a daily one for me...) I'll be old one day, and then I'll walk slow too. I'll be grateful for the young people who don't rush me.

3) goddmamn this person is annoying, BUT (and here I desperately list other things about them that Iike: she loves her kids, she's doing her best in a stressful time, she has a lovely voice, she takes the trash out on time, their dog is actually pretty well-trained, she has a pretty tough skin to do so well in that kind of work, etcetc.)

4) last but not least, I will frame my interactions with people as a "personal challenge" to be kind and good in the face of their mildly annoying incompetence. I find this to be the least mentally healthy, but still useful frame; it helps me focus on my behavior and not theirs.

Finally, when reasonable (for example, your car idling situation) I do try to take action.
5) I am annoyed, but this problem is fixable by talking to them positively about how to address it.
posted by samthemander at 10:04 AM on August 8, 2015 [29 favorites]

I just re-read your question because I was confused on a point.

- Write your landlord if they are not supposed to use the garage and assert yourself. I'm sure the landlord thinks they complied, it's up to you to diplomatically but firmly involve the landlord at this point. Yep, ask landlord to change the locks in the future if further diplomacy doesn't work.

- I believe you are developing an allergy to cats and you'll have to disclose this if you are pressed in the future to cat sit and a simple "I won't be available!" doesn't suffice as an answer.
posted by jbenben at 10:07 AM on August 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

This is the reality of these sort of living arrangements.

For the bikes (dozen? How many people is this?), you need to say to landlord... You asked them to put their bikes in the basement, they did not. You need to fix this. Look, I am paying for this garage. They are not (correct?). You need to get them to move their bikes out and change the lock, get back the garage door opener, whatever.
Another idea, if they are paying for some of the garage is that landlord puts up some drywall to split the garage and do two seperate entrances. This is very common (often when a landlord is using part of the garage for his or her own stuff). Then you won't have to argue about them taking up too much space.
Your landlord needs to have a policy for sharing the yard. Most places I've looked at had such a policy. Like alternative weekends, quiet hours, etc.

You absolutely should have not agreed to cat sit. Don't do this again. Favors that are totally not going out of your way... Sure (grab their mail if it is a shared mailbox, water their plant that is next to yours), but otherwise don't.

Do you know if your property is legally multi-family? Are there seperate addresses for your unit and their unit? Are your utility bills seperate? Can you get Internet or cable hooked up to just your unit? If it doesn't seem like it is a legal multi unit, you sort of have this leverage against your landlord.
posted by k8t at 10:09 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

They have to get out of the garage and it should have a lock on it that only you and the landlord have keys to. Your possessions should not be accessible to their children. Either have your rent reduced, the lock situation taken care of, or your lease terminated.

As for the other things, you can't do much about it (except for refusing to cat sit). You chose to live in a shared area. It isn't their fault that you work from home. It's just not a good place for someone who works from home to live. Loud, self-absorbed people have loud, self-absorbed children. It's too late to advise them on the benefits of birth control. Accept it or leave it.
posted by myselfasme at 10:26 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Honestly, this may just not be a good living arrangement for you. I once did something similar -- I lived in the finished basement of someone's house. Even though it was set up to be a separate place, it didn't really work like that. In the end, this was still this other person's home and I was like a guest, even though I paid rent and had my own space. It was impossible for me to ever feel like it was mine. It was the same sorts of little things that are bugging you that were bugging me. Not big enough to pick a fight about, but everything that limited my own freedom to live how I wanted irritated me. I'm afraid you are going to be up against the same thing. This is their home, and they are going to leave their car running and talk loudly and want to use the garage. When you add in the fact that you work from home, thus making your living space pretty crucial, I think you may want to find a better, more comfortable place to live, like a traditional apartment unit or a house, where things can be how you want.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:29 AM on August 8, 2015 [14 favorites]

could you clarify - are you the only one who is supposed to use the garage? or are they paying for storage space in the garage too and the issue is that they were in your spot? if they can't use it at all, take it up with the landlord. if they also pay for storage space in the garage and you don't like how they're using it, well, that's pretty much tough,sorry.

ask them to be mindful about the exhaust.

you don't really have any good reason to complain about the kids unless there are set quiet hours and they're being loud outside of that. kids make noise. being around kid noise is part of being in society.

don't do favors for them. just let the cat thing go.
posted by nadawi at 10:40 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree with AppleTurnover. It seems like living close to people with kids might not be good for you, from the sorts of things you have mentioned. The fact the you are annoyed by this family doesn't make them intrinsically annoying or self absorbed, they are just living their life and it's bothering you. Also, kids are noisy, even well mannered kids get loud when they are having fun or being rushed out of the house.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:45 AM on August 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

The garage thing -- I can't tell from your question if you are supposed to have exclusive use of the garage or if you are entitled to use some space in the garage for storage. If you're entitled to exclusive use, then it would not be petty to insist that they move their bikes. "Sorry, but it's really not working for me to have the bikes in the garage, which is included in my rent. Please move them to the basement as agreed." If it's a shared space which they are entitled to also use, then complaining that they are keeping bikes in a garage is completely off base. That's where bikes most effectively belong -- if they use them all the time, they don't want to haul them in and out of a basement every day.

People walking past your unit and talking is a reality of multi-family dwellings, not an imposition. If the kids are actively playing in that space and being very loud (yelling, not simply talking in their outside voices while they're outside) early in the morning, you could politely ask the parents if they could have them play elsewhere.

Idling the car is genuinely annoying and easy to fix. Talk to them about this, politely. "I know you don't realize this, but when you idle your car here, the exhaust ends up in my unit. Can you please not start it until you're ready to leave? Thanks!"

Having a second set of eyes looking in on a home and pet you've left behind is not wildly unreasonable. Consider it to be taking some demands off you. Or consider it a chance for the cat to get more socialization than it would be getting from a single visitor. I'm sorry you don't feel trusted, but these people obviously don't actually know you that well, and this is the first time they've done this for them. You may feel like you should be trusted unless you've proven to be untrustworthy, but a lot of people approach life the opposite way -- you have to prove you are trustworthy to them. If you're of the former group, the latter can feel like a personal affront, but it's really more of a different way of approaching the situation, in the vein of Ask v. Guess Culture.

Overall, your complaints feel awfully like you're just not prepared to live in a shared space. You just can't have everything the way you want it all the time when you share walls with other people. You might have an easier time in a larger building where everyone is on the same footing or in a detached home that you don't have to deal with other people.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:47 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

If I'm reading your question correctly, they moved their stuff out of your space in the garage but not to where they said they would (the basement), probably because taking bikes in and out of the basement would be a hassle. Therefore your space in the garage is free, but you don't wish to use it because you feel uncomfortable using it because you feel your things will be damaged due to the children using their space to take their bikes in and out of the garage. This means you're annoyed with them for complying to the letter of the agreement but not the spirit. Your space is free, but you don't want to utilize it, and you're angry about that. It might help to realize that they did to what you asked them to do, they removed their belongings from your space. Whether you use it or not is completely up to you. It might also help to realize that they're probably annoyed with you for not using that space after they went through the effort to clear it out for you.

Children make noise. It's what they do. They are outside and it shouldn't be expected of them to keep their voices down. It might help to realize that they are not being loud to annoy you. They are simply being children. The same can be said of people talking outside. Remember when you were young? Didn't you have an "inside voice" and an "outside voice" It's loud out there with traffic and everything. When you talk outside, are you aware of all the windows surrounding you at every moment? Probably not. It's not their worry to be uber aware of you because you live near them. To keep from being annoyed by them, it might help to just accept their voices as part of the background noise, like the cars in the street.

I'd speak with the landlord about the loud garage door, that is not your neighbor's issue.

As for the cat sitting issue. Even when I paid someone to cat sit for me, I had people drop by my house randomly. Why? Because the cat sitter is not there 24/7 and I am an anxious person. It's not that I did not trust the person, I don't trust the crooks that might break into my house while I'm away. This random person dropping by while you're sitting probably has nothing to do with you. So I wouldn't be annoyed or offended by it, and if you are, don't sit for them again.
posted by MildredMakenpace at 10:50 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To clarify, I am supposed to have exclusive access to the garage; the landlords (who normally live in the larger house, but are out of the country) also have their own belongings in there. They are friends with the family renting the house. I think the landlords' attitude leans toward sharing the space, if it's available, though technically it is supposed to be mine. I don't know how the other family got a key to it.

Re the cats, I originally agreed to take care of them the entire time, and today I was told that the other person will be coming on a random series of days, so now I have to keep track of when I'm supposed to go; it was easier before to just stop by every day. My annoyance with the situation is that I feel like they (unreasonably) don't trust me to finish the job I agreed to. I said I would do it because I try to be a good neighbor.

You just can't have everything the way you want it all the time when you share walls with other people.
I don't share any walls with them; I live in a separate studio above the garage. I was deliberately trying to find something quiet, but there are very few options in a reasonable price range where I live (Bay Area).
posted by three_red_balloons at 11:03 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Were they living there when you moved in? If so, that was the status quo in terms of the sounds of their lifestyle, and to expect a big change might not work.

If that is your garage in full, then be prepared to ask your landlord a second time. If no action gets taken, the third time escalate in terms of seriousness, or ask for a discount. That is your landlord's responsibility.

The cat thing isn't weird to me at all. I have had a fulltime sitter for my dog and had people check on them. One, they may be a stranger, and I want to do due diligence. And two, the more attention my dog would get, the better.

Sometimes just getting a few things changed (bikes and finish cat sitting) can make the rest of it easier to deal with.
posted by Vaike at 11:08 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Send a chatty email updating them with some cute anecdotes about the cats' antics and then mention that you need to enforce the garage space rules now because $reasons (or without explanation, Miss Manners style). You're sorry this came up while they were away, so you'll be glad to move the bikes into the basement for them. Then do it.
posted by carmicha at 11:44 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

If the garage is to be yours, insist on it. If the landlord says that they would prefer for the space to be shared, tell him what you've told us: you pay for it, and when they use it, it is unreasonably disturbing to the use of your home.

Be firm; this is the benefit of the bargain you are supposed to be getting. You can even say that you would not have agreed to the arrangement if you had known the other family would be accessing your property, as a distrubance to you would be obvious and expected.

(As for the cat thing, it very well could be that they have some local relative/friend who was butthurt that they weren't asked to help out, complained, and they gave in. It probably has nothing to do with you.)
posted by China Grover at 11:58 AM on August 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

I think the landlords' attitude leans toward sharing the space, if it's available,

Given this (plus the reasonable-ish desire of the family to have their bikes accessible rather than stowed away down the basement), a less aggressive approach might be just to calculate what you think a fair value is for the space, and ask your landlord that your monthly rent be reduced by that amount, since the promised storage space is now unusable. That way, it's on him either to enforce the letter of the existing agreement or to make you whole in monetary terms, and you don't have to be the bad guy that nags the family every time a kid forgets and "temporarily" leaves the bike in the garage.
posted by Bardolph at 12:01 PM on August 8, 2015 [9 favorites]

To clarify, I am supposed to have exclusive access to the garage; the landlords (who normally live in the larger house, but are out of the country) also have their own belongings in there. They are friends with the family renting the house. I think the landlords' attitude leans toward sharing the space, if it's available, though technically it is supposed to be mine. I don't know how the other family got a key to it.

If your lease says that you have exclusive access, then your LLs have to enforce it. If they've decided that, hey, you get to share, then they'll have to renegotiate the terms of the lease (ideally, with a lower rent). Your local tenants' rights association will be able to help, if necessary. Unfortunately, in most jurisdictions you can't change the locks without LL's permission.

Er, don't move the bikes yourself, as that will let you in for much pain and suffering if any damage occurs. Even the LL has to follow local rules about moving a tenant's errant property.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:02 PM on August 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

On these facts, as you have described them here anyway, I disagree with your negative labels that these people are "inconsiderate" and "self-absorbed." Seems like you hardly know them, but you should acknowledge to yourself that you nevertheless can't stand these people (and that's fine-- own it), and start having some better boundaries instead of getting all bent out of shape and ascribing bad motives to them. Taken together with your statements that "everything that happens has been so small" and "I don't desperately need the storage" this reads a bit like B.E.C.

1. Know yourself; worry about yourself. You've listed a lot of things wrong with this family, but mostly, I'm guessing you happen to value respecting neighbors' quiet, space, and time, and this family basically doesn't appear to value these things to your own personal standards of which they are 100% unaware so you're getting walked all over. Take some responsibility for your mistake of offering to pet-sit for these people you can't stand, and for offering to do it for free when petsitting is one of your forms of paid employment. They are crapping all over your values, whatever they are, and that annoys you, and it has gone on long enough that it really pisses you off so now you are making it all their fault you can't watch their pets on the schedule you desire. You're blaming them for your own choice because you didn't want to figure out what was bothering you and learn how to fix it.

2. Be realistic here. This family does not sound like a bunch of horrible people - and I doubt you would have offered free petsitting if you genuinely thought them horrible. They're probably not being purposely, gleefully, disrespectful and irritating. "Their kids are loud every time they walk past, and sometimes this is early enough in the morning that it wakes me up." You're assuming they are doing this intentionally to disturb you, but you mention no typical apartment-dweller-esque countermeasures you're taking, such as a box fan or a white noise maker. "They'll often idle their cars for several minutes while they wait for their kids, and the exhaust gets in my apartment if the window is open." Sounds like this is foreseeable to you now, and easily-solved in a drama-free manner by you preemptively closing your window at the appropriate time(s). If that fails, you could certainly talk to them directly about it and ask for what you want-- but you sound so angry already, frankly I'm worried about the disrespectful tone you might inadvertently take with them while trying to hide your true negative feelings about them, so I don't know.

3. Know EXACTLY what you want. You don't really seem to want their kids to have to put their bikes in the basement so you can have that garage space you've admitted you don't even at this point truly need-- no; you DO want them to value and respect you to your standards. You want them to stop idling their car near your window, stop their kids from talking on the sidewalk outside while you are sleeping, and stop opening the loud garage door (I agree with jbenben's idea for how to fix the noise.) They'll hopefully want to fit in with you, their kind neighbor who grants them petsitting favors, by being respectful, but the thing is, they probably don't recognize that they're disrespecting your boundaries at all because their friends the owners have apparently given them key access to the garage, and allowed children to live there, and allowed cars to be turned on there. "I'm incredibly annoyed because they sent a relative to the house to basically check on what I was doing... and feel a little offended." Again, you have invented a bad motive (they don't trust me!) when perhaps a more charitable reading would be the relative wants to come over there for some unknown reason to you, and/or they are being considerate of you in their way by thinking this other person is helping you do such a big, generous favor for them.
posted by hush at 12:03 PM on August 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

Also, fwiw, as you work from home, you need to care a lot more than people that work outside the home about noise and other stuff.
posted by k8t at 12:33 PM on August 8, 2015

-The sidewalk to the street is directly next to my studio. Their kids are loud every time they walk past, and sometimes this is early enough in the morning that it wakes me up. The parents also make no attempt to lower their voices.

I think the only way to stop being annoyed by this is to stop being woken up by it. Assuming it would be unreasonable to expect the kids to be quiet every time they pass your window in the morning, in your shoes I'd run a loud box fan every night, or put it on a timer to start at a certain time in the morning.
posted by bananana at 2:38 PM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tell them that if the bikes are in the garage tomorrow, you will put them just outside the garage. Then do it.

If you have exclusive use of the garage, how are they able to open the door?
posted by yclipse at 5:00 PM on August 8, 2015

I think people have given thoughts on the other things so I won't add there, but I really think you are misinterpreting the cat thing. I think that perhaps they realized that asking you to stop by everyday might be a hassle to you, so when they found out that relative could do it periodically they thought it might relieve some of the hassle to you. This was clunky how they did this, but I could imagine doing something similar and thinking, "she'll be so relieved to not have to check on kitty everyday." If they are nice people, I would interpret it that way.
posted by Toddles at 7:38 PM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you want to try a softly softly approach with the garage (though you'd be well within your right to just lay down your legal rights) tell them you're about to move a large amount of possessions into the garage and as long as multiple people have keys and access with people coming and going, your things aren't covered under insurance. It's a liability if things go missing and it's a liability if people get hurt when you don't even know they were there. Therefore you'll have to ask them to move their bikes and will be keeping it locked from now on. For the safety of the children of course.
posted by Jubey at 7:57 PM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A lot of the answers strike me as at least slightly uncharitable and some seem very hasty to criticize you (many without actually having read and understood the garage part), so I want to say that I don't think you're being unreasonable. The best way to stop hating your neighbors is accepting that while you might need more quiet than some people (either because you're particularly sensitive, or because you're home more often, or for whatever reason, like because you're child-free by choice), that's okay, even if it means that you probably want to move when your lease is up. In the meantime, I found a way to cope with a similar situation to years and actually did just sign another year lease despite the loud jerks who live upstairs from me. Just kidding, I actually like them now and I'm lucky because they're very sympathetic to me and never treat me like I'm annoying them when I reach out about noise concerns.

First of all, I realized that just knowing their schedule made a big difference. My neighbors offered to let me know if they host playdates because it gets so loud upstairs that clients on conference calls would get snarly about the noise on my end, so now I can plan around them, and I know that it's going to end so I don't sit in my apartment thinking about whatever situation they're doing to make so much noise (bowling? using a chainsaw?) and when it's going to end. I used to get really worked up thinking they would just keep being noisy forever and how dare they! They also kindly give me a head's up when they're going out of town so I don't have to deal with them! I love that about them, knowing I have a break coming up where I won't hear a single footstep makes their general chaos bearable.

If you think that would help you, I would frame the conversation something like this: "Hey, because of the way my apartment is set up [blame your apartment situation, not them!], I hear you guys really clearly in the mornings when you're on the sidewalk. I don't want to make you think you need to worry about every little noise, but I do work from home, so I am home more than most and I am also sensitive to noise. Do you guys expect to keep the same schedule when school starts? I'm going to try to run a fan/wear earplugs/move my bed when I know I'll hear you, so I wanted to be able to plan for it because the noise is unavoidable due to the placement of my bedroom and the sidewalk."

Make it clear you don't expect them to change because it's not THEIR fault they have to walk by your windows, you'll be the one accommodating them. I guess if you want to be direct you could tell them to pipe down, but I doubt this will work. FWIW, I think it's rude that they never asked if they were being too loud in the mornings, but I was a super sensitive kid because my parents would constantly remind us not to be too loud in case we bothered other people. My therapist thinks this was bad parenting, but I still can't help but be annoyed that parents of loud children don't remind them to be considerate.

Being able to expect the noise means it won't feel like random attacks on your peace and quiet, it will just be something with a set beginning and end that you can get through. Eventually you might get used to it enough to sleep through it. I definitely sympathize with you that they wake you up, I actually have two very loud fans going in my bedroom, plus I play a white noise app, AND my neighbors still occasionally wake me up even with earplugs in, so I know it's not as easy as people think to block out noise.

As for noise during the day, from the garage and such, it's hard for people to understand that "working from home" doesn't mean working at a coffee shop or working in a super casual environment (whether or not you're wearing pants during working hours :) It might help to explain that's why you're home so often and that you need to be home because of x, y, z (in my case, because I need the equipment in my home office, and the reliable wifi and phone connection, and because I don't live close to any coffeeshops or shared office spaces that I could work out of anyway). It did seem to help in my case, at least, now the family realizes that I can't just put on headphones or earplugs when they get loud. Making it clear that I would do what I could on my end before asking them to do something differently is really the key.

About the garage: if oiling the garage door made the noise bearable, would you be able to propose they use the storage space in the garage that belongs to you in exchange for using their basement for storage? I don't know if that's practical, since I imagine the basement is only accessible from their separate building, which might get weird unless it's stuff you never need access to. But either way, while it sucks for the family that it's not convenient for their bikes to be in their basement, it also sucks for you that your apartment has windows that face the sidewalk and that they have kids who get loud. It's not at all unreasonable for you to not want to accommodate them because you're also living with inconvenience, so I hope you're able to put your foot down!

I think the cat thing might be a bitch eating crackers situation, but it's annoying that you now have to coordinate your schedule with this other person instead of just knowing if you're needed or not!
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 11:33 PM on August 8, 2015

On the bikes, I'd talk to your landlord again (once your neighbors return) to clarify the garage space. Whether you are using it or not, if you are the only one paying rent on it, you should be the only one using it/with keys to it. If you had a spare room inside your apartment, your neighbors wouldn't be entitled to just move someone in there just because you were't using it! If the space is going to be shared, then you should be spliting the portion of rent that covers the garage space. Or if you're not able to share it -- because the things you need to store are fragile, and you need to rent a non-shared space to store them off the property -- then you shouldn't be paying rent on the garage at all and your neighbors should take over that payment.

You mentioned that you're in the Bay Area, so I'll just note that this isn't some small amount of money in that area -- storage space is at a premium. Even ten years ago, I had a housemate who rented the attached garage from our landlord for storage and I think it was maybe $400/ it would likely be worth even more. I feel like some of the commenters above might not realize how much the OP is paying for this space that he/she now doesn't get to use. I think it would probably be easier to feel zen about this if you didn't feel like they were using space that you pay (probably a significant chunk of change) for.

I think it's fine to politely ask about idling the car. Perhaps it's even possible for them to pull the car up/down the driveway or out into the steet so at least it's not right underneath your window.

And finally, the noise will probably decrease significantly once school starts! So, there is an end in sight. :)
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:52 AM on August 10, 2015

Focusing on the garage thing, here's my take:

To clarify, I am supposed to have exclusive access to the garage; the landlords (who normally live in the larger house, but are out of the country) also have their own belongings in there. They are friends with the family renting the house. I think the landlords' attitude leans toward sharing the space, if it's available, though technically it is supposed to be mine.

What does "supposed to have exclusive access" mean? What does your lease say about the space in the garage? If you don't have a clear written lease, then your complaint is based on a lot of assumptions that may not be shared by others.

What does "technically it is supposed to be mine" mean? Who is doing this supposing? Note, the word "technically" is thrown around a lot, but means pretty much nothing in a discussion like this.

You say the landlords' things are in there. Therefore, you are incorrect when you say you are "supposed to have exclusive access to the garage." You're supposed to share it with the landlord.

If the lease says you are to have X square feet, or the left side of the garage from Y to Z, and if you don't have exactly that space, then the landlord has violated your lease and you're owed a refund.

If the landlord has allowed the neighbors (who are renting the landlord's house) to use part of the landlord's own space, you have no complaint. As you admit, your right to the garage space is subject to the landlord's own right to use the same garage space.

Summing up, does your lease give you any specific rights in the garage?
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:32 AM on August 10, 2015

I'd just move if it's possible.

You kind of shot yourself in the foot about not pursuing the garage space issue further, and then you offered to cat-sit after that. What else will they ask next time? Baby sit their kids when they go out of town next time? Have the neighbors done anything for you? Are you getting paid for your time to cat sit?

Also, you've got absentee landlords (i.e. 'out of sight, out of mind') who seem to give a lot of leeway to their 'friends', who've been living there longer than you. Ultimately, both tenants are just meat on their sandwich, and the other family most likely pays substantially more a month in rent. If push came to shove, who do you think the landlords would side with? Use this experience as a lesson in enforcing proper boundaries with yourself and with others.

One more suggestion - seeing how you work from home, is it possible to telecommute from outside the general area, or even out of state? I know people that work for Bay Area tech companies that live outside of CA and they're crushing it - CA salary in a much lower COL location....ah, to dream...

I may sound harsh but I currently live in the Bay Area too. I could write a book about the amount of small-time landlord bullshit I've put up with over the years.
posted by kilohertz at 10:53 AM on August 13, 2015

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