What to Do If the Upstairs Neighbor Clog Dances and
Other Trials of Community Living

If you are like every other community, you receive complaints from Members spanning from noise to odor. Understanding that people are unique and expect to be treated that way, a lot of communities struggle with how to handle arguments and disagreements between neighbors. Rules are a good place to start.

Although there is an “I” in community, members need to realize that there is also an “Us” in housing. The best way to prevent situations is to host a variety of community only events. Budgetary issues need not be a factor in these events either. Summer and fall are great times to hold pot-lucks and share the wealth. It is also a great time for members to meet in a relaxed and open atmosphere. Getting to know one’s neighbors, in most cases, creates a sense of obligation to one another. The end result may be that complaints will be resolved without further involvement. Sometimes however, it just does not work out.

Common complaints are noisy neighbors and neighbors that decide a hallway is good place to store his or her bicycle for the winter. Other complaints include a member using the community lawn as his or her pet’s toilet without picking up, and odors associated with cigarette and cigar smoking. Depending on how your rules and regulations are drafted and what they address, community living can either be delightful or downright frightful.

In the Art of War, Sun Wu said that “if orders are unclear, it is the commander's fault. But when the orders are clear, and are not carried out, it is the officers fault." In other words, if your community rules are either unclear or simply non-existent, dispute resolution will be tougher to handle and the offending behavior less likely curtailed. A very good example is a complaint regarding a clear rule violation such as excessive noise (stereo after 10:00 p.m.) versus a complaint about cigarette smoke. If your rules fail to address or regulate the smoking, your role in this dispute is going to be extremely limited and neither member will be pleased with each other or you.

In the event you find yourself trying to mediate disputes between neighbors, look first to see if the complaint can be resolved by pointing to a rule or regulation. If it is unclear or your rules do not address the substance of the complaint, try to hear each side and provide a solution grounded in the ideals of community living. Once the matter has been addressed, revisit cooperative rules and regulations and see whether or not clarification and revisions are in order. Often times one word can make all the difference.