I once had neighbors whose kids screamed every morning, like clockwork, at 5:30 a.m. Conversely, they felt it was unreasonable for us to play acoustic guitar in our apartment at 8 p.m. Sometimes, you just can’t win. What you can do is learn from my mistakes, and keep things civil instead of losing it one day and repeatedly putting your sneakers in the dryer after midnight.
Sharing a building with other people will nearly always cause inconvenience for all parties; recognize that upfront, and start out on good terms with your neighbors. A little good will goes a long way. In my situation, for example, our neighbors were perfectly civil to us for almost 9 months before the **** hit the ***, simply because we smiled, said hello, and were generally friendly.
Always listen, even if you don’t act
They were also civil because we listened to their complaints, as unreasonable as it seemed to us. We always tried to accommodate their situation if we could. Lots of times people just want to be heard, so hear them and agree to work on the issue. Explain your side of the story—without getting defensive.
Hint at your complaints without actually complaining
One thing my roommates and I didn’t do was complain back. We figured, if their kids are screaming at 5:30, they’re probably just as unhappy as we are, and it’s not their fault the floors are so thin. The problem with this approach is that if your neighbors don’t know you have a problem, they can act the victim. Sure, keep it to yourself, but if they come around to talk about how your life is too noisy for them, listen and then politely respond with your own issues. Again, acknowledge that they’re not to blame, but let them know that proximity cuts both ways.
Alert your landlord
If your neighbors are consistently upset with you, and there’s really no good reason (note: massive, unscheduled parties lasting until dawn qualify as a good reason to be upset with you), give your landlord a heads-up. Let her know that you’ve received complaints, are working to solve the problem, and that you want your side of the story on record in case the neighbors take their unhappiness to a higher authority.
Of course, you should never stand for any kind of illegal behavior, like vandalism or trespassing. If it escalates to that, notify the police immediately. Likewise if you feel in danger. But even if you neighbors never do anything blatantly threatening or illegal, they may still be harassing you. Ringing the doorbell at all hours of the day or night, yelling, and verbal abuse are all unacceptable. You should report it to your landlord and the authorities.