Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Life...in general => Topic started by: MissMikey on January 31, 2013, 08:00:00 AM

Title: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: MissMikey on January 31, 2013, 08:00:00 AM
Something has emerged as a point of contention between my boyfriend and our downstairs neighbor, so I'm hoping I can get some outside perspective on it. This might be a little long, but I'm trying to be thorough.

Background: We live in a community that was built right after WWII to house returning veterans and their families. There are "blocks" of 4 attached houses and each house has an apartment on the first floor and on the second floor. The two apartments are exactly the same, the biggest difference is that the first floor apartment has direct access to the basement, which in our case is where the washing machine is as well our storage unit, while the second floor tenants have to walk around the block of houses to the back in order to access the basement. Also, we share a front entrance: the front door opens and directly in front of you is the entrance to the first floor apartment and the stairs leading up to the second floor apartment. This isn't our house, but it looks close enough that it should give you an idea of what I'm describing: http://bit.ly/XUPzcQ
 (http://bit.ly/XUPzcQ)
Anyway, my boyfriend, "Max," and I live in a second floor apartment in a house in the middle of a block of houses. Max has lived there for about 15 years and has had a number of first floor neighbors over that time. "Kevin" lives in the first floor apartment now and has lived there for probably about 3 years. To the best of my knowledge, we both pay the same amount in rent. Max has also been doing all of the yardwork since he's been living here.

Last night, Max and Kevin were having an argument about something completely unrelated when it emerged that Kevin is incredibly resentful of Max's charcoal grill and his grilling habit. For years Max has had a charcoal grill that he's kept behind the front bushes and chained to the front porch railing. If you look at the picture I linked to, you should be able to picture what I'm talking about. To get the grill, he does have to go in front of Kevin's window, but the grill itself is not technically under the window, it's off to the side. When he grills, he does it in the front yard for reasons I'll get to in a moment. So it involves a fair amount of running up and down the stairs between our kitchen and the grill in the front yard. Which is another thing Kevin had issues with, he kept referring to Max going through the front entrance with "dead meat" (I think he may have meant "raw meat" since it came up in the context of disinfecting). I should point out that the meat, cooked or raw, is always in a container of some kind and Max is always careful about contamination.

The simplest solution would be to use the backyard, but we don't for a number of reasons. One, the backyard is not fenced, it opens directly onto an alley, and there is nowhere to chain the grill without it potentially blocking the entrance to the basement. It would be stolen within days if he put it out there without chaining it. Second, to access the backyard we have walk around the neighboring two houses. That's not a huge deal, but it is very inconvenient. Lastly, Kevin has a dog that he lets out into that backyard. She's usually on a leash connected to his back steps, but the leash is fairly long, so she usually roams around our backyard and the neighbors. Even though he picks up after her, there's almost always a piece of poop in the back. If Max wanted to grill, he would essentially have to schedule around the dog.

After all this (finally!), my question is: Is Max overstepping himself by using the front yard like this?

I've live in apartments before where the first floor apt had exclusive access to the yard, but that was almost always in the case of a fenced backyard that could only be accessed through the first floor apartment. I've also lived in places that were set up exactly the same as this place and it was understood that both tenants had equal access to the yards. I realize that it probably makes us look kind of low-rent to be doing this in the front yard, but our landlord doesn't care about Max's grill and the way he uses it. Max confirmed it with him last night after the argument and he's even seen us out in the front yard with the grill, so he knows how it's used. This has the potential to become a real issue between Max and Kevin, so I need some outside perspective.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: CharlieBraun on January 31, 2013, 08:16:55 AM
I can see Kevin's point; it may be that Max is overstepping his bounds.

Did Kevin say "I want you to put that BBQ in the backyard?"  Does Kevin offer another solution?  Could you reach an agreement where you let Kevin know 24 hours in advance that you are going to be BBQ-ing that night?  Is Kevin just resentful or did he actually say "that bothers me and I want you to stop it."

I will be honest, looking at that picture, I might be in Kevin's shoes on this one.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: rashea on January 31, 2013, 08:24:00 AM
I think unless Kevin can come up with a better solution, which wouldn't include using the backyard in my opinion, he needs to accept that he doesn't own the yard. It would be reasonable for him to ask Max to let him know in advance so he can shut his windows, but it's not reasonable to ask that his neighbor not use the yard.

Is Kevin a vegetarian? I ask because of the "dead meat" comment? If so, it really might be a smell issue.

Max could also do what he can to avoid the running up and down the stairs by bring most of what he needs out.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: Hmmmmm on January 31, 2013, 08:40:04 AM
I think it's unfortunate that there is not another option, but I think Max is within his right to use the front yard. 
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: bopper on January 31, 2013, 08:43:55 AM
Kevin is thinking as if he has a single family home.  He doesn't. 
Now, if Max is bbqing and smoke is going into Kevin's apt, then Kevin has a point.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: Eden on January 31, 2013, 09:01:35 AM
I agree that Max is doing nothing wrong, as long as he's not slamming doors and lumbering up and down the stairs. Shared living spaces just come with minor annoyances and inconveniences that are not anyone's fault. If that is the worst offense you and Max cause as neighbors, Kevin is one lucky guy.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: TootsNYC on January 31, 2013, 09:06:07 AM
However, I would say that Max should find whatever he can do to minimize the impact on Kevin.

Maybe he can create a [non-unsightly] storage space downstairs for most of his equipment, even if it means encroaching on the shared tiny foyer.

Maybe he should find a place to set the grill (while he's grilling) that isn't right outside Kevin's home (I know how frustrating it can be to have other people constantly in the "picture frame" of your window. It feels like they're in the house with you, whether windows are open or not.)

Max doesn't have to quit, but he'd have a better relationship with Kevin if he found ways to be sympathetic and cooperative.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: Isisnin on January 31, 2013, 09:34:54 AM
Agree with TootsNYC that when Max grills, he should move the grill some distance away from the window.   But keeping the grill locked by/under the window is fine.  Max has had it there for years and it was there when Kevin viewed the apartment. 

The "raw/dead meat" thing just sounds like something threw out in the heat of an argument.  After all, meat is raw when its brought home from the store - and then it's not well contained.  Meat often drips out of the plastic wrap and saturates the shopping bag.  Max is doing the right thing by using more secure containerizes. 
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: amylouky on January 31, 2013, 09:35:57 AM
Sorry, I think Kevin needs to suck it up, it's not just his yard. That's part of what you have to deal with living in an apartment as opposed to buying your own home. If the landlord is okay with how/where the grill is set up, then I think Max is okay doing as he's doing.
I do suspect Kevin is a vegetarian of the pushy sort, hence the "dead meat" comment. Still not Max's problem.
The only thing I'd suggest is maybe giving Kevin warning so he can close his window if he wishes, so he doesn't have to smell the smoke.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: jaxsue on January 31, 2013, 09:43:46 AM
A few years ago when I lived in a garden apartment the only option for grilling was doing it in the common area. I had neighbors who did this. I never saw a problem with it.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: guihong on January 31, 2013, 09:53:02 AM
If you have an otherwise OK relationship with Kevin, have you considered inviting him to join you when you BBQ?  If he is a vegetarian, either you can have vegetarian options available or he can decline.  Either way, it might smooth things over.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: WillyNilly on January 31, 2013, 10:09:04 AM
Kevin needs to go buy himself a private house because he's dead wrong here.

First of all the BBQ was there, chained to the rails, under the window before he moved in, right?  That was the time to bring it up as an issue, to the landlord.  That he didn't, or he did and the landlord allowed it to continue is it, the final word.  The landlord is the only one who gets to decide if its ok or not... and the landlord is fine with it.

Personally I would not be ok with Kevin's dog wandering around the back so every time I wanted to go to storage or do laundry I had to deal with a dog who could freely approach me (even if on a lead, since its attached at the door, its not keeping the dog away from the door).  I think if you deal with a wandering dog and poop for any amount of time other then the minute or two it takes an owner to pick it up, I think you and Max are dealing with the much worse end of the deal then the sight and smell of a grill and the sound of a neighbor going up and down the stairs.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: GlassHalfFull on January 31, 2013, 10:32:33 AM
I'd put the onus on Kevin to find a solution that works for all of you, "We're sorry this has bothered you.  We need this grill to be chained and readily accessible.  Let us know if you have some suggestions for where to place it, where these two criteria are still met, that might work best of all of us."  Then he'll know his complaint was heard and acknowledged, but as you're not actually in the wrong here I think his time should be spent coming up with a better solution (if there is one) rather than your time. 
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: RebeccainGA on January 31, 2013, 10:42:12 AM
I agree with many above - it's Kevin's issue, he needs to find another solution if there is one to be found. He's not in a private (or even semi-private - sharing with *three* other families!) house. He doesn't own the lawn. He doesn't contribute to the lawn, either, if Max does all the work. Max is well within his rights to use the front lawn to BBQ all he wants. Unless he decides to spill meat drippings all over the foyer and parade a dozen folks up and down the stairs all evening while he grills, he's causing no real harm - it sounds like Kevin either has issues with meat (vegetarian? vegan? self-righteous?) or with BBQ (thinks it's pedestrian or caveman-like?) and he either needs to move or get over it. Max was the incumbent, the grill was obviously visible when Kevin moved in, nothing that Max has hidden.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: MyFamily on January 31, 2013, 11:05:53 AM
When we lived in an apartment, our kitchen window overlooked the slab in the (common) back yard.  This slab was the only place anyone could barbecue (no room in front, and landlord didn't want us to use the grass).  The building was 4 families, and of the 4 two of us (one of them being my dh and I) barbecued a lot, one did so occasionally and one never did. 

Every spring and summer we noticed that I was getting tons of migraines, especially at night.  We finally figured out it was because of the burning coal (we all had coal webber grills, not gas grills), and since all the barbecuing was happening right outside our window, it was giving me migraines. 

We talked to our neighbors, and nicely asked them if they'd mind grilling as far as they could from our windows, but while still staying on the slab so that basically they weren't directly under our windows.  We also asked if they noticed our kitchen windows were open, if they'd knock on our door (which was right by the door leading outside) and let us know what they were doing so we could close the windows.  And if for some reason they couldn't or didn't want to be too far from the door, so they were right under our windows, would they let me know so I could hang out in another part of the apartment.  Everyone was great about it, and while it didn't stop the migraines, it did help reduce them. 

The point of my story was that we had a problem, similar to Kevin's, but we 1) asked nicely and 2) put the onus on us changing things if they couldn't or didn't want to move their grills (ie closing our windows, me hanging out somewhere else in the apartment and me taking some migraine meds before the migraine hit). 

Kevin may have some legitimate concerns but he went about it all wrong.  And I really don't see a way to change anything; the landlord is okay with how things are, Max isn't spilling raw meat juices all over the floor and door, and living in an apartment means living surrounded by other people. 

Have I mentioned how happy I am that we own a house now?
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: Amara on January 31, 2013, 11:53:05 AM
I agree with everyone that the problem is Kevin's. And I don't think he has a leg to stand on. OP, you and Max and the other tenants in the block deal with Kevin's dog--apparently nicely. There could be issues around that too but there aren't because everyone recognizes that sharing a property requires some accommodations. Well, Kevin needs to recognize that the accommodations swing more than one way, not only but especially because the landlord feels the current situation works for everyone.

It would be best if Kevin and Max were able to talk this out and come to an understanding but I suspect the unrelated argument has set a tone that they are unlikely to be able to back down from.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: wheeitsme on January 31, 2013, 01:39:05 PM
It's Kevin's issue, he needs to find another solution if there is one to be found. He's not in a private (or even semi-private - sharing with *three* other families!) house. He doesn't own the lawn. He doesn't contribute to the lawn, either, if Max does all the work. Max is well within his rights to use the front lawn to BBQ all he wants. Unless he decides to spill meat drippings all over the foyer and parade a dozen folks up and down the stairs all evening while he grills, he's causing no real harm <snip> he either needs to move or get over it. Max was the incumbent, the grill was obviously visible when Kevin moved in, nothing that Max has hidden.

Agree.  And the person who OWNS the building is okay with Max and his grill.  And it sounds like Max is a great tenant.  Very long term, dependable renter, who contributes to the upkeep of the yard.  Kevin is going to have to learn to deal with it.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: camlan on January 31, 2013, 06:45:36 PM
However, I would say that Max should find whatever he can do to minimize the impact on Kevin.

Maybe he can create a [non-unsightly] storage space downstairs for most of his equipment, even if it means encroaching on the shared tiny foyer.

Maybe he should find a place to set the grill (while he's grilling) that isn't right outside Kevin's home (I know how frustrating it can be to have other people constantly in the "picture frame" of your window. It feels like they're in the house with you, whether windows are open or not.)

Max doesn't have to quit, but he'd have a better relationship with Kevin if he found ways to be sympathetic and cooperative.

I think Max has every right to use the front yard, including grilling out there.

However, I've been the ground floor tenant, with windows right by the front door, in a big old house that had been converted to apartments. With upstairs neighbors who would bring lawn chairs down to sit in the front yard, right in front of my big, beautiful floor to ceiling windows. About two feet away from the windows, in fact. And the other neighbors who didn't get cell phone reception in their apartment who sat on the front steps, about two feet from the big, beautiful, open in the summertime windows, to make all their phone calls.

The front yard was huge. The back yard was huge. The side yards were even bigger. There was no reason they had to be that close.

It's awkward when the neighbors are that close. In my living room, I could hear every word each one of them said. I worried that the neighbors would think I was eavesdropping, although all I was doing was sitting in my living room and reading. I tried spending more time in the kitchen and my bedroom, but the TV was in the living room, my computer was there, my comfy reading chair was there.

But I really didn't want to sit and listen to one couple fighting, or someone describing every last detail of her latest date. I felt uncomfortable sitting in my own living room. I felt almost as if I were being spied on, the neighbors were that close and could see that easily into my windows. I felt that if I wanted to listen to music or watch TV, I'd disturb them. Because they did have the right to sit outside in on the front lawn.

So I tried to nicely tell everyone exactly how much I could hear. And they got mad at me and complained to the landlord. But they did stop sitting right by my windows, when the landlord installed a bench further away from the house.

So, while I think Max has every right to grill in the front yard, and I think that the back yard is simply not an option for him, I do think he should try to minimize the impact on Kevin as much as possible. Can Max unchain the grill while he's using it, to move it further away from the windows? Can he try to be as quiet as possible with the several trips in and out?
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: wheeitsme on January 31, 2013, 08:11:30 PM
<snip>
Can Max unchain the grill while he's using it, to move it further away from the windows? Can he try to be as quiet as possible with the several trips in and out?

My understanding is that according to the OP, Max does unchain the grill and move it further away from the windows when he actually uses it.

Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: snowdragon on January 31, 2013, 11:32:03 PM
So Kevin wants people to deal with his dog ( and they do) AND he wants to control what goes on in the front, too? And he wants Max not to have meat where Kevin can smell it( from the dead meat comment) - yeah, I have no sympathy.  Max is completely in the right and Kevin needs to solve it himself.  And I would not consider Max having to give notice that he wants to grill a fair solution, it gives Kevin far too much of an invasion into Max's life. 
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: Penguin_ar on February 01, 2013, 06:56:39 AM
Does your lease say anything about garden usage?  I used to live in a couple of similar properties and both of them mentioned yard usage (and maintenance) in the lase, usually the front yard for the 1st floor neighbour and the back for the 2nd floor, but with both having right of day through the other neighbour's yard for trash/ getting in the door etc.  Even if there is nothing specified, maybe you can suggest such an arrangement to Kevin- it may suit him to have use of the front yard only, and being able to let his dog roam there rather than chained to the backstep, and you'd have the backyard- a little more inconvenient, but then free of  dog poop and you can chain the bbq to the backstep where the dog is now chained.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: TootsNYC on February 01, 2013, 07:36:57 AM
One problem with that is that the upstairs tenant does not have direct access to the backyard--they have to go around the entire building. And they'd have to walk through dog-poop territory (which is why they don't use the backyard now).

The other problem was a lack of bushes to shield the grill from nefarious eyes, because the chain wouldn't be enough to stop someone from stealing it--if I understood the OP correctly. That can be taken care of if anyone could make an enclosure from plywood or solid fencing panels, the way people sometimes make trash-can enclosures.

Mark can minimize the trips up and down (and the disruption that accompanies them) by planning better and by stashing some of the equipment, etc., in the downstairs hallway. He can get a larger container to use to take everything downstairs (we have a patio at our apt bldg that we like to eat in, and it's easier on US when we do these things).

And he can be sure not to let the door slam behind him on trips up and down.

And he should do any of these sorts of things that are *possible*--but given that the backyard is not that accessible, I believe he's fine to use the front as long as he moves the grill as far as he can out of view of the windows while he's working.
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: cheyne on February 01, 2013, 10:49:47 AM
Kevin is a special snowflake.  He's been living there for 3 years and is only bringing this up now?  Unless Max is flinging blood soaked meat into the vestibule, Kevin is way out of line with the "dead meat" comment. 

I really can't see a way to compromise on this.  Max can't use the back yard due to Kevin's dog and nowhere to chain the grill.  Compounding this is that Max does all the yard work and has a right to enjoy the fruits of his labors.

Max has permission to cook meat on a grill if he so desires (the landlord has backed this up).  So I think that Kevin is going to have to suck it up and deal.  Perhaps Max could try and make fewer trips up and down the stairs? 

OP, how do you and Max get along with Kevin in general?  Would this issue be able to be resolved over a glass of wine?  Has there been some contention between the two of them on other issues in the past 3 years?
Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: JoieGirl7 on February 01, 2013, 04:59:36 PM
I don't really see why Max would need to minimize his trips up and down the stairs.  That's the egress to his apartment and cooking out on the grill is a reasonable use of the property he has rented.

As far as whether or not his meat is covered, also, its no one else's business.  If Kevin doesn't like it he doesn't have to stand in the hallway while Max walks by.

Title: Re: Upstairs/Downstairs Neighbor Conflict (long)
Post by: camlan on February 02, 2013, 03:28:56 PM
I don't really see why Max would need to minimize his trips up and down the stairs.  That's the egress to his apartment and cooking out on the grill is a reasonable use of the property he has rented.

As far as whether or not his meat is covered, also, its no one else's business.  If Kevin doesn't like it he doesn't have to stand in the hallway while Max walks by.

I don't think Max has to cut out his trips up and down the stairs, but I do think he should minimize the impact of those trips on Kevin.

There's necessary noises of daily living--people walk on their floors, flush the toilet, run the dishwasher, watch TV, talk, etc. You can't really complain about them, because there's nothing anyone can do about them. And there are the noises that can be controlled to some extent--slamming doors, loud volumes on TVs and stereos, yelling, wearing hardsoled shoes indoors. Those noises are far more irritating, because you know they can be controlled, but the other tenants simply don't care to.

It's possible that the stairs are carpeted and Kevin hears nothing when people are walking up and down stairs, and that the front door closes silently, instead of banging shut, and that Max never talks loudly enough to be heard in Kevin's apartment.

But I'll bet the reality is that Kevin can hear footsteps and the door shutting and Max talking on the stairs or out on the front lawn. In a shared living situation like this, I think the polite thing to do is to minimize the impact these normal noises of daily living have on the occupants of the other units in your building.

For example, due to some medical issues, I have to wear shoes all the time. I also have downstairs neighbors. So I wear Keds in the house, which don't make noise when I walk, and I have area rugs down over most of the floors. I use headphones when I watch TV, because I like to turn the volume up. I'm very careful how I shut the outside doors early in the morning or late in the evening, because someone could be asleep. I don't slam the doors, ever, unlike the downstairs people who slam, slam, slam all day long.

So if Max is disturbing Kevin with every trip up and down the stairs, while he doesn't *have* to do anything, it would be polite and neighborly to reduce the number of trips if possible, and to do everything else possible to reduce the noise associated with the trips.