Most of us have neighbours. And having neighbours can turn out to be surprisingly good ... or irritatingly bad.


If you live in an apartment building, hearing the hums of others’ lives, muffled through the walls, can be comforting to some. Unfortunately, if those sounds become blaring rock music after midnight, or a screaming baby in the wee hours, you might want to think about alternative housing.


A woman I know has lived in the same building for more than a decade. She’s single, dates, and likes knowing that help — if necessary — is only a scream away. Last year, the apartment to the left of her changed hands. From the quiet serenity of an elderly woman to the dope smoking, electric guitar of a college student, my friend’s nights became unbearable.


She started off civilly, knocking on the young man’s door, explaining she needed sleep in order to be able to work in the morning — to no avail. She warned him that if he didn’t show some understanding, she’d be forced to complain to the superintendent. When that didn’t produce any results, she took it to a higher level, explaining her situation to the board responsible for the building in which she lived.


Tenacious and knowing her rights, this woman went all the way to a court hearing, which resulted in the student’s eviction. Victory — and serenity for my friend once more.

A few months ago I wrote about one of my former neighbours who smoked in his apartment, causing mine to smell like a stale nightclub (before they banned smoking indoors). I tried the same tactic as my friend had used — I approached the neighbour directly, explaining how his smoking was affecting my environment, and the concerns I had for my health and that of my child.

He did start smoking one or two of his daily amount outdoors, but unfortunately, even the smoke from one cigarette was leaking through the floorboards, and coming in to my place through the backs of the cupboards. I tried getting legal advice, finding out my rights, but unfortunately, unless the landlord was planning on getting involved, the law is in his favour. A person can smoke in their own private dwelling, as long as none of that space is shared.

Air that travels doesn’t seem to count as shared space. I went as far as I could, and then opted to move out. I may have switched one problem for another, but I no longer share walls with a smoker.

I’m sure that my new neighbours are wondering what problems I’ve brought with me, since they most likely had already adjusted to whatever may have bothered them about the last people who lived here.

But that’s the point about neighbours: We all have to try to live in peaceful proximity, whether in the same building or on the same street.

Don’t make hasty judgments — talk to your neighbours first and see if you can work things out amicably.