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You have moved out of home, got an awesome place to stay, got your freedom and everything is going great - except for your roommate or neighbour.

No one wishes for a roommate, or neighbour, that gets on your nerves, does things that annoy you, or is just an overall difficult person to get on with.

The reality is that at some point while you’re living away from home, you might find yourself in a situation where you need to confront them about their behaviour.

woman in bed holding pillow over her head to block out a noisy neighbor or roommate

Maybe they’re having parties that move into the early hours of the morning, being disruptive, or just not cleaning up after themselves but no matter what it is, the way you’ll handle it will depend on how tough the situation has become.

If you’re already in a problematic position with a noisy neighbour or nasty roommate – then this post is for you. We’ll dive into some actionable tips and strategies to help you handle those out-of-home living conflicts.

Step1 : Define the problem so you can communicate it clearly with your neighbour or roommate

Having a neighbour who’s inconsiderate can make daily life a little bit of a battle – you might even lose some sleep in the process.

It’s important to try and keep calm, to assess the situation clearly and define the next steps you can take to resolve the issue without recurrence in the future.

Some problems are larger than others, and it’s important to define what about your neighbour’s behaviour is driving you up the wall – so you can communicate with them effectively and avoid unnecessary escalation and flared tempers.

It’s worth noting that if you’re already angry, take some time to cool down before putting pen to paper or starting a confrontation with your neighbour. It’s really important to remain calm to have a fighting chance (excuse the pun) at resolving things properly.

Now that you know what the actual issue is you need to consider the most appropriate way to address it.

two male roommates having a discussion about their living situation over breakfast

Step 2: Address your neighbour or roommate about the problem.

When it comes to disputes with your roommate it’s best to have a face-to-face discussion about your issues to avoid misunderstandings and to ensure that they understand your perspective. That said if they work a lot and you’re not sure when they’ll be available for a quick chat, it might be easier to reach your next-door neighbour via a well-crafted note.

If you’re writing a note , you can try using these templates for ready-to-go examples of informal and formal messages for phrasing your issue.

Regardless of whether you have a verbal discussion or choose to leave a note, these are some key points to keep in mind to help you address and resolve your conflict with a neighbour or roommate:

roommates having a friendly discussion about living together

Try to maintain a friendly approach.

If it’s your roommate who’s causing issues, it’s best to keep an open mind and friendly approach when dealing with the situation as it’s someone you’ll be cohabitating with for the foreseeable future.

If you’re chatting to your neighbour, and you haven’t met them before, introduce yourself with a smile, ask them how they’re doing and try to keep your approach friendly and disarming. It’ll help to have them in a good mood if you’re chatting about an issue you’re having with their activities next door.

roommates-having a friendly discussion about living together

Keep your tone consistent

If it’s the first time airing something that has become an issue for you as a result of your neighbour or roommate – try to keep the tone of your message more casual and straightforward.

If it’s not the first time you’ve aired this complaint – then try being straightforward but assertive, but it’s best not to get angry, sarcastic, or rude if you plan on resolving the issue.

State what’s bothering you briefly and provide a possible solution.

If the issue is about noise and you’re a student, you can mention that their noise is disturbing you, and you need quiet time at night to allow you to study and sleep and ask them to please keep it down.

If you’re writing a note to your neighbour or roommate, adding something like thanks for your help or thanks in advance at the end of the message is a good way to be friendly and disarming and wrap up your letter.


Step 3: Consider drafting a roommate contract or setting some ground rules with your next-door neighbour.

Now that you’ve contextualised your problem to your roommate or neighbour, and how their activities going on around you are affecting you – you could try to lead into setting some general ground rules for the future.

This way everyone is on the same page. You can have your say about the issues that you would like them to address, and in turn they can air any underlying issues they may have with you.

More often than not, these ground rules will tend to be more of a framework for a better living arrangement but they’re also valuable as they make the other party feel more involved and less attacked during the resolution process.

You could even turn it into a game. For example if your roommate is really messy (and you could use some motivation to tidy too) it could be fun to set up a designated cleaning time, or a penalty jar for not tidying up and then use the money to treat yourselves at the end of the year or month.

You can find plenty of roommate agreements and ‘good neighbour’ contract examples online to help you out – but to make things easier for you, we’ll leave a few links in the bullet point list below.

neighbors looking over a contact to meet a better living situation

Roommate contract examples:

If you’d like to handle things more casually, you can have a discussion and agree on the terms verbally, and hope for the future that further problems don’t occur.

Step 4: If the problem persists, consider a more formal conversation

So.. you’ve tried to take the nice approach and written or chatted to your rowdy roommate or nasty neighbour about the issues you’re facing… but it hasn’t stopped.

You’re tired of the lack of sleep, and daily headaches of a hostile relationship – it’s time to dial things up a bit so you can find some kind of a resolution.

If this is the case, then it’s time to arrange a more formal chat with your neighbour or roommate.
To start, set a time that’s convenient for everyone to have a face to face meeting.

neighbors having a discussion over a coffee between their apartments or houses

Preparing for your meeting

As this isn’t the first time that you’re meeting, you can be a bit more assertive but remember to keep a level head and focus on the issues and aim to reach a reasonable resolution.

It helps to plan out what you are going to cover and think through some potential solutions and compromises.

Cover the problem and what you have already done to address it

You can start by asserting what the problem is as well as the previous times you’ve spoken about the recurring issues. If necessary collective proof and evidence of your previous actions.

Come up with some potential solutions to discuss

If this is a roommate relationship issue, and it’s escalated to a problematic stage, it may be worth discussing a new living situation and whether they wish to move out, or find a means of vacating the shared living space yourself.

This is, of course, not ideal but if you’re in this situation there are a few things you can do. If you live in a private residence or university residence setup, you may automatically be assigned a new roommate if they choose to move out, or you could request to be moved to another flat within the residence. Of course, this decision will depend on the discussions you have with your roommate or as a result of meetings with the upper management of your residence.

If you’re living independently then you may need to agree on a reasonable time frame for either one of you to move out, and use the time period to either find a new roommate or a new shared living arrangement else. It’s important to note that your lease agreement may need to be amended as a result, and you will also need to meet with your landlord to see if this is even an option you can pursue.

If you are on the hunt for a new roommate in Cape Town, check out our ultimate guide for finding roommates in Cape Town.

You should also consider the financial implications and hassle of different situations and outcomes like finding new roommates or moving.

Have your say at the arranged time

You have prepared what you are going to say, you are calm and ready to have your say and the arranged time has arrived. Be friendly and polite – greet and make sure that everyone is calm and receptive.

Start the conversation by making reference to the previous discussions you’ve had regarding the recurrent issues, in an attempt to understand the situation and the cause of the inconvenience. You can then state some solutions you have come up with and allow the other person to have their say.

tenant taking roommate to prepare for a meeting with her roommate or neighbor

If you are able to resolve your issues:
Congratulations you have had a great experience in conflict resolution! You should be able to move past the conflict and have a good living relationship with your roommate or neighbour without too many more awkward conversations.

If your neighbour or roommate turns hostile or gets angry:
If the person is hostile, or this situation has reached its peak you can mention that you are in the process of seeking the help of someone with the authority to handle the confrontation between you and your neighbour.

That being said, but it’s best not to use this as a lingering threat and should rather be expressed that it’s something you have to do to find a way past the current situation which you have been unable to resolve on your own.

At this stage, the person may choose to be disagreeable and you may wish to seek the help of someone higher up, or get them to sign an agreement of some description.

neighbors or roommates having a formal discussion about living near each other, or together.

Step 5: Escalate your issue

If the situation has escalated past the point of resolution from your perspective, you’ll need to seek the help of a member of building management, your resident assistance (RA) group , Body Corporate(BC) or landlord – depending on your situation.

When requesting the help of someone higher up, like a building manager, RA or body corporate, make sure to list all your details in written form, and follow up if they aren’t getting back to you.

It’s important to note down your issues to the body corporate or manager, as well as the past discussions you’ve had with your neighbour or roommate to resolve the ongoing disputes.

Having a record of what’s taken place on specific dates will also help you keep track of your issues and build the body of evidence someone higher up may need to handle a really difficult situation with a nasty neighbour.

female tenant meeting a member of the body corporate or her landlord

Bonus Step: Find out if anyone in your housing complex/block is having similar problems.

If you are not alone and there are other people that are struggling with yout difficult neighbour or roommate it can be easier to work together to get people to take notice.

Having others on your side can be beneficial in a situation where you’re both experiencing the same kinds of disturbances from a rowdy neighbour.

Going to chat to an uncooperative neighbour is easier with others that are also experiencing the same problems by your side. It may help the other person realise that their activities are having a larger impact than they might have initially thought and get them to change their behaviour.

Alternatively, having the support of other members of your block when approaching your Body Corporate or building management about the situation may also help provide more evidence to back up your issues and may help the body corporate or building management find a solution much faster.

Just be careful not to make the person feel like they are being ganged up one as they can turn defensive and make conflict resolution very difficult!

student knocking on doors inside university residence to chat to neighbor

Are you unhappy with your current living situation? Neighbours or roommates driving you mad? Or are you just searching for a new place to stay? Arrange a viewing of NEST’s private student residence. We make sure to vet all our tenants and our friendly, 24/7 building management team helps ensure you’ll have the best time possible while you stay with us and study in Cape Town.

We offer modern rooms, WIFI, a recreational rooftop area and a lounge for our guests, and we’re based next to great public and private universities in Mowbray, Cape Town (right across the road from Damelin, and a jammie shuttle stop for University of Cape Town students).

Find out more about our rooms and get in touch with us for more information, and to arrange a visit!

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