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Salon's social bootcamp: Noisy Airbnb renters invaded my historic 'hood

Readers ask Fancy, our etiquette expert, how to navigate tricky social situations and live their best life


Kirsten Schofield
September 27, 2016 3:58PM (UTC)

Welcome to Salon's Social Bootcamp. Fancy is the pen name of Kirsten Schofield, a writer who spends her spare time considering modern etiquette, manners, and social mores. If you have a technical (which fork do I use?) or theoretical (how shall I assess the unspoken rules of conduct at my new Pilates studio?) question, direct them to advice@salon.com and she’ll do her best to shepherd you in the direction of correct behavior.

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Dear Fancy,

I live in a historic residential neighborhood in a mid-size city. Recently, my next-door neighbors have started renting their house on Airbnb. I don’t have a problem with this in theory, but their guests have been a mixed bag so far. Some of them, you wouldn’t even know they’re there, but others are pretty noisy, even on weeknights. It’s becoming a quality of life issue for my family and me. How can I politely resolve this without starting WWIII?

Jim Neighbors

Dear Gomer Pyle,

Uber, peer-to-peer car insurance, that one company that organizes out-of-towners eating dinner at your house — all these startups connect you to people, places and things that you’d ordinarily not have access to, whether that’s a ride to the airport, other people’s money or on-demand risotto. The jury seems to be out on whether this is a definitively cool or uncool thing, but the principle is here to stay.

The concerns of short-term rentals cut both ways. On the one hand, your neighbors own their house, so they can do what they want with it. On the other, it sounds like you live somewhere that is not zoned for hotels and that you selected your particular area of town at least in part for this reason.

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When Airbnb hosts open their homes to guests, they’re implicitly also opening their neighborhoods to them, too. It’s one thing to decide that you’ll take assume some risk by welcoming strangers into your residence since you get a material benefit, but it’s another to ask all your neighbors to do the same for no monetary reward. Hosts, keep this in mind as you accept a reservation from a weeklong bachelor party.

Jim/Gomer, you don’t specify what exactly your issues with these short-timers are. But it sounds like it’s a mix of general raucousness and disrespect of common spaces. Before you talk to your neighbors or their guests, ask yourself, If my actual neighbors did this, what would I do?

Chances are, you’d ring the doorbell and say, “Hey, you’re blocking my driveway with your truck; do you mind moving it?” Unless this is happening well above the frequency of normal neighborly inconveniences, just treat the Airbnb-ers like they’re visiting relatives and move on.

If you’re constantly (and be honest with yourself) knocking on the door and asking them to turn the music down, mention it to your neighbor and see if they could add an addendum to their listing description that specifies the neighborhood is quiet and request that renters be the same

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Avoid at all costs the nuclear option of calling up the zoning enforcement office of your municipal government. Take the mannerly route through this. If polite overtures aren’t working, the homeowner’s association and even Airbnb might be able to help you resolve this calmly. You still have to live next door to these people indefinitely, so keep it civil.

Yours in sharing if not caring,

Fancy

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Dear Fancy,

Is there a polite way to tell a neighbor that he or she snores so loudly you can hear it from the apartment below and you worry someone has broken into your home just to take a nap?

xoxo, 

Sleepless in Cincinnati

Dear Sleepless,

Unlike playing EDM loudly or having highly vocal sex, snoring isn’t something you can be aware of or immediately cease doing, so your neighbor is probably going to be surprised and somewhat embarrassed to learn that you have watched the Ab Rocker infomerical 200 times on account of being woken up at all hours of the night.

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You have two options: directly telling your neighbor or writing an anonymous note.

In order for the “use your words” method to work, try to get to know the person a little bit before you say anything. Hang out, get a drink, help the neighbor bring in groceries, whatever — but don’t mention the noise. When you finally bring it up, your neighbor is more likely to care and take action than if the complaint comes from a total stranger. Side benefit: You make a new friend.

If you live in a really big building and are positive the offending neighbor will not know who wrote the note and exceptionally afraid of ever mentioning anything to anyone, you can go the anonymous note route. Write something like this:

Dear 7D,

I wanted to let you know that this building is not very soundproofed and your snoring is audible to your neighbors.

Best,
Your Neighbors

Leaving a note can seem mean or threatening to some people, so proceed with caution and leave blame out of it altogether.

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In the end, snoring isn’t an act of malice, so try to avoid aggression (both of the passive and aggressive types). Neither of these methods will work immediately (or possibly at all) since snoring is involuntary, so invest in some earplugs and ask your landlord about extra insulation for your apartment.

Yours in Dreamland,

Fancy


Kirsten Schofield

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