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An open letter to all upstairs neighbours

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If you live in an apartment, how much consideration do you give to those who live below? Sure, they may have a private garden and have to climb one less flight of stairs than you do, so perhaps their troubles don’t…erm…trouble you, but is there such a thing as “upstairs etiquette”?

Though there are no legal requirements governing behaviour for upstairs neighbours (though there really ought to be), Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, encourages homeowners and tenants to be considerate of their neighbours when living in such proximity to each other. Here are some tips for harmonious upstairs-downstairs living.

Ditch the cement-block shoesloud upstairs neighbour

“Sound travels, and from the position of your downstairs neighbour, even tip-toeing around in a pair of sneakers can sound like you’re stomping around in a pair of cement blocks. Once in the door, swap out your shoes for slippers. Not only is it more comfortable, it also prevents your neighbour from calling animal control to collect the horse that’s galloping around in the upstairs apartment.”

Stop midnight spring cleaning

“Some upstairs neighbours choose the most inopportune times to vacuum their floors and rearrange their furniture. Save the cleaning for mid-morning on the weekend, or first thing after you return from work to avoid waking up your neighbours early in the mornings or keeping them up at night. If you really can’t sleep, try packing a clothing cupboard or do some light dusting – anything that doesn’t make a lot of noise.”

For heaven’s sake…stop dropping thingsmarbles

“Anyone who has ever lived below somebody will know this sound. It’s as though the upstairs neighbour has a jar of marbles placed on a rickety table that’s difficult to pass by without being knocked over. Nobody has any idea what exactly causes this sound, but I suggest fastening any loose objects or keeping them in drawers were spillage is not an option.”

Feeling restricted? Consider moving…

“At the end of the day, it is still your home and you do not want to feel restricted in how you are allowed to behave in it. If you really want to continue your midnight-cleaning sprees, then perhaps you ought to consider investing in a free-standing property where distance can act as a better sound barrier between you and your neighbour.”

HomeTimes’ David A Steynberg has been a downstairs neighbour on a few occasions, and offers these three helpful reminders to all upstairs neighbours.

  1. “Do not, ever, throw a bucket of soapy water onto your patio to clean it and think that the person below you will be happy to share your dirty patio water.”
  2. “Stop flicking your cigarette butts off your balcony. These little stompies are an eyesore and a pollutant. Would you like to pick up my stompies after I’ve flicked them onto your patio? No? There’s your answer.”
  3. “Having friends over for a braai is perfectly fine. Please, however, go inside and close the patio door after 11pm. Your tipsy friends do not realise how loud they are laughing.”


David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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