A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

13 Rude Habits That Make You a Bad Neighbor

Yes, pirating your neighbor's wi-fi is stealing.

Diverse black and white people sitting in row using smartphones tablets, multiracial men and women waiting for job interview, human resources, employment or customers and electronic devices concept

Complaining about your neighbors on social media

We all get annoyed by things our neighbors do but if your first instinct is to post about the problem online— whether you use their name or not—then you’re the bad neighbor, says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “This is very passive-aggressive—don’t hide behind a keyboard,” she says. “It’s much better to try and resolve the situation in person first.” Still having problems? Then consider escalating it to your Homeowners Association or the authorities if there is a legal concern.

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Aggressively recruiting your neighbors for your “business”

Good neighbors want to support each other by patronizing local businesses and friends. Unfortunately, some companies have learned to take advantage of this by using it as their business model, encouraging people to solicit their friends and neighbors not just to buy their wares (think essential oils, makeup, clothing, candles, and cooking products) but to become part of their sales “team.” “These types of multi-level marketing businesses are very self-serving; your neighbors are not there to be your source of income,” Gottsman says. “You can ask if they’re interested once; to keep pursuing the matter after they’ve said no is rude.”

African father and son sitting on sofa in living room use tablet and smartphone spends time at home with electronic devices, dad helps explains to kid new app or game. Bad habit, wireless tech concept

Pirating your neighbors’ wi-fi

Modern technology brings modern problems, and pirating someone else’s internet service is the new version of using your neighbor’s water hose to water your lawn (don’t do that either). “It may seem harmless but your neighbor is paying for that service, the equipment, and the electricity,” Gottsman says. “Not only are you slowing down the service they are paying for but you’re stealing.” It can also be a security issue, allowing them to steal your personal information if it goes over their network, so don’t do this—for your sake as much as theirs, she adds.


Posting pictures of other people’s children

Whether you’re posting a fun picture of kids running through the sprinklers at the neighborhood park or calling out a teenager for riding their bike over people’s lawns, it’s rude to post pictures of other people’s children to the internet, Gottsman says. Parents have different levels of comfort when it comes to privacy and unless you have explicit permission to post a picture of their kids then you need to err on the side of safety and refrain, she explains. If you have a problem with someone else’s kids, talk to their parents in person, she adds.

Woman walking on sidewalk

Ignoring your neighbor when passing on the sidewalk

It’s one thing to avoid a stranger’s gaze when walking through a city, but it’s entirely different when it’s your own neighbor you’re ignoring as you pass one another walking your dogs. It’s rude to not acknowledge your neighbor, says Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of Beyond Etiquette. “This makes you seem arrogant or uncaring,” she explains. And it doesn’t take much effort to give someone a polite nod, a wave, or exchange a few brief pleasantries.

Labrador Retriever poop, Dog in the park, Dog shit
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Letting your dog poop on your neighbor’s lawn and not picking it up

If there is a neighbor “sin” that really riles people, it’s this one. “It’s just plain rude to leave dog excrement in public neighborhood areas or in other people’s yards,” says Erin Askeland, certified pet behavior expert at Camp Bow Wow. “Not only is it rude, but it’s gross; dog excrement can transmit diseases, damage plants and grass, and, let’s be honest, doesn’t have the most pleasant smell.” It’s your responsibility as a pet owner to clean up after them, she says. Leaving poop piles is definitely at the top of the list of rude dog owner habits you need to stop ASAP.

Lawn mowers cut grass. Garden work concept background
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Asking to borrow your neighbor’s lawnmower

It used to be that people were welcome to ask their neighbors to borrow anything from a cup of sugar to small equipment. However, the norms have changed, Gottsman says. “These days people are much more isolated from one another and these requests are often seen as a rude intrusion,” she explains. “Unless you know your neighbor very well and already have a friendly relationship, don’t ask to borrow things.” Still need a lawnmower? Start with these building trust with your neighbors before asking to borrow it. And offer to fill up the tank, so you’re making an effort to repay the favor.

Garbage bins line up on a residential street.
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Reporting your neighbor to the HOA for leaving their garbage cans out

Reporting people to the homeowners association should be seen as a last resort and reserved for things that legitimately cause a problem for the neighborhood, Gottsman says. Little things—like watering at the wrong time of day, leaving garbage cans out overnight, or having a messy front yard—should be politely ignored or handled in person. HOA violations often come with fines—and a lot of bad blood. “This is how small issues get blown out of proportion and start a war,” she adds.

Man working with leaf blower: the leaves are being swirled up and down on a sunny day

Blowing leaves on to your neighbor’s lawn

Many homes have shared spaces or are very close to their neighbors. And even though their lawn may be right outside your door, it doesn’t give you permission to use it. “It’s rude not to respect your neighbor’s boundaries, physical or otherwise,” Tsai says. This includes driveways and fences as well—be sure to keep your side clean and to avoid letting your stuff drift over onto their property. Even if it’s “natural” stuff, like leaves or snow, if you’re creating more work for them, you’re being rude.

Chinese Hakka Cuisine Spread Flatlay

Making fun of your neighbor’s food

Does your neighbor speak a different language than you? Eat food you think is “stinky”? Practice a different religion? Have brightly dyed hair and tattoos? Treat them with respect and kindness, no matter what, Tsai says. It’s human nature to judge others for being different than you but that doesn’t make it less rude or unacceptable, she explains. Give others the benefit of the doubt and don’t make assumptions about them.

Good neighbors talk on the border of their farms
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Giving your neighbor unsolicited advice

Whether you think their parenting style is too lax and they’re raising future criminals or just that their lawn is too brown and needs different fertilizer, giving your neighbor advice without being asked is rude, Tsai says. “You should be listening more than you speak,” she adds. Everyone knows “that guy” who can’t stop telling everyone else what to do — and everyone avoids them. Don’t be that guy.

African man changing light bulb in coffee shop , installing a fluorescent light bulb

Saying yes to every favor asked of you

At first glance, this may seem the opposite of rude—after all, you’re being super helpful and kind, right? But becoming the default neighborhood watchdog, babysitter, package picker-upper, and bus stop monitor will take a toll. “Saying yes to everything your neighbors ask you to do may feel great at the moment but it could end up negatively impacting your relationship due to resentment and exhaustion,” Tsai says.

Mailbox with flag down
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Not RSVP’ing to invitations

If your neighbor is kind enough to invite you to their barbecue, child’s birthday party, dinner party, wine tasting, wedding, or another event then you owe them a prompt answer. Unfortunately, it’s become very common today for people to either not RSVP at all or to hold back on responding, waiting to see who else is coming first—and that’s rude, says Emilie Dulles, a protocol expert and founder of Dulles Designs. “Reply as soon as you know and if you’re late, still RSVP but offer an apology,” she says.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is a health, lifestyle and fitness expert and teacher. She covers all things wellness for Reader’s Digest and The Healthy. With dual masters degrees in information technology and education, she has been a journalist for 17 years and is the author of The Great Fitness Experiment. She lives in Denver with her husband, five kids and three pets.