13 Rude Habits That Make You a Bad Neighbor
Yes, pirating your neighbor's wi-fi is stealing.
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.
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.” It could make you one of these real-life nightmare neighbors. “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.”
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. It could be one of the 16 things your neighbors secretly know about you.
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.
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. Make sure you know these 10 things your neighbors won’t tell you.
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.
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 10 ways to build 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. In fact, it’s one of the things your neighbors really, really wish you’d stop doing. “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.
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. These are the signs that you’re already a great neighbor.
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. Prompt RSVP-ing is part of what it means to be a good neighbor.