Be a Better Neighbour

The most vital rules of apartment living

By Hugh Upsher

Living on your own for the first time is an unquestionably liberating experience – you can keep to your own schedule, make your own decor rules and choose not to make eye contact with any of the neighbours in your building. Chances are that your first place will not be a freestanding house, and while the lease agreement that you or your parents skimmed over may have touched on the basic rules, like no pets or braaing, I’ve got something a little more useful. Here are the most vital rules of flat block etiquette.

Communal space

Leaving a crusty old couch in the reception area with a cryptic note indicating that a person called ‘Ryan’ will be picking it up ‘tomorrow’ is not a vibe. Especially when said couch (that wouldn’t be able to fetch R50 on Gumtree) stays put for the entire week. Also, try to avoid leaving your trash just outside your front door when there is no collection service. By day three, it will be well established that the people residing within are in fact, human trash bags themselves.


I will always be amazed at the audacity of my neighbour who decided to start an ill-conceived DIY project at midnight. After knocking on his front door to enquire about the seemingly endless banging, not only did he insist on talking through the door instead of opening it, but he also insisted that the sound was coming from upstairs (it wasn’t). Simply put, don’t be that person. While you’re at it, try and stay away from dropping bowling balls, tap dancing in high heels, skipping in clogs or doing 12pm Feng Shui sessions.

Going bump in the night

We’ve all had friends come round for pre-drinks on a Friday night, the key word here being ‘pre’. Depending on the type of block you live in, you should start calling the Uber rides around 11 latest. If it’s 1am, it's now a house party, and blasting an awful club remix of the Tom Petty classic, ‘I Won’t Back Down’, won’t be making any friends downstairs. And if you are the type of person who doesn’t think twice about inviting five hammered bros back to your flat at 3am to listen to Psy-trance till the sun comes up, I straight up hate you.

The bartering system

To end on a lighter note, a sense of community can always be salvaged by borrowing something from the guy next door during desperate times. I’ve lent people everything from a tablespoon of Marmite to my plant watering services. In return, I’ve had neighbours let me chill in their flat after I locked myself out, and I got a stranger to help me put all four wheels back on my Citi Golf after they were stolen.

Flat block living isn’t for everyone, as you will need to be patient, considerate and most of all, resilient. If you can, you may want to steer clear of flats altogether, especially if you have a distinctively loud and annoying voice, and are constantly having banal phone conversations every evening on the balcony above me.