With Americans spending more time at home than ever these days, being a good neighbor is of the utmost importance. Sure, not many people are actively trying to be bad neighbors, but if you sit down and think about it, do your daily habits exude neighborliness? Now that we're seeing a lot more of the people who live next door to us, it’s a great time to consider some ways we can all pitch in to make our communities better, more harmonious places to live. Here are 5 small ways everyone can ensure they're being considerate of those who live nearby.
1. Introduce Yourself to New Neighbors
Now I know what you're thinking - how do I know these people want me barging up to their door and striking up a conversation? Well, you don't. But with practicing social distancing and general disconnect many are feeling these days, it would be awfully hard to be the new family in the neighborhood. No, you shouldn't greet strangers with a hug or even a handshake right now, but if you see someone new moving into the house across the street, make it a point to go outside and introduce yourself from your driveway. Welcome them to the street, make some small talk, ask if they need help with anything and encourage nearby neighbors to do the same. Small acts of kindness like this go a long way and will help lessen the burden of what can already be a very stressful time.
2. Maintain Curb Appeal
That one neighbor who just can't seem to follow the rules regarding trash pickup and lawn maintenance - every community association member's worst nightmare, right? You, of course, don't want to be that person, so make sure you're vigilant in keeping your property neat, well-maintained and in compliance with any association rules and regulations. No one wants to look out their window each day only to see overflowing garbage cans, knee-high weeds and dead flower beds, and you wouldn't either. So, be sure to put your garbage and recycling at the curb on the appropriate pick up day and bring the bins back up once the items are collected. Keep your lawn mown, edged, trimmed and watered (if needed) on a regular schedule. But remember - curb appeal isn't just lawn care and garbage cans. It can also be having a surplus of lawn ornaments, flags, broken bicycles and toys, dirty patio furniture - you get the picture. The main point here is keeping your property neat and clean. Besides potentially incurring HOA violations and fines, messy lawns are just an eye sore and bring down property values for everyone who lives nearby.
3. Comply with Community Rules
Humans don't necessarily like rules, but we all need them and, if you live in a community association, there's a good chance there is a set of them you're supposed to follow. The point of these rules isn't to be controlling but rather to preserve the property values within the community and maintain a peaceful living environment for all property owners. With that being said, there will probably be a rule or two that you don't care for, but that doesn't mean you can just ignore it - you wouldn't want your neighbors picking and choosing which rules they comply with, would you? Plus, in most communities you'll eventually end up owing some fines if you keep breaking the rules. Disregarding rules and regulations will ultimately lead to conflict between neighbors or between association members and board members or managers, and no one wants conflict. If there really is an issue with a community rule, its best to express your opinion and any suggestions to the board at the next open board meeting so a productive discussion can be held.
4. Don't be the Town Crier
If your community actually has a crier in the newspaper-sense, that's wonderful, newspapers are underrated these days – but you don't need to personally fulfill that role. No one likes a gossip—plain and simple. Part of being a good neighbor is avoiding gossip and this includes listening to it, spreading it or participating in it. When you live close to others, yes, you're bound to hear and see things, but that doesn't mean you should be sharing that information with others. There are certain instances where it may be alright to share something you've heard (for example, a neighbor had a death in the family and you tell some others so they can send condolences), but no one needs to know that Mr. Smith's son has been sent to rehab for the 3rd time. Plus, do you even know if that's true? Spreading gossip will ultimately only hurt your reputation in the neighborhood and cause distrust among neighbors, something you don't want to see happen in an otherwise happy community.
5. Be Mindful of Noise
Keeping the music down when you're having a gathering may be a no-brainer, but there are other aspects of hosting a party that may be irritating to your neighbors. If you throw a party, be sure that you've considered where attendees will park - can they all fit in your driveway or in approved street spaces without blocking neighbors? Will there be people outside talking late into the night? If you are planning on having a gathering that will last later than 9:00 or 10:00 PM (especially on a weeknight), it is probably best to let your neighbors know and invite them to text or call you if there are any issues. Noise, of course, doesn't apply to just parties. I can't think of anyone that wants to hear hedge trimmers at 7:00 AM on a Saturday. So, unless there is a hedge trimming emergency that mandates you start those bad boys up at 7:00 AM on the dot, be courteous and wait a bit later until folks are awake.
Though we've thrown a bit of humor into this piece (who couldn't use a laugh right now?), the overall message is clear: don't regularly carry out activities you wouldn't want your neighbors carrying out. If this sounds like a subtle variation of the golden rule, that's because it is - if you want good neighbors, you also must be one.
We at CAMS know it can sometimes be difficult reading through and understanding your community's rules and regulations. That is why these documents can be easily accessed via our website for each of the communities we serve. And, if you still have questions or concerns about a particular rule or a compliance letter you received, you can always reach out to our team of experts via your owner portal or at 877.672.2276 for trusted guidance.
Mike Stonestreet, CMCA, PCAM, AMS, is Founder/Co-Owner of CAMS (Community Association Management Services). CAMS began in 1991 with Stonestreet and a few employees in a small office in Wilmington but has since grown to over 300 employees serving eight regions across North and South Carolina.
His current role at CAMS focuses on mergers and acquisitions, culture alignment and high-level business relationships. Stonestreet is an active member of the NC Chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) and has spent time on their board of directors, serving as the chapter President in 2019.
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