Tips on Being a Good Neighbour
Be friendly: Wave and say hello when you see your neighbours, stop to say a few words, wish them a good weekend. Offers to help will score big time: rake leaves, clean the snow now and then from a neighbour’s sidewalk, give a ride to a neighbour who doesn’t drive, volunteer to babysit in emergencies.
Pay attention to visuals: The look of your home will have a big impact on how your neighbours react to you. Some hints: keep furniture inside; don’t clutter the front porch; don’t hang signs or banners in windows; clean up bottles and litter; keep beer bottles out of sight. Talk to your landlord to be clear on your responsibilities for mowing grass, raking leaves, and shovelling snow. Look for ways to make small property improvements your neighbours will notice.
Follow parking and traffic rules: Parking can be a real problem. Plan on having only as many vehicles as you have proper parking spaces for. Parking is not allowed on sidewalks, lawns, within 3 metres of fire hydrants, or 9 metres from a crosswalk or intersection – all are illegal and subject to fines by the City of Hamilton. Play it safe – slow down in residential areas and watch for children and elderly.
Follow garbage/recycling schedules and rules: Your neighbours can tell you what day garbage is picked up (Mondays, in the local student neighbourhoods close to campus), or call the City for details. Download the Recycle Coach app. If the previous tenants left behind unwanted junk, or you have some to get rid of yourself, speak to your landlord about removal or take it to the local Waste Management site in Dundas yourself. It is your landlord’s responsibility to supply you with garbage cans with lids, at least 2 blue boxes, and a green cart for organic waste.
Take care of your yard: Be clear on whose responsibility it is to shovel snow and cut the lawn – yours or your landlord’s? If it is your responsibility to do the work, ask your landlord to provide you with the necessary tools to do so (eg. Lawnmower and shovel). Do the work in a timely fashion to avoid complaints from neighbours or even a fine from the by-law office. Hamilton by-law requires that snow and ice be cleared from sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall, and that grass be no longer than 8 inches in height.
Party responsibly: If you’re having a party, let your neighbours know ahead of time. They may be more tolerant if you don’t surprise them. Limit the number of guests and keep the party inside after 11 p .m. Plan parking for your friends and clean up afterwards. If you plan to serve and exchange alcohol for money in any way – through ticket sales, admission at the door, passing the hat, or whatever, this is ILLEGAL. You and your housemates could face charges and criminal prosecution, resulting in you having a permanent criminal record. Think twice about the significant long-term ramifications of your actions!
Handle problems politely: If you’re a good neighbour, it’s not likely that you’ll meet an unfriendly reaction. But if you do, it probably means your neighbours have had a problem in the past, so just be polite and make sure their experience with you will help change their minds. If your neighbours have a complaint about you, listen, try to see it from their perspective, and change whatever you can. Don’t get involved in major disputes – yelling, swearing, escalating the complained-about activity – are all a waste of your energy and bad for your reputation and McMaster’s.
Introduce yourself: Make a point of meeting your neighbours. Give them your name and phone number. They’ll be impressed with your openness, and it starts a relationship of trust and respect.
Use some discretion: Your neighbours may be offended by casual swearing, drinking alcohol, or too much physical closeness, on your porch or front lawn or in a public area. So, consideration is recommended – please move indoors. A friendly warning: the Liquor License Act prohibitions mean that you can be charged for having open alcohol in your possession while on your front lawn or in the stairwell of an apartment.
Keep it quiet: Hey, be kind – your neighbours’ jobs and/or children mean they’re getting up early every day! Besides, noise at any time of the day is illegal if it is considered a nuisance by your neighbours and carries a large fine. Keep this in mind: please don’t sing, chant, yell, slam doors, honk your car horn, play loud music in the yard – you get the picture, right? Hint: noise carries a lot further at night, so save your good spirits until you’re inside with the doors and windows closed.