How Do You Let Your Residents Know When They Do Something Wrong?

In my apartment community, the garbage area is out...

In my apartment community, the garbage area is out the door on the right side of the building. If you go on the left side of the building, there are apartments. Recently, my husband and I had someone clean our apartment (if my mother-in-law is reading this, by “someone” I mean myself, obviously), and on her way out, she offered to take out the garbage. And, unbeknownst to us, she misunderstood where the garbage room was, and put our garbage bags in front of one of the apartments on the left side, thinking the garbage room was just locked. (I know, I know, #firstworldproblems.)

When our neighbors opened their door later in the day, they were understandably annoyed about the trash there. They somehow figured out where it had come from (always shred your mail, kids!) and told the landlord, who in turn came running to our apartment like a bat out of hell, and started yelling that we couldn’t put our garbage in front of someone’s apartment. It finally got cleared up that we didn’t realize our cleaning person did that and we weren’t trying to start a war with our neighbors.

I don’t like getting yelled at. Weird, right? But it’s never, “GOOD JOB AT WORK TODAY!” or “YOU LOOK REALLY BEAUTIFUL. YOU MUST TELL ME WHERE YOU BOUGHT THOSE SWEAT PANTS!” When people get yelled at, it’s always for something bad. I mean, the yelling worked. I’m going to personally bring my garbage to the bin every time now, no matter who offers to take it out. But there has to be a better way to let your residents know when they did something against community rules, right?

How do you let your residents know when they’ve violated some community protocol?

Here are some suggestions.

Post a note in the lobby or near the mailboxes. If information needs to get to all the residents, like a lot of people aren’t taking their recyclables out and leaving them mixed with the rest of the garbage, you can put up reminders where the other residents will see them. Be careful, though. This could get in the passive-aggressive notes territory, which people usually ignore or laugh at. Like that time when that woman in the office posted that sign on the break room refrigerator saying that we all use this refrigerator, so please clean up after yourself. Hope she likes lots of spoiled yogurt, because that’s what she’s going to get.

Update and repost the community rules on your buildings intranet system (such as BuildingLink). This is sort of like taping a note by the mailboxes, but is a more high-tech version. The future is now!

Slip a note under someone’s door or email them directly. That way you can be sure the intended person sees the message, without the public shaming that comes along with a public note if everyone knows who the offender is. Certainly not as fun as the notes you used to find slipped in your locker, like “Would you go to the prom with Gavin? Check yes, no, or maybe.” But, we’ll take what we can get.

Knock on the person’s door (and speak to them rationally). Look, most of us aren’t jerks on purpose. (Except for you, red-headed girl in my 10th grade gym class who kept spiking the volleyball in my face.) We might not realize it if we’re playing our music too loudly or letting our dry cleaning pile up at the front desk or baking chocolate chip cookies and not offering to share them with everyone. Stop by a resident’s apartment and have a friendly chat—that should clear things up.

Post Big Brother-style cameras everywhere. Because, sometimes 2+2=5. If people are constantly afraid they’re being watched, they’ll straighten up and fly right. Or move out of the building. I guess it’s a toss up.

How do you let your residents know when they’ve broken one of your community rules?

-Jessica Fiur, News Editor

Photo credit: Gunter Nezhoda