The New Rules of Neighborly Etiquette

If you’re the new kid on the block, there are certain etiquette rules you’re expected to follow to keep the peace in your neighborhood, and those rules are evolving quickly. Toward that end, spoke to experts to find out exactly what those rules are today to help you be the ideal neighbor.

Try texting first

Never show up unexpectedly at a neighbor’s door, lest you catch them off guard. Instead, it’s appropriate to send people a message to say that you would like to swing by rather than just showing up unannounced. A text asking if it’s a good time to drop off something allows the other person to make sure they have pants on before you ring the doorbell!

Texting also applies to kids

As adults, we should consider texting before dropping by. But is it OK for phone-less kids to drop by unannounced and ask for the children of the house to come out and play? In this case, it’s best to use technology to plan play dates for your kids by e-mailing or texting other parents rather than letting your kids simply show up and knock. Today’s kids have a lot of extracurricular activities, and unless you know the other family very well, you probably don’t have any idea about their schedule. It’s courteous to be mindful of those busy schedules by planning play dates in advance.

Limit your video surveillance to your own property

As crime rates go up and the cost of video equipment goes down, it’s not uncommon to see video cameras pop up on houses on your street. In fact, about 20 percent of all Americans ages 18 to 49 use video surveillance in their homes. If you decide to take the plunge and install your own, where exactly should those cameras be pointing? Is it a big deal if your front porch camera also happens to be recording your neighbor’s front yard? Experts agree that is a very big deal. For reasons of privacy, limit the scope of all videotaping to the boundary of your own property. You also should double-check by watching your video to make sure you’re not accidentally recording beyond your own property lines. If you are recording anything beyond your property line, it is best to communicate with your neighbors and check with an attorney, as different states have different right-to-privacy and recording laws.

Being Facebook friends is fine, too

There are good ways to connect with your neighbors online, especially if you’re not apt to do it face to face. In fact, doing so may be the key to forging the connections that have been lost during the years and to keeping up with what’s happening in your area. In fact, there now are digital platforms that are designed specifically to create neighborliness. Try searching Facebook for groups specific to your city, town or neighborhood. Also try the app Nextdoor, which uses your address to automatically connect you to private message boards used only by those living in your area. These sites can help you pitch in when there’s a lost cat, stay in the loop if there’s suspicious activity in the area and even keep up to date on things such as yard waste collection.

Swap alarm codes and other electronic passwords

You can’t be home all of the time, so it’s always good to let one neighbor you trust have access to your house in case of emergencies. In the past, that usually included a key swap. Today, it could include everything from security alarm codes to garage door passwords—whatever they’d need to keep your place safe. If you trust your neighbor and vice-versa, share alarm codes, garage codes and home electronics instructions in case you ever need to assist while they’re away. For example, if your neighbor’s garage door is open or they are away during a freeze and the heat needs to be turned on, you’ll be prepared to be a helpful neighbor.

Alert neighbors to any construction plans that might make noise

Construction projects aren’t just hard on you—they’re also difficult on your entire neighborhood. The noise, the dirt and the added traffic are enough to drive anyone crazy, so be considerate of your neighbors when you have a project taking place. If you’re doing construction, send an e-mail or written note to all neighbors with your contact info just in case there are any issues with the contractors if you’re not around. After the project is finished, invite everyone over for libations as a thank-you for putting up with the ruckus.