Neighbor etiquette

Oh man, how do you do this part? Haha, it’s like that old joke about how to become rich. First, you need a million bucks.

I think this is the crux of it. We bought a home and spent years slowly getting it to where we can be most comfortable and run our lives by our rules and wishes and wants. And yet, here is a third party who in one fell swoop invades our space with not only an inconvenience, but with something that we know is a detriment to our health and happiness, and we have no real recourse other than pleading and imploring an uninterested person set in their ways.

Every interaction I’ve had with smokers on the subject suggested to me that they consider cigarettes as necessary as food or drink, if not more so. The only people I know who have kicked the habit have deeply wanted to do so for themselves. I feel that everyone at this point understands how harmful and expensive a habit it is, and even more so if you’re a mother having gone through the NHS (for as much as I’m surprised at the number of smokers the UK still has, I have been impressed on how many give it up after having children).

So I can’t reasonably expect my neighbor to stop on my behalf. She probably thinks smoking outside is responsible (and it is, to her child, and her home’s insurance policy). My one possible compromise would be that she smoke at the rear of her garden. However, while we haven’t talked much, we have observed her behaviour. She’s paranoid, installing super bright always-on nightlamps in the yard, Mad-max style back gate installed… can’t imagine her going to her darkest spot to smoke. Further, she’s lazy: doesn’t make her own food (takeout every night, does no housework, drives 2 min to the nursery rather than walk 5min, can’t be bothered to take out her bins, etc) so I can see her just not wanting to make that effort out of sheer apathy.

That said, I do think if there’s one thing to be gained by talking to her (indeed, in the nicest possible way… I know I sounded like a monster in my first post, but obviously I know how to speak to people without making stabby motions) is the invisible peer pressure of knowing someone is aware of her and otherwise wouldn’t be if she didn’t do it. Maybe then she’d stick to poisoning herself in the house, or maybe create a floodlit rear bunker where she can do it further from our windows. We’ll see.

Have you tried putting a box fan in the windows blowing OUT? Then open windows on the other side to allow fresh air to be pulled in from that side.

…or you’ve got COVID? Just thinking of those one star Yankee candle reviews. ;)

We have a three story house (terraced houses in the UK are much narrower and more vertical than the US, (think of a rowhouse in Brooklyn I suppose) with five windows and a patio door to the back. Good luck fighting our through-breeze with fans… and anytime the windows are shut in any room on a hot day, it’s not long before it’s a stagnant oven. These old brick victorians are like kilns after a few days in a heatwave.

Also, her back patio is surrounded by our extensions, so she’s smoking in a pocket that just naturally wants to go up our walls no matter the prevailing wind direction.

These are all indicators of depression. You may want to consider taking that into account in your dealings with her.

I feel the urge to watch Rear Window now.

I can’t believe one cigarette is creating enough smoke that this can be a problem for your health. It’s not like you have a half dozen people down there smoking. It’s also her home too, she has just as much right to smoke no matter how much you don’t like it.

One cigarette at a time… over and over and over. Is it hurting our health? I don’t know for certain, but it bothers us, a lot.

Imagine if your close nextdoor neighbor decided to not use their toilets, but to dump poo out the window into their yard, and the smell made it to you every time. Would you just shrug and just say it’s just a smell, it’s their right?

Oh I don’t doubt the smell is bad and I completely understand you not liking it. I just don’t think there is much you can do about it, or that she should have to change her ways. It would be nice of her to move to the back of the garden, but she’s most likely going to resent you for asking and it’s going to create hostility.

I live in a condo that faces another building 20-30’ away so I know what it’s like with so many people close by, it’s just something you have to live with.

I agree 100%. A persons’ home is their castle and that includes any garden/outside space. Perhaps close the windows and buy some fans to keep things cool inside.

If it’s in her own garden, what states would say she can’t smoke there?

I got 2 neighbors that smoke and it annoys me that the smoke gets in. They are smoking outdoors thought, and it’s a free country.

I read recently a solution is maintaining positive air pressure. Right now it’s easy, just get a window fan. For colder weather thought you’d need an Energy Recovery Ventilator which I was looking into, but looks like a pain to install.

Because of this statement. If she is smoking in her own garden, does he have any rights to say she can’t?

Most of the people here obviously don’t live in London. I live in a narrow 3 story house and so are all the houses around mine. For better or worse, you live very close to your neighbours in London.

4 properties side by side

If our neighbours have a barbecue, we better close our windows or all the smoke will be in our house.

But I’m not going to tell them not to have them!

We obviously can talk if something is a nuisance. But that’s been a really rare occurence in the properties I’ve lived in. And I’m also of the opinion that the smoker single mother is well within her right to smoke anywhere on her property. I’d be miffed if people tried to tell me what to do in my house / garden.

But I’m also quite happy to have a chat with my neighbours. So I think Spiffy should try and strike a conversation. Get to know the mum a bit if possible and show he’s a nice guy. Then bring up the smoking and kindly ask whether she would mind trying to smoke more at the back of her garden when possible / when the weather allows.

If they are at least on talking terms, it shouldn’t be a huge ask. But it’s just a fact of life in London. Many properties are on top of each other. and that brings downsides. C’est la vie (and one of the reasons I might not mind moving to Canada with my wife when I retire. Plenty of space there :) ).

Not in UK no.

What people have said here is that you don’t have a right to demand anything. But talking to people is obviously the first recourse and what Spiffy should try. It should not take a thread starting with tongue in cheek “may she die in a fire” to get that advice…

Heck that looks spacious! My family is from Bristol, I swear the houses there weren’t any wider than 15’. Everyone was jammed in, but at least their gardens had a 6’ tall brick wall.

True. For 3 story houses, they aren’t bad! But that’s because we are well outside of central London in zone 3.

I don’t know whether the low ceilinged, narrow houses would look that spacious to our North A
American friends though.

By the way, these houses are about 20" wide at their widest. So not too far from your 15". :)

You are jumping to a lot of conclusions there. I live in a condo, the guy below me keeps his husky crated all day and it yelps and tries to get out. My other neighbors have a special needs kid who communicates by screaming and they keep him in the master bedroom all day that faces my windows (with the windows open 24 hours a day summer and winter). I could ask them to do something about it, but they aren’t doing anything wrong. When you live in communities close to other people you have to make allowances for those people. It doesn’t mean I am going about making noise and not caring, I just realize not everyone is like me.