Dear PoP – How to Deal with an Elderly Neighbor?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

“Dear PoP,

My partner and I rent an apartment (it’s technically a condo, and we rent from an individual owner) in a 101-year-old building in Mt. Pleasant. Aside from wishing it were bigger for the same price (we can all dream, no?), we had very few problems with the unit until yesterday when we found out that we had cockroaches. We are, as you can imagine, thoroughly disgusted. We’ve been going through the whole boric acid routine all evening, and we’re pissed that these little suckers seem to have so much power over us. I mean, if they can survive the nuclear holocaust, how can we expect them to eradicate them from our tiny dwelling?

Anyway, this all leads back to how we believe we contracted the cockroaches: a frail neighbor who lives across the hall. The trash rooms/chutes in our building have been closed since 2007, due to what we understand to be a horrific pest problem. The chutes have remained closed since, but somehow our frail neighbor has gotten a key to the room, and continues to place her refuse down the chute, or alternatively, will leave it in the hallway. This has led to a significant pest problem for her closest neighbor, but until now, we have remained untouched by her inability to properly dispose of of her trash.

We have considered taking out her trash for her, but we think that is just the tip of the iceberg. From what we understand, her unit is hopelessly infested with all manner of vermin and insects. We know that we can’t control what she does in her own apartment, but when it comes to the health and sanity of others in the building, is there anything that can be done? We would like to help, but we’ve seen her many times both in and outside of our building and she doesn’t even acknowledge us, even though she lives across the hall and we know that she knows us. Is it acceptable to go over and tell her that we’ll take her trash out? How can we deal with this situation in a delicate manner?”

I know this is many people’s nightmare. I think cockroaches and pests in general are not confined to one apartment though. Of course one’s cleanliness or lack thereof can contribute to the problem. But I think you probably need to speak with the building management or condo board to schedule a regular exterminator appointment. What do you guys think?

Regarding the elderly neighbor, I think it is very kind of you to offer to take out their trash. I wonder if it would be possible to strike a friendship first and then you could offer to take out the trash (and perhaps carry heavy groceries)? I had an elderly neighbor who I helped carry heavy groceries and it developed into a genuine friendship.

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