How to Report a Smelly Neighbor (7 Tips)

Dealing with a smelly neighbor may be an awkward and hard scenario, which can affect your quality of life and the peace you enjoy in your house. Whether the odors originate from their residence or other sources like smoking cigarettes, knowing how to report a smelly neighbor effectively is important.

In this article, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step procedure for approaching this matter with tact and consideration so that you can resolve it. From starting a friendly talk to learning about local regulations and getting the right people involved, you’ll learn useful ways to solve the problem while keeping good relationships with your neighbors.

The pungent problem of smelly neighbors

Living in close proximity to others, whether in apartment buildings, terraced houses, or even suburban neighborhoods, often means becoming intimately acquainted with your neighbors’ habits. Sometimes, these habits can manifest as unpleasant or pervasive smells.

While the aroma of a freshly baked pie can be quite inviting, other odors, such as persistent cigarette smoke, the pungent fragrance of potent spices, or the stench emanating from a neglected living space, can become a cause for concern. Let’s explore some common sources of unpleasant smells from neighbors:

  1. Cigarette and Tobacco Smoke: One of the most common complaints, the smell of cigarette or other tobacco products can seep into adjoining apartments or homes. This can be particularly distressing for non-smokers or those with respiratory issues.
  2. Culinary Adventures: Everyone has a unique palate, and while some may relish the scent of spicy curries or exotic ingredients, others may find them overpowering. These odors, especially when cooked frequently, can linger and spread.
  3. Neglected Hygiene and Cleaning: An unkempt apartment or house, complete with accumulated garbage, dirty laundry, or decaying food, can give off a particularly unpleasant and strong odor. This not only affects the immediate surroundings but can also pose a health risk.
  4. Pets: Unwashed pets, cat litter boxes, or even bird cages can produce odors that can drift to neighboring spaces, especially if they are not maintained regularly.
  5. Garbage and Compost: Disposing of trash improperly or letting it pile up, especially compost, can produce a range of unwanted smells. This can attract pests, in addition to offending the olfactory senses of neighbors.

Tips for how to report a smelly neighbor

Recognizing the sources is the first step. The next is understanding how to approach and address the situation in a tactful, effective manner. Here are some tips to get you started on the path to only fresh smells at your home.

1. Analyze the situation

Unpleasant smells can be a real nuisance in your neighborhood, especially when they start to affect your daily life. Before jumping to conclusions and complaining, it’s important to investigate the source of the odor carefully.

Sometimes, it may seem like the smell is coming from your neighbor, but it could actually be originating from other sources such as nearby industries, sewage issues, or even natural factors like a nearby landfill.

It’s important to consider all possibilities before taking any action. To provide a more comprehensive explanation, begin a complaint in a way that minimizes the potential for disputes arising from incorrect accusations.

subdivision aerial
subdivision aerial

2. Look into local ordinances or homeowner association rules

Local governments and homeowner associations often have specific ordinances in place to address various issues that can arise within a neighborhood. These ordinances can describe the criteria for identifying nuisance odors, set limits on acceptable levels, and provide guidance on how to resolve these problems.

If you think that their odor issue may be against local ordinances or HOA rules, you can use this information to approach the relevant authorities or community management and address the problem. Also, consider reaching out to other neighbors to gather more information about the issue at hand.

Doing this lets you see if others are facing the same issue. This won’t only provide you with a broader perspective, but it may also help the neighbor responsible for the issue to gain a better understanding of its impact.

3. Keep a record of the problem

It would be beneficial to maintain a detailed record of the issue, as it can help your neighbor better understand the impact of their odor problem. Be sure to provide an accurate description of the smell.

Record the dates and times you detect the odor, the strength of the smell, and how it impacts your daily routine and overall health. Also, indicate the type of smell you are experiencing and its location, such as inside your home, in your yard, or in common areas.

Man writing
Man writing | Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

4. Talk to your neighbor in a friendly, non-confrontational way

When you go up to talk to them, make sure that your tone is friendly, nice, and polite. It’s important to avoid accusations or placing blame on them because doing so has the potential to worsen a relatively minor issue.

It’s also possible that your neighbor doesn’t realize that the scent they release is already causing problems for the other people in the vicinity.

You and your neighbor may be able to work together to come up with a solution to the problem and think of ways in which the both of you can compromise if you treat them with respect when you talk to them.

5. Provide ideas for solutions

While talking to your neighbor about finding answers to the problem, you should always remember to ask them for their input and possible solutions.

This will show that you are willing to collaborate with them to discover a solution to the situation that’ll be beneficial not just to your side, but also to theirs.

6. Get in touch with the owner or property manager

If the situation has escalated to the next level, and they’re refusing to cooperate, you may have to step it up. Assuming they do not own the home, you can talk to your property management to address a smelly neighbor issue, especially if you live in a managed community or apartment complex. These people are responsible for maintaining the living conditions and enforcing community rules.

When you reach out to them, make sure to give them a detailed and straightforward explanation of the problem. This will help them look into the matter, talk to your neighbors, and possibly take necessary steps like giving warnings or implementing measures to address the issue.

7. Seek lawyers’ advice and report the matter to the proper authorities.

If everything else fails, seeking legal counsel and involving the appropriate authorities is advisable. You may want to reach out to your local health department or environmental protection agency, particularly if the odor is already impacting the well-being of those residing in the vicinity.

Keep in mind that it’s best to consider legal action as a last option. It can take up a lot of time and money, and it might even worsen your relationship with your neighbor.


To conclude, dealing with a smelly neighbor requires a gentle approach, but following a well-organized plan can help achieve a peaceful resolution. Open communication is an important step in building understanding and cooperation.

If that doesn’t work, you can reach out to the appropriate authorities or your homeowner association for the legal support you need. Find out who, if anyone, can force your neighbor to clean up their act so that you can live in peace and clean smells only.