In a Brutal Rental Market, Is Having Sex with a Neighbor Just Too Risky?

Intrepid Angelenos with a high tolerance for awkward hallway interactions share their stories

We tend to like things we see more often (it’s a psychological principle called Mere Exposure Effect) and who do we see more often than our neighbors? What might start with a wave and a smile can shift to hellos and even flirting. Neighbor love means no need to sit in traffic or look for parking, plus you’ve probably seen each other at your sweaty and hungover worst. In the least creepy way possible, you can get a sense of each other’s hygiene, schedule, and friends just by being in the same vicinity.

But in a city where the average rent hovers around $2,300 and moving is as pleasant as a root canal (and roughly as expensive), is neighbor love worth the potential fallout? In the wake of what seemed like a convenient tryst, you risk awkward interactions, seeing the person with someone new, or trying to get over someone you now can’t escape. Not to mention, in the most creepy way possible, they know where you live and it’s easy to get there.

I’ve had my own brush with a neighborly hookup. I lived in a big building by Runyon and my dog, Shaggy, was a social butterfly who knew everyone. After he passed away, I ran into a 23-year-old neighbor who’d just loved Shaggy. The neighbor hadn’t heard the news, so I told him the story and started to cry. He offered to walk me to my door and asked for my number so he could check on me. He had a girlfriend so I didn’t think anything of it. When I opened my door, he pushed me against it and kissed me passionately. I pushed him away. He asked if it was because he was too young and I was like, ‘We were just talking about my dead dog 20 seconds ago?!’ I saw him in the elevator with his girlfriend about a week later. He was so nervous he was shaking. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want any drama, but from then on he was compelled to basically run away anytime he saw me.

I talked to Angelenos at coffee shops, bars, and stores, and on Facebook who dared to knock on a neighbor’s door looking for love—or, you know, just sex. (All names have been changed and stories edited for brevity.)

The Good

Because we all need a little hope and optimism in our lives, let’s start with the success stories.

“I had neighbor sex in the closest of ways—he was my roommate. We met on Craigslist and it was supposed to be a short-term rental. I was engaged and due to our families, we were waiting to live together until we got married. My roommate and I got along really well and there wasn’t any sexual tension because I was taken. Well, at first. I talked to him about problems with my fiancé and we just had fun. One night, after watching a movie, we kissed. One thing lead to another, we had sex, I broke off the engagement, got married to my roommate and we live in the same apartment. I guess Craigslist is our matchmaker?” —Caleigh, Los Feliz

“I never really thought about it going wrong. Man, that would’ve sucked.”

“I met my wife in the parking lot of my apartment complex. Our [assigned] parking spots were next to each other. I thought she was cute. We did laundry at the same time a few Sundays and she was cool. One Friday, we got home at the same time. I’d just picked up beers and asked her if she wanted to join me. We hooked up, kept hanging out, and then I moved into her place. I never really thought about it going wrong. Man, that would’ve sucked. The beach was our front yard. I guess I just had a good feeling about her.” —Brent, Venice

The Bad

Before we all assume the fastest way to marriage is neighbor relations, here are some less successful outcomes.

“I broke up with my boyfriend for the millionth time. There was this guy who’d always talk to me from the other side of the building. He said he was an actor who had all these famous friends and club hookups. As soon as my boyfriend left with his stuff, I bolted over to this guy’s place and we had sex. It got weird because he cried and said he was so happy to have someone like me into him. I got kind of freaked out and went home. He knocked on my door a lot. Sometimes I’d let him in, other times I’d pretend I wasn’t home. I got back together with my boyfriend and it was awkward until actor asked if he could be our third. I said, ‘No.'” I tried to set him up, but it never clicked. We just avoided each other after that. Thank God it was a big building.” —Jacob, Hollywood

“It was easy because I could look out my window and wave him over.”

“I lived in a Melrose Place kind of complex when I first moved to L.A. A really cute guy from Iowa moved in like two months after I did. Our complex had weekly barbecues by the pool. Iowa boy and I started hooking up after our second or third barbecue. It was easy because I could look out my window and wave him over. I was still figuring out L.A. and working long hours. I liked having someone to come home to who also was figuring things out. He came here to be an actor and was getting a lot of auditions for soap operas. The thing is he was the most popular guy in like Iowa or something so when he kept getting acting rejections, he took it really hard. He started hanging out with some guys into drugs. He was smoking weed a lot and then got into meth. It got dark. He’d bang on my door when he saw I was home. I stayed late at work or hung out at friend’s places as much as possible. I got a boyfriend and Iowa guy backed off. I moved out at the end of my lease and Iowa guy got evicted I think.” —Elena, Hollywood

“I met my boyfriend when we were neighbors. I thought he didn’t like me because he’d hug my friends, but wouldn’t touch me. On his last night in the building, he hugged me and we started hanging out after that. But if I had turned the light in his kitchen—I couldn’t find the switch—or gone into his bathroom, I never would’ve dated him. He’s so messy it’s uninhabitable. I missed the red flags.” —Kelly, Koreatown

“I dated my next door neighbor who was a chiropractor. I got free adjustments. But I ended up ghosting him. It just wasn’t that into him and didn’t have the tools to deal with it. He lived literally next door to me and I ignored him. I was really bitchy, especially because he gave great adjustments.” —Andrea, Koreatown

“I was crashing on my friend’s couch and got locked out. A girl across the hall said I could chill in her place. We smoked some weed and got down. I stayed over at her place. In the morning, my friend was pissed. He had a crush on her but was afraid to make a move ’cause neighbors. I had to find a new couch. We’re cool now though.” —Brian, West Hollywood

The “I’m Not Sure What To Make Of This One But It Seems Relevant”

“Neighbor sex…I lived down the hall from a high-class prostitute. She had all different guys coming and going. I just thought she was good on Tinder. There was something about a missing wallet and the police came. Does that count?” —Curtis, West Hollywood

Sure, why not.

The Wise

 Lastly, a lesson from an elder (she may be my personal hero).

“I’ve been dating my neighbor off and on for years. We’re in our 70s. He wants to move in, but I like my independence. He’s stingy. We broke up for a year, but we keep getting back together. It’s convenient. I didn’t feel awkward when we broke up. It’s a big community. Why worry?” —Florence, Santa Monica

Florence may just have the secret to looking next door for love: Have a thick skin and don’t take it too seriously. Life is short; have some fun—unless of course you really like where you live, have rent control, have a short commute, like hanging out at home, or actually work from home. Then you may need to give it some thought or wait until one of you moves.

Ultimately, when it comes to neighbor relations, intention is everything. If you’re looking to hit it and quit it, neighbor love can easily backfire unless you are both upfront about what you’re looking for. If you want real, true, romantic love, read the signs and take it slow. Build a friendship first. If all goes well, you may save on rent in the near future.

RELATED: Dating in L.A. Sucks. We Did the Math

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.