By John Ashbery
A problem neighbor can be a huge aggravation, and that aggravation can continue as long as you live at that location. The problem might involve excessive noise, annoying pets, troublesome children, or property-line transgressions.
While it is not possible to satisfactorily resolve all neighborhood disputes, there are certain steps you can take to reduce or alleviate such squabbles. Here are seven tips for dealing with a problem neighbor.
- Make an effort to get to know all your neighbors. This is something you should do before any problems develop. From the moment you move into a house, you should consciously work to develop at least a minimal relationship with each of your neighbors. This can consist of as little as a smile or a nod, or as much as an invitation to a backyard barbeque. If you do this, you’ll have a basis for discussing and amicably resolving any problem that arises.
- Take a deep breath before you complain. Whether the problem is a raucous party, a barking dog, or some other annoyance, don’t respond aggressively or with intense anger. Instead, wait until you’re calm and then take action.
- Try talking. Unless there is a history of unresolved problems and enmity with the particular neighbor, the first step is always to talk to them. Approach the neighbor calmly and respectfully, and explain your concerns. Avoid escalating the problem at this stage. If the neighbor’s response is not helpful, simply end the conversation politely and return to your home. If their response is constructive, try to find common ground and then agree to a resolution.
- If you think the neighbor’s conduct might contravene municipal ordinances, do research. Rules on noise and other matters vary from city to city. Do your homework to determine whether there is a legal basis for your complaint in your own city.
- Document the dispute. If the problem is not resolved in your initial conversation with the neighbor (step 3 above), start writing an account of the dispute. Include dates, times, summaries of conversations, and other pertinent information. If the matter is eventually reported to the police or otherwise becomes the basis of a legal dispute, this documentation will be invaluable.
- Call police. If the problem continues and the neighbor shows no willingness to resolve it, and your research indicates a local law may have been broken, call police. Be aware, however, that the police are usually reluctant to get involved in neighbor disputes unless the disagreement escalates to violence or vandalism.
- Hire a lawyer. If all else fails, and you believe your neighbor has violated municipal ordinances, you can hire a lawyer. The lawyer will then launch a legal action. This is definitely the last resort. Even if you win some sort of victory in court, your victory is not completely satisfying – because you must continue to live beside the neighbor who was defeatet, and who is probably quite angry about that!
Disputes between neighbors can become quite unsettling. The transgression is usually not serious; most neighborhood disputes don’t involve murder or armed robbery. However, the proximity of the other party can result in elevated antagonism. The best advice is precautionary: strive to maintain good relations with those who live nearby.