Most people get on well with their neighbors – after all, we all want to be able to live happily at home. But sometimes this isn’t the case, and bad relationships with neighbors can become very stressful if you don’t take considered action to remedy the situation.
Problems between neighbours can take various forms, ranging from barking dogs, persistent loud music or rubbish burn offs, to more serious ones like harassment, threats or violence. It’s a good idea to manage disruption before it becomes a long-standing annoyance, which can escalate into more serious problems causing more stress.
Here are ways to be a good neighbor and deal with a bad one.
1. Get to know each other.
Being a good neighbor doesn’t mean taking family vacations together. Just knowing them well enough to say hi, or maybe borrowing a cup of sugar or loaning a gardening tool, can build trust and understanding. Issues are much more likely to escalate among strangers than even casual acquaintances.
2. Communicate directly with your neighbor.
It is better to handle things this way than to resort to talking behind the person’s back, which would make the issue messier. Go to your neighbor’s house and speak with him in a calm manner. Be firm yet be considerate of his feelings as well. If you don’t feel safe enough because harmful threats have been exchanged, then invite a friend along and talk with your neighbor in a safe, public place.
3. Head off problems before they’re problems.
If you are throwing a party at your place, go to all neighbors who might be affected and offer them two things: a verbal invitation to the party and a card with your phone number. If the noise escalates or there is another problem, your neighbor can call you instead of the police.
4. Keep a diary record of your activities
Note the time, day and nature of the problem, who you contacted, what you said and their response. If you have to attend any mediation or hearing to resolve the matter that information may be used as evidence.
5. Check with other neighbors.
See if anybody else on the block is having similar issues – they may be willing to help resolve it. If one of the neighbors is closer to the troublemaker, have them come with you when you talk it out.
6. Get a mediator.
A neutral third party experienced in settling disputes may succeed where you can’t, although it can only work if your neighbor is willing to talk. It’s a lot cheaper than going to court, though – in some cases, it may even be free.
7. Write and report.
If you suspect your neighbor is violating city ordinances, do a little research, write it up, and submit it to the proper authorities. If your neighborly dispute involves code violations, the city might solve your problem for you. But don’t try to anonymously report code violations on your neighbor. Not only does the neighbor usually figure out who “snitched” anyway, but they may resent you for being a passive-aggressive busybody, which can make future situations trickier. Remember you still have to live next to these people.
8. Call the cops.
If you’ve acted in good faith with no success, involving the police is the next step. You can explain the situation and show how you’ve tried to work it out and kept notes, but realize they probably can’t do much unless a law or ordinance is being broken. This is for things like excessive noise and illegal activity, not a tree limb hanging into your yard. Nonetheless, a police presence might show your neighbor that you aren’t going to let the problem go.
9. Take it to small claims court. This is much cheaper than a bigger lawsuit (which can cost $10,000 or more) because you can represent yourself. But you must do your homework – you need to lay out the problem, provide evidence, and come up with a reasonable damage estimate that you can justify when questioned. Damages are usually capped at a few thousand dollars, although the amount varies by state.
Bottom line? As with any relationship, being a good neighbor – or dealing with a bad one – is all about communication.
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