12 Steps to Dealing With Bad Neighbors

Some of us are lucky to have neighbors like the late Mr. Rogers. But for many, neighbors range from nuisance to nightmare. What can you do about it?

By Brandon Ballenger from MoneyTalksNews

Many neighbor disputes end up in court because of poor communication. If something’s happening that’s dangerous or illegal, the cops are the obvious answer. But if problems arise that are a bit more gray, communication is the best way to save money and hassle. Here’s the best way 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. 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.

3. Document the problem. When an issue comes up, start keeping notes – times, dates, and photos if necessary. This can help in three ways. First, it helps you evaluate the seriousness of the problem: Looking at it on paper, you may realize it’s not as big a deal or you might see a solution. Second, you have info to back you up when you explain the situation to your neighbor. And finally, if push comes to shove, good record-keeping can show authorities you’re serious and organized, not emotional and whiny.

Plus: Are You Paying Your Neighbor’s Bills?

4. Talk it out. Tell your neighbor what’s bothering you – don’t assume they know what the problem is. Be open and direct, not passive-aggressive. Ask for their input, and wherever possible, propose a solution that splits the difference and demonstrates a willingness to compromise. Stay cool and positive, even if they’re not.

5. Look for advice or solace online. Sites like Neighbors From Hell have message boards where people discuss their issues and help each other. This one’s free to view and is full of common issues and good advice, but registering will cost $50 if you want to ask about a unique problem. If you just want to vent, try sites like AnnoyingNeighbors.com.

6. 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.

7. See if anyone else will side with you. If talking doesn’t work, try getting more help. If you’re part of a condo or homeowner’s association, speak with them about the problem and see if they can resolve it more easily (and cheaply) than you can.

8. Talk to a lawyer. If you’ve tried everything, you can consult a lawyer and have them write a letter threatening legal action. Warning: This can not only cost a few hundred dollars, but it may also throw gas on the fire. Make it a last resort.

Plus: 3 Tips for Lower Lawyer Bills

9. 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. Look up a nearby mediation program at the National Association for Community Mediation.

10. 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. You can look up municipal law at places like Municode.com, and you can learn all about code enforcement on your city’s website. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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. And don’t be Judge Judy material: no exaggerations, no pettiness.

Bottom line? As with any relationship, being a good neighbor – or dealing with a bad one – is all about communication.

Plus: How to Deal With Negative People Who Bring You Down

Sources: MoneyTalksNews

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  • Your Comments

    • Khuloud Mua

      so I have an awful neighbor, I bought this apartment last year and she has been annoying ever since, I have been nothing but nice to her until it got to a point where we couldn’t shut up about it and my sister couldn’t hold it and blew lots of hurtful words to her, and now this neighbor is doing all sort of things, she broke the elevator just because she doesn’t use it and we and the ppl living right under us use it ( we live in a 2 stars building ) which we have no evidence for, and we have this sun shielding umbrellas ( not sure what they call it in english ) it’s for 2 apartments in the right of the door and 3 in the left and we were unlucky to have the one beside hers, today she got someone to block the 3 cars parking lot to divide it and what she did was divide it almost in half !! one for her and the rest ( 1 ) for us and other neighbors !! should we call the cops or can I just smash the hell out of the block without being charged? help!!

    • Michael Brown

      Sometimes the real dirtbag of a neighbor is the one making all the complaints which turn out to be bogus. Sometimes people make complaints which are not true whether it is intentional or misguided. I have a neighbor that fits this category and I am dumbfounded as to what I can do against a neighbor who is basically harassing me and also making false accusations and threats to call the authorities. I’m intelligent, but I fear this person is quite intelligent as well and knows exactly how to get his way and intimidate people. He is a lawyer after all…

      • Daisy Glue

        I reccomend you report this person to your local police department. Take the time to go in person and discuss the situation with a detective. Tell them EVERYTHING. It helped me tremendously with my psycho neighbor. Now, when she calls the cops with a new line of fiction, they don’t even bother to show up.

    • Jimbo Franks

      Call the cops and pray they actually do something. Or move. Your only two “Legal” options.

    • t-ed off

      we have lived in our house for over 35 years. neighbor moved in 15 years, and ever since then, they have vandalized our tree several times, poisoned our trees (killed one, process of killing another), dug trenches along the fence line, exposing someone else’s utility line and left it uncovered for over a year, trench is so deep that our yard and fence is at a risk of collapse, piled soil 3ft high onto the boundary fence now that the fence has moved 2-3ft (fence is not a retaining wall), lie to us, to police, to code enforcement… they keep doing it since we cant catch them red-handed poisoning things since we can’t see through a 6ft fence.
      they are vindictive liars. police knows they are doing it, but without proof wont’ do anything.
      there is just no justice. law suits are only for the rich. for the other 99%, we’re just hosed.

    • InYoFace

      Seriously people grow a pair and do some damage. An untraceable pipe bomb on their front step at 2am will get their attention. If you’re not into the violent route, perhaps a few dead skunks one in their car and one hidden somewhere in their yard will suffice. Just make sure you wear protective clothing and pop the stink sack.

    • SingleRedRose4

      My neighbors, John and Shelly, used to be part of all our family gatherings. I’d say we got to know them! The wife is very insure in her marriage, and the children loved to cook and bake with me. The husband would talk to me before any gathering to discuss what we’d be drinking.

      The wife is so petty, she got me a gift certificate for a mani and pedi to be booked only with the lady that does her nails and feet, just to see if my nails are real or fake. I said they are real, she wanted to proof me wrong. She wasn’t happy when she found out I didn’t lie.

      The police and the courts will do nothing, to spite the fact these people have lied, and put it in their disclosure statement, and I have proven it to be lies. They said “if she believes it’s true, it’s not a lie”.

      Many others are having issues, but no one wants to get involved. They don’t want to deal with the crap I’m going through.

      The wife is dealing with mental issues, that I believe fully, and the husband should be trying to deal with his anger issues.

      I know the answer is to move, but I love my home, and the community is amazing. I have many very good friends on this court, and I refuse to give into moving because of one messed up family of nut bars!!!

      Any other help would be greatly appreciated!

    • me

      Sad end to the story we offered to move as I had started contacting real estate agent for homes.The woman believed we wanted her duplex when that is not the case.I believe they will move but if they don’t I will be the one to go.Doing the right thing always backfires .Trying to talk to people about something makes things worse as they get offended and don’t think they have done anything wrong.I haven’t needed to call the cops but should have as they also fist fighted each other while I lived there.I got tired of their ranting and cursing each other out and talking about the Bible but yet were fake Cristians..I think the sad part is I will miss their poor dog as I always payed it attention and played with the sad, ignored pooch.

    • me

      I just had this problem as I live in a duplex while I’am saving for down payment of my home.These people no matter how nice I talked to them about certain things they were doing they could see nothing wrong with themselves.I did the whole talk to them nicely but after 2 years that was it they were taking advantage of the fact they have lived here for 10 years.They constantly made noise as they have no children so they equaled that to having freedom to make as much noise as possible day and night.They were vampires up all day and all night.They washed clothes at 12:00 in the morning and the dryed clothes as the dryer was by one of our windows.they would leave their clothes in washers and dryers and lint in the compartment roll up at 10:00 on my wash day acting as if oops soo sorry.It was all a control issue with them a way to try to get every tenant that ever lived there out.They would get mad when I cleaned the complex as they had it a complete trashed mess the whole time they lived there but once I fixed it up they hated neighbors complimenting my work and also making an effort to clean up neighborhood.The sad thing the envy was eating at them as they tried to keep up with Joanases.Last call calling the owner and she had to talk to them twice weird thing is the woman denied the whole thing saying we were demonic.

    • Zizi

      If they’re rude, disrespectful and intrusive it’s rather a moot point to “talk it out or negotiate”. Most of us aren’t researching this issue if we were able to work it out with neighbors that are committed to making our lives a miserable hell. My attempts to be friendly, neighborly, adult-like and logical were taken as signs of weakness. My suggestion…if they don’t respond to the 1st friendly attempt to resolve any issues, don’t waste your time. Document everything, call the cops when necessary and press charges. Make it quite clear that you are not going to put up with their BS.