Owning and Renting Property

How to Deal with an Annoying or Angry Neighbor

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Most of us get into a disagreement with a neighbor at some point. Maybe there’s objections to where you park your car on the street. Or you’re awakened by the sawing and hammering of their late-night woodworking projects. These things happen as part of day-to-day life when you live in a community.

Sometimes, though, neighbors can be so unpleasant that they make your life miserable. If you’re confronted by an annoying or angry neighbor, what should you do?

  1. Don’t respond with anger. Although you may be instantly (and perhaps justifiably) irritated when your neighbor complains, don’t let your anger get the best of you. Wait until you’ve calmed down a bit to respond.
  2. Ask if you can talk face-to-face. Talking one-on-one helps you read facial cues and tone of voice. And it gives you a huge edge over electronic communications like texting or emailing when it comes to convincing someone to do something for you. In fact, research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology showed that face-to-face requests were 34 times more effective then emailed requests.1
  3. Listen. As businessman, educator, author and speaker Stephen Covey advises, “Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.” In other words, really listen to your neighbor’s concerns before you start talking. There’s a chance he or she could provide a perspective you’ve never considered or information you were unaware of.
  4. Work toward a solution. Once you understand what’s at the root of your neighbor’s complaint, work with her or him to come up with a solution. Keep in mind that the goal is to resolve the issue. So you may not get everything you want (just as your neighbor may not get an ideal solution). But in the end, you hopefully arrive at an arrangement you can both live with.

If that doesn’t work

What if you try the calm, rational approach, and the neighbor is still pitching a fit? At that point, it’s time to look at other options:

  • Call the police — but only if justified. If you feel harassed or threatened by your neighbor, you would be justified to call the police. Otherwise, use this option as a last resort.
  • See if you’re breaking any actual rules. Depending on the nature of the neighbor’s complaint, go online and check your city’s ordinances to see if you’re actually breaking any regulations. Your state website also may have links to cities and counties. If you’re part of a condo or neighborhood association, check those rules as well. What you learn may help you determine your next steps.
  • Keep records. Write down the date, time and other details of each interaction with your neighbor. This will be helpful if you need to involve the police or an attorney at some point. You could even install a security camera.
  • Consider a mediator. A professional mediator can help you and your neighbor hash out the issue and (hopefully) agree on a solution. Your local courthouse, police precinct or bar association can help you find a good mediator. The National Association for Community Mediation is also a good resource.

If all else fails

Bad neighbors can turn your home from a place of refuge into a place of conflict. If your neighbor refuses to find a resolution and seems intent on causing problems, consider contacting an attorney. A consultation with an attorney who’s experienced in real estate disputes can help you evaluate your options and decide what to do next. Depending on the severity and frequency of the occurrence, or if there are any personal injuries or damage to property, this could include taking legal action against your neighbor.

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