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Bad Neighbors: What to Do Legally

Sometimes relationships with your neighbors may become unfriendly. You probably have to deal with annoying neighbors. You might even encounter hostile neighbors. But what if their behaviors amount to harassment or illegal activity? Some bad neighbors are merely a nuisance. Others are downright dangerous.

Below are some suggestions on actions you can take to fix problems with all types of bad neighbors. This article provides information about resolving simple nuisances. It also outlines remedies when a neighbor becomes threatening. It covers last-resort situations, as well as solutions you can take along the way to deal with mere annoyances and noisy neighbors next door.

Types of Conduct by Bad Neighbors

The following types of bad neighbor behavior can be remedied by a variety of means:

  • Loud music
  • Barking dogs
  • Failure to care for property you share with them (or when neighbors create an eyesore in how they maintain shared property)
  • Failure to share costs in landscaping shared property
  • Trespassing

In cases where a behavior is merely annoying, it's best to consult with your homeowners association (HOA), property management company, or landlord to try to resolve the issue. If the behavior is illegal, you may need to contact the police. But continue reading to learn more about ways to resolve these kinds of issues.

Communication Can Be Key

Before taking the matter to a third party, consider trying a less adversarial way to solve the issue. A simple, over-the-fence discussion may clear up some misunderstandings. Sometimes, merely speaking with a neighbor in a polite way can be the best route to solving issues with them. It could be best to approach your "foe" in a civil way.

Hiring a mediator may also help you work through the issues and come up with an acceptable solution for all parties. Often with a troublesome neighbor, it is best to wait to litigate an issue until less formal options have been exhausted. Sometimes, a new neighbor may be creating a problem. Follow the same steps. Civil communication is often the best solution.

A Homeowners Association Offers Extra Resources

Maybe your neighbor is not willing to solve the problem through dialogue. The next step is to go to your homeowners association, if your community has one, and explain the problem. If what the neighbor is doing lowers your home value or affects a shared living space or building, a homeowners association is likely to want to resolve the issue, too. Nuisances often contribute to a reduction in property value.

An HOA always aims to maintain or increase the costs of the property. In the event potential buyers or prospective buyers may be considering the property as a place to live, the HOA will take an even greater interest in providing a solution.

Almost all homeowners associations have policies and guidelines on how to solve neighbor disputes. Associations have a variety of topics they can regulate. Among others, these include noise, pets, and home-owned businesses. If your neighbor is not following the bylaws and guidelines, your homeowners association has the authority to step in and remedy the problem.

If there is a question of property value, such as a neighbor's yard creating an eyesore, you're likely not the only one affected. Any issues that would affect the sale of your home are a concern for everyone in a homeowners association. If an open house is underway, the association will likely treat the issue with even greater urgency to avoid unnecessary disclosures to potential buyers.

What Do Zoning Laws Say?

Another remedy you might consider is looking at local zoning and ordinance laws. This can be especially useful if your community does not have a homeowners association. If you can show that your neighbor violated local law, the local code enforcement agency or even law enforcement may be able to step in. In other instances, homeowners can bring a petition to a small claims court to seek an injunction or damages.

If Your Neighbor Is Still Harassing You, Call the Police

If you have tried all the possible ways to solve the issue, and nothing seems to work, it may be time to involve the authorities. You should resort to this if you feel unsafe or are scared for your or your family's well-being.

Let the police know you have attempted to solve the problem, but your neighbors are continuing to harass you. The police will conduct an investigation, and you will likely be called as a witness if the case goes to court.

Additional Resources

Bad Neighbors? An Attorney Can Help

If possible, disputes with neighbors should be handled amicably. But that's not always possible. There are situations in which you need to take legal action. If you are considering taking legal action against your neighbor or want to know more about the process, consult a real estate attorney.

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