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Relationships

John Daly: How to Deal with a Bad Neighbor

It’s 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday. You’re immediately transported from a deep sleep to a state of alert by the shrill grinding of metal on metal. Your bedroom window faces into your backyard, which is adjacent to your next-door neighbor’s. You realize that he’s started a project in his backyard on your only day of rest. Great!

That same neighbor has made it perfectly clear that he does not want any of your three dogs in his yard at any time, day or night. You make every effort to comply.

Then, you notice, while sitting at your desk in your office that overlooks your front yard, that he sneaks his little ankle-bitter into your yard to do its business instead of using his own lawn. He’s got a lot of nerve.

Your Saturday mornings are filled with the sounds of his restored ’57 Chevy being tuned up in his driveway. Oh, joy.

Even worse, he disputes your property line and starts cutting down one of your trees and several prized shrubs!

However, he’s a Nazi about anything to do with the appearance of your lawn, the noise you make or your dogs barking.

So, what do you do about him? Let’s look at solving specific problems, being a good neighbor and taking drastic measures.

Confronting Specific Problems

Even though it might be uncomfortable, the first thing to do is to explain to your neighbor what is happening. In many instances, he may not be doing anything intentional, so give him the benefit of the doubt. That means knocking on his door and letting him know your concerns.

This should be handled politely and diplomatically. Offer a solution or compromise. Perhaps he could do his building projects on Saturdays, or even a little later in the mornings on Sundays?

Give the neighbor a reasonable amount of time to resolve the problem. If he is making an effort, thank him. You could even bring over a plate of homemade brownies as a thank you, which might guilt him even further into keeping up the good work! You’d be amazed at how far appreciation can go.

If he has promised to resolve the problems but doesn’t, stop and think about the appropriate response next time it happens. If he’s still making a ton of noise on Sunday morning or bringing his dog over to poop in your yard, it’s time for another complaint.

But, make it a gentle reminder. Keep the lines of communication open afterward. Don’t be a forgettable presence who shows up only when there’s a problem. Be neighborly whenever you can be. That way, he will be more open to listening to you.

If he continuously blows you off, check with your other neighbors to see if his inconsiderate behavior is affecting them as well. If they feel the same way, propose a neighborhood letter addressed to the person at fault. There’s strength in numbers, and a letter signed by a block full of neighbors will have a large impact.

This in no way means that a group of you threaten the bad neighbor. That could get out of hand. But a single letter addressed to him and signed by all will show him that his selfish actions are disturbing a large group of people.

Being a Good Neighbor

Make sure you aren’t doing anything that causes a problem for your neighbors. This is particularly important if there’s already bad blood. If there is, your behavior can only make the problem worse. Make sure that you put every neighbor on a level playing field and aren’t just picking on one neighbor you aren’t so fond of.

If you are going to be doing something like a loud party or noisy house or garden work, let your neighbors know in advance. You can have a brief conversation to let them know. Give them your phone number so they can let you know if what you are doing becomes intolerable to them. Just the extra consideration will go miles to thwarting potential problems.

Always give neighbors the benefit of the doubt. Don’t fly off the handle at the first instance of a problem. Consider that it might be a one-time situation and not a regular occurrence. Things happen. Practice a little tolerance.

Taking Drastic Measures

Only use these as an absolute last resort. These are only suitable to neighbors who have been actively hostile to you or who have a pattern of rude behavior and are totally unwilling to change when asked, even when the behavior has seriously affected you. Most of these measures only apply when some law may have been broken. Remember, this person lives next door. Your actions may turn a disagreement into a feud.

If you’ve tried asking nicely and your neighbor has ignored your requests, begin by documenting the problem, particularly if it violates the law or leases. This will enable you to back yourself up.

For instance, take photos of property damage, video of parties that spill over onto your property or gather proof that your neighbor is trespassing or engaged in illegal activity, if this is the case. Save emails and notes. You can let your neighbor know you are doing this. It may be the motivation he or she needs to stop with the bad behavior.

If you live in an apartment, get the landlord involved. If you live in a condo, get the homeowners association involved. A landlord may decide he has grounds to evict the bad neighbors.

At the very least, he will discuss the behavior with his tenant. A homeowners association will follow suit with infractions as well. However, be careful not to irritate the landlord or homeowners association officials. Use your judgment. Some may choose not to become involved.

See if the neighbor is breaking the law. This would cover extreme cases involving property destruction, noise abatement and the like. If your research uncovers that laws are being broken, and this is a last resort, call the police or the appropriate authority. Do so with the understanding that your relationship with this neighbor will never recover from your doing so.

A visit from the police will shock the neighbor in extreme cases but won’t necessarily result in a real solution unless an actual law has been broken. If the neighbor is breaking the law, and you have evidence of such, let your neighbor know that you are considering legal action. Use this as a bargaining chip to reach a resolution. Just stating this may result in a favorable result. If it doesn’t, consult a lawyer about your options if you are willing to spend the money and the time to resolve the problem.

But, keep in mind that this should be the last resort for a serious problem, and not because your neighbor wakes you up at 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday!

John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the keys to life skills success. Click to learn more about The Key Class. John’s new book, 74 Key Life Skills for a Happy, Successful Life, is available on Amazon. Click here to receive a FREE eBook copy of The Key Class. Do you have a question about business or social etiquette? Ask John at [email protected]. Connect with The Key Class on Facebook and follow John on Twitter @johnjdalyjr. The opinions expressed are his own.

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