– What to do about Neighbor harassment –
Neighbor harassment is a very real thing. Too often, we are told to “just deal with it,” or that bad neighbors are a part of life.
However, if you have neighbor disputes with the people who live next door, you do have options to get a resolution.
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What Qualifies as Neighbor Harassment?
Harassment must be a repeated and intentional act. This means a neighbor accidentally backing into your trash cans or having one loud party may not qualify.
But if they start making threatening comments toward you or repeating the bad behavior, it can quickly become a harassment case.
Neighbor harassment can take many forms, including:
- Derogatory or offensive comments about sexual orientation, your nation of origin, or other discriminatory factors
- Calling law enforcement on you repeatedly or for small things
- Repeatedly playing loud music during city “quiet hours” or after you have asked them to stop
- Coming onto your yard or bothering your pet after you asked them (or their kids) to stay away
- Disorderly conduct on the shared property or your property
- Claiming they have freedom of speech to say abusive things to you
- Any intentional acts to make you move away
- Stalking, watching you, or invading your legal rights to privacy
- Building or landscaping over the property line (or threats to do so)
Bad smells are a grey area for harassment cases. Unfortunately, this can happen from property issues like unattended trash or refusing to fix sewage problems.
It can also be a result of mental health issues like hoarding or not disposing of dead animals. But, it can be an intentional act to make you move away in some circumstances. Keep in mind you will not have a case for things like a neighbor cooking food you do not like.
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How to Deal with an Annoying or Angry Neighbor
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.
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.
As a 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.
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.
Call the Police
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.
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.
How to Sue for Neighbor Harassment
One of the most effective ways to get a resolution is to take your issue to small claims court. People can represent themselves in small claims court, but this takes time and strong evidence.
If you do not have the time or knowledge to work through the court process, then a qualified attorney can handle your case.
The type of attorney you need may depend on the specifics of the issue. You may need:
- A real estate attorney (property lines disputes)
- A criminal law attorney (stalking or threats – see below)
- A general civil claims attorney (small disputes)
- A landlord-tenant law attorney (issues with renters or your landlord)
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What to Expect in a Harassment Lawsuit
Generally, you can expect to:
- Gather evidence
- Review the evidence with the police, your attorney, and possibly the judge
- Speak in court or privately with a judge
- Settle the case for money or another resolution that (hopefully) makes your neighbor stop
- Possibly receive a restraining order against your neighbor (they won’t be forced to move away, but they must stay away from you and off your property)
Once your case is resolved, you will want to be ready to re-document new actions or call the police if your neighbor breaks a restraining order. If your neighbor repeats any behavior, they may be arrested, fined, or go to jail.
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