Tips for Dealing with Difficult Neighbors

This is the time for good cheer and friendly greetings, but what if your neighbors don’t share your holiday spirit. What if your neighbors steal your parking spot, have a dog that barks incessantly, or file a complaint every time your friends drop by. Even a perfect apartment loses its luster if you have constant battles with your neighbors, and the stress will impact your whole quality of life. Here are a few tips on how to give the relationship a fresh start in the New Year, and if that does not work, get the bad situation resolved other ways.

Prevent problems in the first place: The best way to avoid problems with neighbors is to build good relationships in the first place. If you have recently moved in, extend an invitation to your holiday party or at least give a heads-up if you are having people over. If things get loud and neighbors complain, tone it down. An apology next day, with maybe a small peace offering (a bottle of wine, some cookies) helps to keep the landlord out of the picture. You don’t have to become best friends, but consider the value of being cordial and occasionally helping out.  That minimum investment in time can save you untold hours dealing with differences later.

Communicate: If you have been having an ongoing conflict, the holiday season is the perfect time to open a line of communication that can eliminate half the problems. You don’t always know the story behind why a neighbor has a broken down car in the parking lot, or why your music bothers them. They may have financial troubles, or have to get up at 3am for work. Approach the discussion in a friendly, respectful way to clarify the underlying issue and create space for a compromise. It’s possible that your overture will be met in an unfriendly way, but give it a shot anyway. Even if the situation does not get resolved, it lays the foundation for future discussions.

Talk to your landlord or your tenants’ association: If there are issues that can’t be resolved by a friendly one-on-one talk, consider reaching out to your landlord or to your tenants’ association for assistance. There might be official rules that support your point of view. For example, if the constant barking from upstairs bothers you, you may discover that the building rules require carpeting on floors to muffle the noise. Your landlord or head of the association might also have a good relationship with your neighbor, and be able to have a conversation that’s less charged. When making your points, remain factual; emphasize that you’ve tried to deal with the issue personally; and make sure that you emphasize the downside to the community at large, rather than being perceived as “whining.”

Research your legal rights: Certain issues that you may find annoying might not be legally “actionable,” but other issues might be in violation of rental agreement or tenants’ association rules, as well as local, county, and state ordinances. The areas most likely to capture the attention of local authorities are those aligned with safety and health: dilapidated cars, falling down fences, abandoned buildings, cars left on the street or in a yard for a period of time, pools without proper safety surroundings, parking issues, junk or trash, and yard related issues. If your problem falls into the area of animal behavior, for example an unleashed, uncontrolled dog, your best option might be to contact the police.

File a complaint: If you discover there is a legal basis for your claim, you might wish to proceed with filing a claim. To do so, develop a narrative in writing that explains the problem and include specific dates. Document all violations, attempts that you’ve made at peaceful resolution, such as conversations with your landlord. Provide photographic evidence, video evidence, copies of police reports, or statements from other neighbors, as needed. Remember that the tone of your delivery is important. Stay focused on the facts, identify the regulations you believe are being violated, and be clear on the detriment to the rest of the community. Be forewarned, though, that depending on your local regulations you may not be able to make your complaints anonymously, and even if you win your neighbor relations could become worse.

So if you find yourself living with a difficult neighbor, take the time necessary to evaluate the situation, understand your options, and try to systematically resolve the issues before escalating as appropriate!

About the Author: Robert Mansions is a real estate professional specializing in apartment rentals. When he’s not writing, Rob enjoys traveling and kayaking.

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