Bad Neighbor Basics

By Stephanie Tallman Smith

 Nothing ruins the excitement of finding your dream home quicker than moving in and discovering you have a bad neighbor. Perhaps you have lived in your home for years when the house next door sells and suddenly you find yourself with the neighbor from hell. Maybe they have a loud, barking dog or are prone to Saturday night arguments that wake you from your sleep. Or maybe they simply drop by too often and are overly interested in your personal affairs. Whether your bad neighbors are nosy or noisy, these simple strategies will help you deal with them without joining the ranks of bad neighborhood yourself.

The Nosy Neighbor

Some people are nosy by nature. They have such a keen interest in the goings on of other people that they simply cannot help themselves. They may ask prying questions. They may want to know your plans for the upcoming weekend. They want to know the price you paid for everything from your new car to your sofa. While your first instinct may be to brush aside these intrusions into your privacy, ignoring the nosy neighbor will not stop him or her from asking questions. In fact, it could lead to even more questions as to why you are avoiding them. Did they do something to make you mad? Are you upset about a personal problem? Is there anything they can do to help? You can quickly see how ignoring the nosy neighbor is not the best strategy.
Your best defense against the nosy neighbor is to turn the conversation back onto them. People who are nosy are often trying to start a conversation because they love to hear themselves talk. They are dying to talk about something that is going on in their own life and since you have not spoken first, they start a conversation by asking you a question, or commenting on one of your possessions. When they ask you about your new curtains, they really want to talk about their own new drapes, or the ones they have had for a while but spent an inordinate amount of money on. If your nosy neighbor asks about your weekend plans, you can bet they have something spectacular in the works that they are just dying to tell you about.

The next time you find yourself cornered by a nosy neighbor and you don’t want to answer their questions in detail, give a brief, polite answer then ask him or her about a similar subject. You will quickly find that your nosy neighbor has lost interest in your life and is rambling on about their life. After a few exchanges like this, your nosy neighbor will find that you are a fabulous listener. They will stop asking you so many questions and begin most conversations with news about themselves, leaving your personal life alone.

The Noisy Neighbor

This is a slightly more difficult bad neighbor trait to handle. Some neighbors are unaware they are causing too much noise and although embarrassed, are generally happy to learn they need to be more quiet. Others, however, do not care about their neighbors’ peace and quiet and feel they have the right to do whatever they please in their own home. They may play loud music on a regular basis. They may frequently yell and curse at family members. If they have loud animals, they continue to let them bark or squeal and rarely bring them indoors.

Dealing with a noisy neighbor takes skill in determining which type of noisy neighbor they are. If you have a good relationship with this neighbor and find them to be pleasant and accommodating in their conversations with you, chances are they are unaware of their noise levels and would appreciate a gentle nod that their music was a little loud or their dog kept you up last night. Do not make a point of “reporting” the noise to them, but rather casually mention it to them the next time you see them. They will be grateful to hear it from someone they like rather than from someone who is confrontational or upset. On the other hand, if your noisy neighbor is not friendly with you, your best bet is to report the noise to authorities. Many communities have code enforcement officers who deal with non-emergent neighborhood issues. If you are unsure about who to call, contact your police department on their non-emergency telephone number and explain the situation.

Officials will keep the neighborhood complaint confidential and if you have never mentioned the situation to your neighbor, they will have no reason to suspect you were the person who reported them.

The Unsightly Neighbor

You work hard to keep your home in good condition with lots of curb appeal and it is unfortunate when other people in the neighborhood do not feel the same way. Property maintenance issues are one of the leading causes of neighbor disputes, so it is important to report unsightly yards and non-operable vehicles as quickly as possible. In areas with limited zoning code enforcement, it might be some time before the authorities find your bad neighbor on their own. If your neighbor allows the grass to grow into tall weeds, has broken down vehicles parked on the lawn or lets the newspapers stack up for several days before bringing them in, it may be time for an official visit from your area’s code enforcement team.

If you know that this is standard practice for these neighbors, report them as soon as you notice the problem. Authorities can use legal measures to encourage compliance and if your neighbor refuses, they can actually contract to have the work done directly and billed to the homeowner’s tax bill. If this is a new problem with an otherwise tidy neighbor, however, there may be a serious problem. Be a good neighbor and check on him or her. Perhaps a recent illness or accident has caused them to be less attentive to their yard and offering to mow their lawn or pull some weeds does not take much effort on your part. Likewise, it is important that you maintain your home to the best of your ability to avoid becoming a bad neighbor yourself.

 The Rude Neighbor

Suppose every effort to get along with your neighbor has failed. What then? First, recognize that it may not be your fault. Some people are just plain rude. They are self-centered and have no desire to respond to neighbor complaints or work on settling these disputes. When this happens, your best bet is to ignore these neighbors as much as possible. However, if you think there is still hope for a good relationship, remain friendly and cordial, waving when you pass them on the street or on the way to the mailbox. If you have other neighbors who enjoy a good relationship with this rude neighbor, ask them for suggestions. Perhaps there is something about you that has been upsetting the rude neighbor but they lack the courage to tell you. Often neighborhood disputes are the result of a simple misunderstanding. Look for ways to open communication and get to the root of the problem. You might be surprised to learn the dispute has nothing to do with you at all, but rather a personal situation they may be dealing with. As a last resort, allow the authorities to step in when the situation becomes intolerable.

Bad neighbors can be the bane of any neighborhood. Acting quickly to identify the problem, taking ownership of any personal responsibility and working to improve the relationship can save you countless hours of anger and frustration. Follow these steps and soon you can enjoy your Home Sweet Home.

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