How to Deal With Nuisance Neighbors

by Shelley Frost

From blaring music late at night to letting dogs run loose, neighbors can be nuisances in a number of ways. What do you do when your neighbor goes beyond mildly annoying to interfering with your enjoyable use of your own property? You don't want to start a neighborhood feud, but you also want the behavior to stop. Starting with simple strategies and working up to legal options can help you find the best solution for your situation.

Schedule a Chat

Instead of jumping right to calling the police or filing a lawsuit, give your neighbor a chance to stop being a nuisance without legal intervention. It can be helpful to call your neighbor to find a suitable time to talk instead of surprising him with a front-door visit to talk about what's driving you crazy. When you do meet, choose a neutral spot like the sidewalk or along your property line.

How you approach the conversation can affect how receptive your neighbor is to change. If you say, "You're so rude with your loud music always blaring at the worst times; shut it off or I'm calling the cops," your neighbor is naturally going to be defensive. Avoid accusations, threats or ultimatums. You might say, "I've been having a hard time sleeping lately because I can hear your music late at night." You express the issue clearly without being rude.

If you're lucky, your neighbor will feel bad and try to make changes. If your neighbor seems defensive, gets upset or thinks it's funny, leave the situation rather than letting it escalate.

Research Local Ordinances and Bylaws

Understanding local ordinances can help back up your requests for your neighbor to stop the activities that are a nuisance. Your city might have an ordinance about loud noise after a certain time. Some cities ban people from parking on grass. Local laws might regulate building on property lines. Cities often require dogs to be on a leash at all times. These kinds of ordinances can give you some negotiating power when trying to resolve the issue.

If you live in a condo or in a neighborhood with a homeowners association, review the bylaws of the organization. Those rules are often more strict than the city ordinances. They might prohibit things that would be considered an eyesore, for example. Contact the HOA if you're having issues with your neighbor related to one of the community ordinances.

Call Law Enforcement

Sometimes the nuisance doesn't go away, or the interactions with your neighbor escalate. If your neighbor breaks a law or makes you feel unsafe, contact your local law enforcement. The police officer might issue a citation or arrest your neighbor if she is breaking the law. Keep in mind the police officer can't solve the dispute for you. Law enforcement can make sure everyone is safe and the situation doesn't escalate more.

Work With a Mediator

If you're just not getting through to your neighbor, you might need help from a third party with no vested interest in the situation. A mediator specializing in neighbor disputes can look at the situation and help you work together to find a solution. This is a slightly more formal option without actually going to court.

Consider Legal Action

Another option is to pursue legal action against your neighbor. Just remember, you still have to live near your neighbor. Bringing a lawsuit against him can cause even more hostility and bring friction to the neighborhood.

If you take your neighbor to court for being a nuisance, you have to prove that he actually is a nuisance. You generally have to prove that the situation is ongoing and harmful, indecent or obstructing your use of your property. You might need to show that you were harmed in some way by the nuisance. For example, his dog barking all night prevented you from sleeping. Check with a lawyer to make sure you have a case based on your state's nuisance neighbor laws if you're considering this option.

About the Author

Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.