How to Deal With Nuisance Neighbors

by Maura Banar

You can choose your friends, but unfortunately, in most cases, you can't choose your neighbors. In some instances, this can mean a less satisfying living experience for you and members of your family. According to Community and Environmental Defense Services, some of the most common complaints made about nuisance neighbors involve traffic, noise, crime and odors. If your neighbors are particularly adept at being a nuisance, it may be necessary to take steps to regain your peace and quiet as well as your peace of mind.

Approach your neighbors directly. This is typically the first approach suggested by professionals such as the American Bar Association and should be done before asking law or housing enforcement to become involved. Don't attempt this step, however, if you have concerns that your neighbors are engaging in illegal behaviors such as selling illegal substances. If your neighbors aren't friendly, consider writing and sending them a letter, keeping a copy and having them sign to receive it. Although the onus is on your neighbor to accept or decline the letter, if you seek legal intervention, you'll often be required to at least attempt to resolve the problem independently. When speaking with your neighbors, stick to the facts and describe how their behavior is affecting your ability to live happily.

Provide your neighbors with a warning regarding the laws associated with their behavior. According to the American Bar Association, you should be able to locate a copy of local laws regarding your specific complaint at your library or City Hall. If you're unsure which laws are being broken by your neighbor, consider getting local pro bono legal advice. You can also speak directly with police officers in your jurisdiction to determine the exact wording of the violation. Keep the warning factual and objective, make a copy and send it with delivery confirmation. After the warning has been delivered, allow a reasonable amount of time for your neighbor to resolve the problem.

Get someone to act as a mediator. If you live in an area that has a homeowners association or similar entity, it may be possible to use a representative from there who can act as a mediator to resolve your dispute. Mediators can be a cost-effective way to deal with neighbors who are a nuisance, and the meeting is documented, usually with the signatures of all parties involved. A mediation process typically allows each person in the dispute to explain the problem and its effects. The mediator then works with the involved parties to come to a mutually acceptable agreement that is legally binding. If you don't have access to a housing mediator, you can also contact local pro bono law offices for volunteers who can assume the role.

File the appropriate complaint against your neighbors. This is usually the last step in the process of trying to deal with nuisance neighbors, and it often has a cost, which can include filing fees and compensation for legal representation. That cost can often be included in the suit that is filed to help you recoup your expenses. Keep in mind that you won't get compensation for litigation unless you win your case, so it's important to obtain plenty of supporting documentation, including police reports and copies of letters you've sent.

About the Author

Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.

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